From Tampa it was on to St. Louis. The day after we got into town, I had a chance to meet up with my oldest friend, Hannah. I met Hannah the summer before 7th grade and we’ve kept in touch since at an academic camp, Explo.
Explo was a huge leap for me because I had only gone to sleep-away camp once before and it hadn’t gone great. I had barely gotten through it and that was only 2 weeks long (and some people were only signed up for the first week and others stayed for a third). This one was going to be three weeks and in a completely different state. However, I was convinced that since I would be further away with no chance of coming back and everyone else would also be staying for three weeks, that I would be able to do it.
Explo had a lot of firsts for me; the first time I flew by myself, the first time I felt like I fit in, and the first time I realized how much I hated my hometown. Going back to St. Louis after that first summer was hard, but I think it was good for me to know that there were kids who I did connect with somewhere, even if they weren’t at my school. I kept in touch with my camp friends and I even flew out to the east coast when we all had a reunion in New York. The rest of the girls in our group all lived in the area (it was an east coast camp), so I was the only one who really had to trek there. But it was worth it. I got to see my friends, I got to visit New York again and stay with Hannah and her father in Massachusetts sort of recharge so I could get through the rest of the school year.
I went to Explo three more times, all three times my friends returned as well. Eventually, in high school, I realized I needed to try a different camp before I ran out of summers. I attended a different camp in the Boston area and I still got a chance to see Hannah. Since then we have kept in touch whenever she came to St. Louis. She has family there, so it was on a semi-regular basis. There was even one summer during college when we were both interning in St. Louis at the same so we would meet for lunch from time to time.
The fact that we were both in the same place at the same time when I was in St. Louis this time was a feat that had taken months to organize. A while ago I started trying to write more letters as a way to reconnect with old friends. I wrote a few of them, but Hannah was the only one who kept writing back. When I finally decided that I was going to be visiting the US in the winter I told her and we started to work out the best way to see each other.
We met up at a coffee shop near where she was staying at her aunt’s house. I’ve never been in the area, so it was fun to explore somewhere new with her. We had a great time wandering from store to store, chatting along the way. What I find especially interesting is that although we relate and interact differently now versus how we did as kids, we still can find our rhythm pretty quickly whenever we get together. She’s living a very different life than me as she’s still in school and working in a lab, which means we always have something to talk about.
We forgot to get a picture together, unfortunately. In fact, the only picture I did get the whole time we were out was of the really cool vinegar store we went into.
Beyond that, we were just too busy talking and exploring to remember to take pictures (which is rare for me). Her aunt drove us back to my house where we all chatted with my mom for a little while before they had to go. It was really great catching up and I’m already looking forward to the next time.