23 January 2006

People change

I was walking down West 10th Street yesterday afternoon when I thought I saw Andrea G--g-n walking towards me. She has her husband's last name now, and has for nearly 20 years -- she got married very young -- but to me she will always be Andrea G--g-n.

As a young teenager, Andrea, my mother's friend Barbara G--g-n's daughter, who was a year older than me, represented everything I secretly aspired to, but knew I could never obtain. She wore heavy eyeliner. She had boyfriends. When our families spent a few nights together in a cabin upstate, she had the cool tapes to play and the bottle of Southern Comfort to drink. She grabbed the rope swing hanging over the lake and jumped right in, while I tiptoed up to the edge of the water and put my toes in one at a time. She snuck out late at night. She smoked. I was too afraid to do any of those things -- afraid of disappointing my parents; afraid of what doing those things might do to me -- but she was fearless.

Until, of course, it went too far, she got into drugs, and after repeated attempts to sort her out at home failed, she was sent off to some boot-camp-style rehab center aimed at rehabilitating more than her drug habit.

It was a few years before she'd completely reemerged into life, and I'd moved on to high school by then, and much cooler music -- did I ever really like the Led Zeppelin and Lynard Skynard she played?

I don't know how well the rehab worked on the smoking and drinking front (at her mother's funeral 8 years ago, she was still smoking, though planning, after the stress had passed, to quit; Barbara died of lung cancer), but judging by the Christmas card she sent my parents this year -- a homey picture of her, her husband, and their two children, both of whom are young teenagers -- the rest of what I thought of as her lifestyle has receded far into the distance.

If you'd asked me 25 years ago which of the two of us was likely to be walking on 10th street as if she owned it, I'd have said Andrea. Now I'd be surprised to see her in Manhattan at all, except maybe once a year for a holiday trip with the family to Rockefeller Center. And it's just possible that I would jump into the lake now. Which is better?...


Blogger PG said...

I had a friend a bit like that...only it was cider, not Southern Comfort. And last time I heard she's gone from being a militant feminist to an all embracing home maker with a few kids.

It's not a question of which is better, I think, just how our various paths lead us. Sometimes the paths are a bit difficult, and then we hit an easy patch with blossom adn birdsong...but when you're on a difficult bit, it's hard to imagine it'll ever get any easier. But it does. If that makes any sense...

6:59 PM  

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