During the summer of 1990, I worked for Legal Aid in Augusta, Georgia. There was one other clerk in my office that summer, a girl named Kim. My sister, then a teenager, said that if Daisy Duke had become a lawyer, she would have been Kim. It was an odd compliment, but clearly intended that way--she was awash with admiration for Kim's denim-cutoff chic, the offhand way she pointed out Pete Buck on her way by the bar and hardly spared him a glance, the bottle-fed goat in her backyard.
For me, Kim was simply a friend, in the crazy way that we make friends when we're young. I knew her for 12 weeks, eighteen years ago. We didn't have email in 1990, so keeping in touch wasn't as easy as it's become, and we didn't. We lunched and dinnered and occasionally drank together and fought the good fight side by side. I was hundreds of miles from home, and she took me to both of hers: a summer afternoon by the pool on her mother's near-farm and a weekend in Athens, where she went to school. At the end of the summer, we drove to Chicago together, and then...
Eighteen years passed.
The modern world being what it is, I found her through Google, on a whim one day. Maybe it was chance that I'd planned a trip to Savannah for this summer, and it turned out that she'd moved there. Maybe it was simply luck that we arrived just a few days before she was going out of town herself.
Today, we had lunch in downtown Savannah to plan the dinner we were going to have tonight. We had dinner at a "shack" on Tybee Island, dining on the deck with the ocean breeze in our hair and palm trees surrounding us, and after dinner we got up to walk across a wooden bridge to the ocean--which Tori had never seen before.
Kim's daughter, Ava Grace, is two. Tori took her hand, and Kim took her other, and I smiled, and then Tori said, "Want to join our chain, mom?" and reached out her other hand for me. So we walked hand-in-hand to the ocean, my old friend and I and the children who weren't born the last time we were together. And, as we crossed the bridge, Kim pointed out a school of dolphins. I told Tori to roll up her jeans and we walked into the surf, laughing, and she picked up seashells for the first time in her life.
It's been, in many ways, a nostalgic trip for me. Sunday night, we stayed in an old inn down the block from the house I rented in Augusta that long-ago summer, and I passed by the park where I walked my dog every night and ate breakfast on the balcony with my daughter, looking out at the same view I'd enjoyed on the lower terrace with friends nearly two decades earlier.
Still, there hasn't been a mistier moment--and probably won't be--than the one in which I watched my baby run barefoot into the ocean for the first time while the friend I'd thought long lost but had never forgotten looked on.