When my mom was around 22 years old, freshly graduated from undergrad at St Louis, after growing up in New Jersey, she had the opportunity to go to Chile for a year under a Fullbright scholarship. While there, much to the dismay of much of her family, she met a dashing young man who swept her off her feet and convinced her to stay for good (hint: that was my dad. They went on to get married and have us four kids). Mom immersed herself with local friends and her new family, but also eventually got involved in the American Women's Club where she made many friends. Among them was Tracy (or Tia Tracy, as we knew her growing up), who became a very dear friend.
Then in 1991, after my parents' divorce, we moved back to the US. In those two decades (plus) since that move, Mom and Tracy have probably seen each other a handful of times, I believe the last time being in 2004. So when we heard that Tracy would be not only in the US but to our very own neck of the proverbial woods (one of her sons just finished his PhD at Stanford, and she came out to help him and his family prepare to move back home to Chile), Mom planned a trip to come out and visit us and get to meet her old friend.
Mom arrived to California on Wednesday, and as usual the boys delighted in playing with Lala. She also set to work making plans with Tracy, who came over on Thursday with her two grandkids. The joy between Mom and Tracy as they reunited and began catching up was palpable and so sweet. I quickly realized my goal was not to socialize, but to facilitate these two women getting as much time to just hang out together as possible, which I was more than happy to do, so I set them up with chairs on the front porch while all the kids and I played and watched movies. They spent most of the day together, and then on Friday Tracy came by in the afternoon to pick Mom up and they went off together to spend the rest of the day together, going for a walk and then dinner.
Shortly after her arrival Mom told me that she had also been in contact with James, that he and his wife and toddler, who live in southern california, were also planning to be nearby this weekend and wanted to get together. James was my brother's best friend. They met in school, I think in 6th or 7th grade in Chile. James happened to move to the US around the same time we did (when he and JC were both around 17), so they kept up their friendship over time, with JC visiting him frequently in CA. It was during a visit with James last summer that JC died, so unexpectedly. I remembered James very vaguely from our childhood, and I met him briefly one other time a few years ago. My mom and sisters and I talked with him on the phone some after JC's death, and we had talked about trying to get together in person sometime. So when Mom planned her trip out here she reached out to him, and James apparently was thinking of coming up anyway (they have a vacation home nearby), so we planned to go see them on Saturday.
We met them at their house, where James walked us through the story of the Frank Lloyd Wright design, then drove into town to grab lunch and hang out at a nearby park where the boys could run around while we talked. We talked about many things, but among them James recounted stories of some of the adventures he and JC had over the years, like going to concerts back in high school and getting mugged while walking home through some seedy part of Santiago, to the more recent trips on JC's to see him in CA and the wild antics they got up to, things I never would have guessed my quiet older brother capable of. We met James' wife, who spoke of how fond she was of him, told a few funny stories herself. Their daughter is absolutely precious... she is 14 months old. That last trip that JC took to see them, was to see their then-newborn baby (the last pictures taken of JC were of him holding the baby, glowing). James commented on how much Donovan reminded him of JC, something I marvel at often myself.
Sunday, yesterday, we had a last chance to see Tracy and her family. We drove to Stanford, where her son's family were spending their last days in the grad student housing. All the homes with the shared lawn and communal playscape, and the kids all joining together to play, took me back to our Sachem days. The kids played with snapcircuit solar panels and saw a nest of baby birds on the porch. I collected a several large pinecones from around the playground to bring home as chew toys for Pippin. Tracy showed Mom how to set up WhatsApp on her phone so they can text each other internationally.
And then, finally, it was time to say goodbye. Tracy would be leaving for Chile again the next day (today), and Mom back to Texas. They hugged each other tightly and vowed not to let too many years pass before their next meeting.
Life works in funny ways, and it seems like more than mere coincidence that we had these opportunities to meet up and catch up with these people who have meant so much to members of our family, so closely timed to the one year anniversary of JC's death (a week or so ago). I don't have anything very profound to say about that timing, it just seems worth noticing. And to feel grateful for these chances at (re)connection, after a year with so many reminders of the fragility of life.