Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chance Encounters

Back in the sixties, my dad was transferred to Washington DC for a year, so my mom was temporarily trapped in a little apartment with me, a toddler, for company. Right next door, as luck would have it, was Dotty, another transplanted mom with Theresa, her toddler. My mom and Dotty found themselves sharing lots of coffee while their two little girls played. Mothers who undergo the slings and arrows of raising toddlers together often bond over this experience, like battle-weary soldiers. Mom and Dotty were no exception. Our photo album is filled with pictures of Theresa and me at birthday parties, playgrounds, swimming pools and picnics.

After only 7 or 8 months of friendship, Dotty and family were transferred again. Mom made other acquaintances in the apartment building, “but none like Dotty.” Our family then moved back home to the Philadelphia area and life picked up where it left off. One summer Mom and I took the train out to Long Island to visit Dotty and Theresa and her other children. We had a wonderful time, saw my first Broadway show (“The Magic Show”!) and generally felt like 6 months, not 6 years had passed since we last met.

Life went on. Mom and Dad stayed in their “starter” house, while Dotty moved all over the U.S. We received Christmas cards occasionally, but didn’t really keep up with her – this was the age of expensive long distance service and Dotty lived half a continent away. She became a memory of those months in DC, a souvenir tucked away with old photos and trinkets.

A few years ago, Mom got a call. One of Dotty’s daughters lived in the Philadelphia area now and she’d be in town to see her soon – could we get together and visit? Remarkably, her daughter lived only a few miles from me. Soon we were all together again, for the first time in 20 or 25 years. Mom and Dotty were able to pick up in mid-sentence, like they’d just seen each other last week.

In an unbelievable small-world coincidence, Dotty now has two children who live close to my house. She was in town to visit her daughter over the new year, so I drove Mom and Dad up to see her for lunch one day. We sat and laughed and caught up on the last few years. Much has happened to Dotty and mom over the years – parenting, jobs, illness, tragedy, moves, and of course grandchildren.

They may not see or even talk to each other very often, yet they have a 40-plus year friendship that grew out of a few months of togetherness. An acquaintance of convenience has turned into a relationship that stretches across decades and time zones.

I marvel at the random twists of fate that made them neighbors back then and made their children neighbors today, allowing two women who met as young mothers to rekindle their friendship today as grandmothers. We should all be so lucky.


  1. They do have a genuine friendship as time can atest to & forged because of us ;). This is a wonderful tribute to them. BTW I LOVE these pics & all the pics of us playing. I will be back to read more. Thanks for sharing this :) Theresa

  2. This is a wonderful story, and well told. And I do love the picture of those party dresses--not to mention the one of the fun fair boat rides! Indeed, we should all be so lucky to come back together with long-time friends. Welcome, too, to Theresa!

  3. What a wonderful story, the pictures are priceless! They were "able to pick up in mid-sentence, like they,d just seen each other last week" That's how it is with old friends! I know! Thanks for sharing it on facebook Theresa :-) Pia

  4. Very poignant (& I mean that in a completely nonsappy way). The deep spirit of friendship was always there, & that is why everyone could come together once again years later.

  5. That was a beautifully told story! (Much more pleasant than that frightening Turkey story at Thanksgiving!)I'm sure reading it meant so much to your Mom, Dotty, and her children too!

  6. Love this post! I have a handful of friends like this - we may not see each other for years, but when we finally reconnect it just flows. Also have recently experienced a lot of reconnection to my past, discovering friends from days of old here .... def a small world!

  7. I have a friendship just like this - you describe it so well. It's as though the intervening years fall away when we're together

  8. What a great story! I particularly like it because I have a neighbor with a child the same age as mine, and we have a similar friendship. I'd like to think we'll be having coffee 40 years from now.


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