Look long at this beatific angel. He has been stuck up there for centuries on the facade of an English church, playing some kind of early fiddle. Only he can hear the celestial music he's making.

When this card arrived in the mail last week, I recognized the old friend's handwriting immediately.

I hadn't heard from Lesley (not her real name, but close) for years. But she still wrote the return address in one line across the top of the back flap of the envelope -- a practice I have copied ever since. Inside was a photograph of one of her handsome sons at his wedding, smiling at his pretty bride. He looked a lot like his father at that age.

I felt something deep inside click back into place.
The friend who sent me the notecard* on which this angel appears lives in England, as you might guess from the envelope. She married an Englishman, had three sons and lives in Bournemouth. She's American and we were roommates at Trinity College, Dublin in the late 1960s. She was from near Chicago; I was from California. They put us in the same room in the women's dormitory probably because we were both Americans, surrounded, in those days, by boarding school Brits, Irish Protestants and the handful of Irish Catholics who ignored the archbishop's order not to attend Protestant Trinity (a few years later the school was nationalized and is now almost completely Irish). 

Lesley was a debutante and invited me to her coming out dinner dance in Chicago one Christmas season long ago. Hers was the only deb party I was ever invited to, just in case you might think that was routine in my life. Lesley was being, as her mother put it, "a reluctant dragon" about the whole deal and would only go through with it if I and some of our other Trinity friends could come. 

So, about four of us, boys and girls, showed up like sports ringers to help Lesley see it through. I wore a groovy silver sheath dress. It was the first time I had ever seen grown-ups drunk. By the time it was my turn to be at the coffee table to pour (we each had little assignments), I was under the coffee table, happily plastered, hidden by the white cloth as if it were one of my childhood forts, laughing my head off with John, another of the Trinity team.

All that and more came back as I looked at the angel. I felt as happy as that angel looks. Lesley was a rock, our practical, Midwestern pal. "I don't care if a friend is unreliable," she once said, "as long as she knows she's unreliable." She certainly put up with a lot of unreliability from me, including failing my pouring job (not that she cared one bit about that). It was wonderful to know she wanted to be back in touch again.

This blog is about new best friends who become best friends forever. I remember clearly meeting Lesley for the first time, when we decided who would get which bed in our dorm room. I remember her saying that when the clothes in the Dublin store windows started to look good, it was time to go to London. Which we did, often.

So, Lesley, you're the first charter member of my NBFF Hall of Fame. Back in my life for the next chapter of a long friendship. 

* Instant Gratification: Catherine Ferrier, Artist & Designer Pretty English cards, house portraits & prints

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