I had an email from an old friend from New Jersey last week. One of my best friends.
Her middle son will be going to college in Boston next fall, a stone's throw away from Martha's Vineyard. And her oldest just graduated from Rutgers.
She sent photos of her three boys at the graduation. The pictures made me cry.
I still remember the day I saw her pull into the driveway of the house across the street, the house she was moving into.
I grabbed First-Born Son, who was four at the time, and ran across the road to say hello. She had one son balanced on her hip, another at her side. It turned out they were were locked out of the house and her five year-old needed to pee. Now.
So they came back across the street with us, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It is always this time of year, right around the time I moved away, that I miss her most. Miss her, miss New Jersey.
Don't get me wrong, I love Martha's Vineyard, and moving here is the best thing I ever did. But I see the photos she sent and I am transported back in time.
A time filled with sweet baby faces and small sticky hands. Backyard barbecues and wading pools. Christmas cookies and birthday parties.
But also, there was my crumbling marriage. And the fifty-odd parenting crises each week. The angst over careers and writing, and what was it we wanted to do with the rest of our lives.
She was there for all of it. Even when she had no idea what I was going through, it helped to know she was just across the street. And all I had to do was look out my windows and see the lights on in hers.
How is it possible that both of our oldest children are young men in their early 20's when it seems like only last month they were conducting scientific experiments with kitchen products in my bathtub?
We have navigated this last almost-decade of our lives without the benefit of daily sightings and weekly check-ins. But some bonds, because of where we're at and who we are at the time they're formed, remain steady for life.
Bullet-proof, like Superman. If he was lucky enough, and strong enough, to be a woman.