(Originally appeared in my 2003 essay collection Lake Forest Moments)
I had known for nearly a year that my dear friend Diane would be moving as soon as her husband Jim got a job offer. A casualty of the banking industry restructuring, Jim, at 52, was interviewing all over the country. Of course, we hoped they would remain in the Chicago area, but the chance of that seemed less and less likely as the months went by.
So why, when I drove by her house and saw the real estate sign in front, was I not prepared for the overwhelming feeling of loss that the sign represented? I wanted to march over to the sign, pull it up with my bare hands and dump it in the nearest trash can.
Instead I stopped my car about a block down the road, gripped the steering wheel tightly in my hands, and cried.
Diane and I met as the result of our last corporate moves. Five years ago we both moved to Lake Forest, Illinois from southern California. Ironically, we had lived in the same community there for twenty years, had even shopped in the same grocery store. But we didn’t meet until we moved to Lake Forest, and our realtors told us about each other.
We met at a fall coffee hosted by our community’s Newcomers Club. Diane was confident and self-assured as she moved through the crowd of unfamiliar faces. I was fighting tears of loneliness and homesickness. When we first met I thought we had little in common, except our California backgrounds.
Where I was high-strung, and it may even be said “hyper”, Diane was thoughtful and nearly sedate. She loved British comedies on PBS; I watched Melrose Place. She favored tweedy, classic clothing; I have been known to wear spandex. I have two children; she has cats. I take cardio kick-boxing classes, she putters in the garden.
We persevered in laying the groundwork for a friendship, ignoring the differences in our personalities. Diane sat with me through an entire winter while I moaned about the Midwest weather, and the fact that there were no palm trees or hills. We began to explore our new home together; joining the Art Institute, and discovering the many wonderful restaurants and shopping areas on the North Shore of Chicago. Our husbands both traveled a great deal, so we got in the habit of planning new excursions regularly to ward off loneliness.
It has now been five years since that first Newcomers coffee. During that time we went from the tentativeness of first introductions, to the companionship of someone else to do things with, to a true intimacy brought on by sharing the many changes happening to both of us during our mid-life years.
Diane and I have shared the most intimate details of our lives, as do many women who spend a lot of time together. It is a wonderful feeling to be needed by (and need) another human being we’re not related to. Diane is a “deep friend.” We share problems and triumphs without passing judgment. We listen over endless cups of tea and nod sagely and say what needs to be said, never being hurtful, only being as honest as we can be at that given moment.
Now my friend has moved to Charlotte, North Carolina; where she assures me she will not turn into a genteel Southern lady. (I should hope not!) The “For Sale” sign that so cold-heartedly glitters among Diane’s rose bushes is real. But so is the trust that we will forever remain friends. This eases my sadness. I make a mental note to call the airlines and book a trip to Charlotte soon. After all, I’ll have a friend there who knows my exact tastes in restaurants, museums and shopping.