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Jessie Raymond: Taking a trip down memory lane with old pals

Last weekend, while back in my hometown for a family gathering, I caught up with a couple of old friends. This year, the emphasis was on “old.”
At 51, I’m in good health. I don’t have a fear of aging (although those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials are starting to make me a little uncomfortable).
“I’m not getting older, I’m getting better,” I like to say, wincing whenever I stand up from a seated cross-legged position on the floor. “Just let me walk this off for a sec.”
But other than a bit of stiffness here and there, I barely even think about the toll the years are taking.
At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
On Saturday, however, when I went out to dinner with two childhood girlfriends I hadn’t seen in a few years, something was different. I remember what we used to talk about when we first knew each other: boys, clothes and, probably, the imminent release of then-very-wholesome Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.
That’s not what we talked about this time.
First, we ordered drinks — water all around, it turned out. One of us is quitting smoking and can’t resist when she drinks, one has found alcohol upsets her stomach and one is trying to lose weight.
We laughed about how times had changed, recalling a night in 1986 when we made fuzzy navels by carving holes in oranges, pouring in vodka and peach schnapps, and sucking the mixture out with a straw.
It had seemed pretty wild at the time.
Talk of our current teetotaling led to conversations about our respective levels of caffeine tolerance these days; sleeping (or not sleeping, depending on the hot flashes); how to ease lumbar pains; and even ethics — specifically, whether you are morally obligated to point out a stray whisker on another friend’s chin (answer: yes).
By the time we had finished dinner, we’d had in-depth discussions of sun-damaged skin, the increasing magnifications of our reading glasses and the lamentable effects of gravity on various body parts we had once been quite proud of.
I swear we used to be fun.
As we waited for the check, I saw a woman at another table who looked like one of my sixth-grade classmates. My girlfriends, who knew her, confirmed it and waved her over.
She apologized for not coming over sooner; she had thought she recognized me but wasn’t sure.
“That’s OK,” I said. “After all, we haven’t seen each other in almost” — I did a little math in my head — “40 years.”
We all laughed. And then, as the number hung there, we got very, very quiet.
Breaking the silence, she said, “Well, it was great to see you,” and fled for the exit.
I regretted the faux pas. Why had I felt the need to point out the jarring passage of time? In an effort to make things less awkward, I shouted after her, “Hopefully I’ll see you in another 40 years. If we’re alive!”
That time, nobody laughed. (Making things less awkward is not my forte.)
But that was the theme of the night. We had gone from being crazy young kids getting drunk on booze-filled oranges to women comparing notes on bunion-friendly shoes and complaining that almonds “disagree” with us now.
Is this how it goes? Next, will I start keeping hard candy in my handbag? Will I wear a housecoat and slippers when I watch my programs?
Whatever. I’m getting older. Maybe I can’t toss back almonds the way I used to. And maybe a typical — and, to be honest, preferred — Saturday night is one that involves having a quiet dinner and then retreating to the living room, where I can doze off on the couch. (“Just resting my eyes,” I say, exactly like my grandmother used to.)
That’s fine. Time passes. And I usually don’t pay much attention to the changes it brings. But the conversations my friends and I had that night took a new and disturbing turn toward the geriatric. How is that possible, when it seems like just yesterday we were talking about Guess jeans and Duran Duran? 
I’m not saying we should live in the past. But the next time the three of us get together, there’s no way I’m letting us spend the whole night talking about aging.
That gets old real fast.

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