She Knew Me When
Waking up at 6:30am on a Sunday is not something I'd normally do but when given the opportunity to meet up with an old and dear friend, it wasn't a hardship at all.
I caught the train shortly after 9am and arrived in Berlin at around 10:45. I had been a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to find Elaine on the rail station platform. After all, I hadn't seen here in over 25 years - would I still have the memory of her face in my mind enough to recognize her? Would she recognize me? But those nervous moments were wasted because as soon as the crowd thinned enough where I could see who was leaving and who was staying I saw her. And from a distance Elaine recognized me right away. We hugged each other and both of us marveled over how long our hair is. Elaine always had fairly short hair and my hair was seldom ever past my shoulders and now both of us have long hair. Both of us figured that we didn't do it while we were young so we may as well now. And the other thing that struck me at that moment was how Elaine's voice sounded exactly the same. Not changed in the least. To me she sounds the same as she did when we were in high school together.
With Elaine was her niece and and a friend of Elaine's who lives in Berlin who had her boyfriend with her as well. We hopped onto a local commuter train and rode down to where Berlin's Karneval parade was to be held. Berlin isn't a typical Karneval city like Cologne or Düsseldorf but it's catching on and the parade drew a big crowd. Any worry we might have had about the weather was also worthless because it was a sunny, clear day. A bit breezy and cold but for early February it was very good.
Since it was right there we walked over to the Gedächneskirche, a famous Berlin landmark, so Elaine could see it and get some pictures.
And afterwards since the parade hadn't yet started we ducked into a nearby restaurant for some warmth and a quieter atmosphere for conversation and lunch.
What do you talk about when you haven't seen someone in over 25 years? The answer: everything. The conversation jumped from childhood and school memories to mutual friends to what we're doing now to family to current events and back again. She bought up people I hadn't thought about since Jimmy Carter was president and it was fun to hear about what mutual acquaintances are currently doing.
The parade started and we headed outside to see it.
It was fun and loud. Crazy loud. And still the conversation kept going. We'd watch the parade and shout in each other's ears and tried as best we could to stay warm in the biting wind. Finally after about 90 minutes we gave up and went back to Berlin's main train station.
We still had plenty of time before I had to head back for home so we found a nice pub were we got seated and drank beer and had some more to eat. And never did the conversation lag. Not even after we left the pub and walked around the station some before heading up to the platform for me to catch the train for home.
We had over 6 hours together and it wasn't nearly enough. Not even close. There are so many things we never got around to discussing. People and memories and events - we needed another 6 to get to them all. No. We could have used another 60 hours and I'm still not sure we could have covered everything.
Elaine was a big part of my life when I was growing up and I'm glad we've been able to reconnect. Here we are. It's not the best picture of me but nevertheless, it's precious.
And you know what? I feel a bit younger today.