When I was a teenager, I made many promises, to myself and to others. 'We will stay friends, forever' or words to that effect, I think, are words said by many to their childhood friends.
Facebook, Friends Reunited, and other such sites have helped rekindle friendships, and relationships, but I have two friends with whom I have been friendly for most of my life. As teenagers we were virtually inseparable, and we made the promise, 'we will stay friends, forever'.
A year before our 50th, another lifelong friend suggested we all celebrate our big five O, in a big way. 'Let's go to Vegas', she suggested, and the dream was born. Vegas was a great destination for me, as I am in Texas, and the trip would not be too terribly long. The trip for my friend in Oregon would also not be too testing. It was the long haul from England that would be more of a problem. However, after putting out a general invite, the final number was three. The three that had been inseparable as teenagers were going to be together again.
Dates were decided and flights were booked. Lesley had the longest journey. She was flying from London. Lynda was coming in from Oregon. As the time drew near, we realised that this was the first time we were all going to be in the same room for about 30 years!
My trip home in the summer preceded the big event, and my 50th birthday was celebrated, in style, as previously blogged. Travelling alone for the shorter journey should not have been as daunting. However, a plane journey is a plane journey, and there is nothing plain about it!
Samantha drove me to the airport, Thursday afternoon, and walked me inside. I was flying from Austin to Houston, and then to Las Vegas. Houston airport has become like a second home, so negotiating terminals was not going to be too difficult. Getting out of Austin was more of a challenge. I had decided that I did not need to check in my luggage, and I was going to travel light. I took my clear plastic bag, which held my toiletries, out of my suitcase, and attempted to go through security. Of course I didn't realise the size and amount of the items in the see through bag were limited, or I wouldn't have taken a brand new, large pot of body butter, and a super size bottle of sun block. Fortunately, the guard had a heart and asked if there was someone to whom she could hand these items, so as they could take them home for me. She had obviously seen me waving to Samantha as I passed through the line. I thanked her, and made my way through, wondering how I was going to cope without my essentials. I explained that this was a big trip. I was going to meet my oldest friends for the weekend. We hadn't been together for 30 years! She did not seem overly impressed, but smiled that 'why me?' smile, that didn't put me at ease. The panic had started. Boarding a plane no bigger than a school bus was probably not the best next step, but I was brave, and 'gate checked' my bag, as the aircraft did not have enough 'inside' space for luggage. Even my handbag had to be locked away in the flight attendants locker for take off and landing. Still, the thirty minute flight was non-eventful, and I was in a bulkhead seat. In fact I was in the bulkhead seat, and wondered how the basketball team were going to fit into their allocated chairs, as they couldn't stand upright in the aisle. As I could not give up my seat to the whole team, I decided that it was best not to cause a fight, so sat still and enjoyed the extra leg room.
My layover was not particularly long in Houston, and the familiarity of the airport was a blessing, as I had to take a train from one terminal to my next departure lounge. I did take sometime to look for my essentials, but my only purchase was a travel pillow, in the hope that if all was not well, I would at least have a security blanket upon which to cling! The shop assistant wished me a good flight, and her lack of English probably accounted for the second wry grin I received, when I told her, 'I am going to meet two of my oldest friends..........'
Boarding the second aircraft immediately upon reaching the gate, I sat myself down in my bulkhead seat, after stowing my carry-on in the overhead compartment. There was something quite satisfying about that particular act. When I fly across the Atlantic, many people board the flight between Austin and Houston with a carry-on, and they always appear to be so 'together'. I felt as if I looked, 'together', a seasoned traveller, taking the minimum, looking very blaze. However, there was nothing blaze about the fact that a young woman was holding a ticket with the same seat number as mine. No way was I going to move! This was my seat! I was staying put! That was until the steward asked if I would like to move up to first class! Hauling down my case from the overhead was not hard. Trying to look 'together' and sophisticated, like 'this happens to me all the time', was a different matter. Lacking basic co-ordination skills when stressed, I proceeded to move my suitcase with my knee, whilst holding my handbag and travel pillow. Shuffling along the aisle, my case fell and in the process of grabbing my luggage, I dropped my handbag and pillow. Taking pity upon me, and not buying the 'I am a seasoned traveller' sale I was pitching, a kindly steward helped me to my seat, and deposited my bags in the overhead bin. She was far too busy to want to know why I was taking the trip, although the young girl next to me was treated to the tale. Wry grin number three.
Having enjoyed a light snack that was available to those in the front cabin, and a baileys on the rocks (well why not!), I alighted at Nevada's most famous city, and made my way to the carousels.
Although Lesley and I have seen each other over the years, during the school holidays when our kids were younger, and more recently in 2009, when Michele, our other friend, had suggested the trip, I had not seen Lynda for about 25 years. Walking into the luggage area, and spotting my schooldays best friend, was one of those 'wow' moments; the moments that stay with you forever. Hugging and shrieking, telling each other how great they looked, and vowing not to leave it so long next time, we exited the airport and took a cab to our hotel.
Not stopping for breath, the next four hours or so flew by, as we checked in (which included telling the receptionist why we were visiting his city, and hotel) unpacked, had a bite to eat and then waited, like kids the night before Christmas, for Lesley to arrive. As each cab pulled up, we squinted to get a glimpse of the passenger, and eventually, the inseparable friends were reunited with lots of hugs and teary eyes. 'We've done it!' Lesley exclaimed as we, eventually, stopped for breath.
It would appear that we had all had the same concern. How would we be together, after all this time, and not actually sharing the same breathing space for 30 years. After all three of us produced our disinfectant wipes to 'clean' the room, which despite being spotless was not spotless enough, for any of us, worries were quashed as we drank champagne, and toasted our friendship. We were going to have a blast!
Lynda had arranged for a cabana, as a surprise, for Friday. We could spend the day, by the pool, in our own little 'house'. Unfortunately, the booking was 'mislaid', and we were put in an area with families, members of which were obviously hard of hearing, as the television sets (oh yes, TVs by the pool!) were so loud, they could be heard at the other end of The Strip. Despite the noisy neighbours, we sat and chatted, swam, sunbathed, and chatted. I don't think any one of us finished one story, as we tried to condense thirty years into eight hours. Interestingly, we all had sisters, but our firstborns were all boys. We all had daughters, (Lynda has twin girls) and had all lost one parent. We were able to sympathise and empathise. We reminisced over lunch, sodas and sun.
The next day we were on a mission. Before breakfast we attempted to find someone who could make sense of the previous days 'misunderstanding' with the cabana booking. Unfortunately, no one seemed able to help. Customer service said it was not in their jurisdiction. The cabana office directed us back to Customer services, etc etc etc. The manager was no where to be found. It would appear that no one is in charge when things are not 'awesome!' We did, eventually, find a sympathetic ear, which belonged to a very nice lady who insisted our breakfast be complimentary. We didn't over order, but decided some extra fruit would be nice, with some yoghurt. I think Lynda will, one day, forgive me for eating all the berries, but only time will tell!! We explained to the only member of staff that seemed to be interested, that this was a very special weekend. We had not been together for 30 years. As teenagers, we were ready to take on the world, with no experience. Now we were 50, Las Vegas was beginning to realise quite how much experience the three of us had gained!
However, the disappointing episode was in no way going to spoil our reunion. We had enjoyed the previous day, despite being able to recite every Sponge Bob Squarepants episode, and we took off to explore the Strip. We darted in and out of hotels, and took the train to the 'other end'. With Lesley holding onto the skirt of Lynda's full length gown, she managed to convince some onlookers, 'she's getting married'. With the murmurs going through the Wynn Hotel, we skipped away, giggling, as if we had started a rumour that was going to change the world. We were 14 again.
Unfortunately, a migraine had hit earlier in the morning, and by mid afternoon it was starting to rear its ugly head again. Living in Texas has not completely armed me for soaring temperatures, and of course, we must not forget why we were in Vegas. A woman of 50 does undergo various changes and I was going through those changes with a vengeance! Not to be deterred by a mid life crises, I popped some more painkillers and continued on. We met a couple from England who had just got married. They lived in the same county as Lesley. We had our picture taken with Elvis, who had just left the building, and we drank toasts to absent friends. Everyone who was within earshot was treated to the exclamation, 'This is the first time we have all been together in 30 years!'
Our evening meal was probably the most expensive hamburger I have ever purchased, but the company was worth the price, and we were already attempting to plan another reunion, hopefully before another thirty years had evaporated. Three teenage octogenarians would indeed be a sight!
All dressed up, we asked a passing male to take our picture, and he rewarded us with a necklace of flowers. Not only had we had an amazing holiday, we had now officially been lei'd.
Sunday was very sad. We were all going our separate ways. Lesley's husband was flying in later in the day, to join her, and they were going to continue on their vacation. Spending the morning by the man made beach and surfing on the simulated waves was a fun way to end the holiday. Listening to T-Rex, and other seventies tunes, was somewhat poignant.
With hugs and tears, shortly after midday, we once again announced, 'we did it'. We had achieved a reunion comprising three English girls, who were once inseparable. Now living thousands of miles apart from one another, we had once again enjoyed a Saturday evening together, only this time as adults, albeit in physical age, rather than mental. We had not hit twenty one all weekend, apart from when ID was needed. Departing for the airport, Lynda and I waved to Lesley, who was telling the guy who had hailed the taxi how we had all got together after thirty years.
Lynda and I said cheerio at the entrance to the airport, and attempted to meet up once through security. Unfortunately we missed each other's calls, and I made my way to the gate. I wasn't given an upgrade and I didn't get my baileys on the rocks. I did, however, tell my fellow passengers about the reunion. Both considerably younger than me, the two ladies with whom I sat, listened intently, and in awe. Landing in Phoenix, I called Samantha. She seemed happy to hear from me. I boarded my next flight, and flew into Austin shortly before midnight.
To catalogue all events and conversations would take forever, and probably be of little interest to all but three, but to anyone who is thinking of a reunion with lifelong friends, I say 'go for it'. To those who think it is impossible, I say, in the words of the inimitable Sean Connery, 'Never say never!'
Thank you, girls, for making my 50th birthday one to remember. Thank you Michele for suggesting the idea. I look forward to the possibility of another reunion. In the meantime, reality has overtaken us and we are nearly a year on, and I am still 12! Well at least in spirit. Who know's where or when the next meeting will be, but it sure will be.....another story.