Well, there’s some Facebook friends I’ve known since elementary school. There’s face-to-face friends I see often enough to kid about how we still sort of look like our graduation pics, but not enough to really know what’s going on on the inside after all these years. Then there’s Tom. And, as the song goes, it really is good to know I’ve got him.
Also my husband and Maine man, Tom is the one I’ve been blessed to keep in my “bubble” since way before that had to be a thing. He’s the kind of friend Carole King and James Taylor have been singing about, right along with me, for almost 50 years.
When Tom asked me to sign his yearbook in 1973, I did more than just that. I wrote out all the lyrics to You’ve Got a Friend. I wanted him to remember the girl who took up a whole page, the girl he called when he wanted to talk about building a cabin on a big lake in Maine and other someday dreams. I’m pretty sure it did the trick.
“You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am…” By the time the song came on the other night, I got right into the groove like the tracks on the JT album gathering attic dust alongside the yearbooks. Tom and I were “settled in,” holding hands atop the ancient couch beagle between us, watching the CNN broadcast of James’ and Carole’s Troubadour reunion concert. As usual, Tom was rapt with silent appreciation, while I just had to sing along. So what if I was off-key when I was so in tune with lyrics that were obviously all about us.
Well, maybe not the “I’ll come running” part, unless it’s Tom coming to see why I’m calling out his name to get back in the house…and please bring his toolbox. I never did run, especially not like in the movies across great expanses to throw myself back into his embrace. I do my own happy dance, though, knowing he’ll always come find me right where I’m at. And “winter, spring, summer or fall?” We’ve got that covered.
“Good thing we like each other,” we often remark, staring at the woodstove, the lake, or the leaves budding, unfurling and dropping again. What a couple would do out here in a cabin 20 miles from town if they didn’t really like each other is a popular source of conjecture. Especially this time of year, when needing our own separate “away time” could involve frostbite or a cramped sojourn in the sewing/storage/bunk bedroom. And there’s nothing like weathering a pandemic to make both of us take a new look at the other pea in our pod and thank whatever combination of fate, free will and universal pull keeps us together in good health and good cheer.
Counterbalancing. That’s how it happened. How a boy who was “too damn quiet and shy” and a girl who was “too damn giddy one minute and mopey the next,” according to our parents, kept it going steady and true all these years. How our personalities meshed somewhere on solid, middle ground between bi-polar and Bobbsey Twins. The older we get, the more we realize that too much Joy-ness probably would’ve put us on a screaming roller coaster to nowhere. But too much Tom-ness, and we might be solemnly contemplating life’s ups and downs from the viewing platform. We had to maintain equilibrium between crashing and burning and rusting out.
“Good thing we still like the same stuff,” one of us will point out, kicking off another round of Good Thing/What-If, a game we love to play. What if one of us ended up being a city person at heart? Or high maintenance? Or unhealthy? Or what if one of us hadn’t wanted to get vaccinated or was otherwise stuck on the other side of reason and doing the right things? It’s way more predictable than cribbage or Monopoly. But fun to keep going around the board past the We Wouldn’t Even Be Here zone, arriving right back where we started and digging in deeper.
Sometimes we go for the tricky bonus question: “What if we never met till right now?” Which invariably makes us lean back on our sides of the couch, take a long, hard look at each other and imagine meeting up at the Rangeley Plantation version of speed dating for seniors. (The assumption being we’d somehow both end up right here by ourselves). But, it’s like trying to figure out what kind of cake you’d like if all you ever tasted was carrot cake—really good carrot cake. “I’d swipe right,” we say, not really knowing what that means.
It’s hard to look back now and pinpoint a half century of how and when we made adjustments. Some pre-calculated, of course, and some on-the-fly. Some a result of not being seventeen anymore and some because we did the hard things required to grow old with the emphasis on growing. But we did, apparently. Because here we are, still finishing each other’s sentences, two parts of a better whole.
For more autobiographical Q&As than you’ll have time to read, see
Building my life story one question at a time