But Keep the Old

Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other, gold.

What’s it like to meet your best friend after 39 years?



But weird.

While I was in New York [Posts], I met up with a woman I had known in grade school.

When I was 14, I moved from NYC to Washington DC. This was long before the Internet, so email wasn’t an option. Phones existed but long-distance calls were expensive and reserved for special, usually family, occasions. We tried. We wrote. We swapped visits. Ultimately, we drifted apart.

Life went on. I’d wonder about her occasionally, but didn’t have any mutual acquaintances to ask.

Enter Facebook.

Her name is non-standard in the USA. Google can only find one of her. If her name were Mary Smith, I’d still be wondering. (Internet says 18,846 Mary Smiths). Plus, she kept her name after marriage. One argument for that practice. I did not retain my maiden name, and I changed my stable name. Unless you knew me in both incarnations, nothing connects Kathy Tuttle of yesteryear with Katherine Walcott of today. (It feels weird to even type that.)

We knew each other for six years and were inseparable for four of them. As an adult I have jeans older than that. As a kid, a small number of years is a huge percentage of your life. This was also the last time I had all my friendship eggs in one basket. When I left New York, I started riding, which meant separate groups of barn friends and school/work/non-barn friends.

So what happened?

We talked.

We talked a blue streak.

Conversations about her kid led to our college experiences led to jobs led to husbands led to family. Politics wandered in briefly. (We reach.) I don’t think either one of us mentioned our school days together. There was a little bit of, “What happened to …” from people in her high school. Mainly it was now and how we both got to now.

With most old friends, you share the weight of your years together. In this case, we went from the age of 14 to 53 in a single bound. I discovered, all over again, what a cool person she is. If I met her today, as a stranger, I’d want to be her friend.

One breakfast was not enough time.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

10 thoughts on “But Keep the Old

  1. I did this too. Yes, the Internet helped. We were not “best” friends, but intensely close during our senior year. Even then, we came from very different walks of life and hung with different crowds. The common denominator was music. She had talent (voice, guitar), but a very sheltered upbringing. Her entire repertoire was gospel and Christian folk. I grew up in a very musical family with oodles of talent from both sides. I mean, we sang together as a family every weekend and our parents made sure we were exposed to all kinds of music. It only seemed natural that I introduce my new friend to Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan … the list goes on. Her parents were not thrilled.

    We made the 41-year jump and it was …. fun. Weird, but fun. We talked about the same stuff you did. Very little reminiscing about “back then.” And yes, a couple of hours on her patio wasn’t enough.

    Your post made me a little teary. I’m glad you went, and I hope whatever connection you decide to pursue with your friend brings you much pleasure and peace.

    1. “It only seemed natural that I introduce my new friend to …”
      Do you know if this affect on her life &/or outlook?

      “… fun. Weird, but fun.”
      Yup. In a nutshell.

      1. Yes, I know the affect it had. Fortunately and unfortunately. We were young. Kids, really. Introducing her to “that” kind of music had consequences even I couldn’t foresee. It set her up for an epic battle with her parents and family. Basically, they disowned her. Try to remember that this was an ultra-conservative, Christian home in 1974. My friend graduated HS, then more or less “ran away” from home to escape the pressure to put aside her newly-found passion. Sadly, having lived such a sheltered life, she wasn’t really ready for the big, bad world. Honestly, the last time I saw her she was living at a YMCA/woman’s shelter in the city and was talking about ‘goin’ to California’ to make her way in the folk-music world. (Shades of Joni) Not old enough to have a realistic grasp on the desperation her situation or the skills to realize her determination, I didn’t discourage her. Ugh* (More on that in a minute)

        Fast forward several years. I got a letter from her. (Snail mail … maybe 1978 or ’79?) She was in CA. and married to a musician. They’d had a child who was born with serious developmental disabilities and they were quasi-making a living from writing and performing music. However, I had the sense that they were quite possibly living in a cardboard box ‘down by the river.’ Still, she seemed happy, so who was I to judge? Years passed before I got another letter. (Still snail mail) She’d had a second son and they’d moved back East where they hoped they might have better access to services for their oldest son. We had hopes of getting together, but a plan never materialized. I even went to a HS reunion (something I’d normally never do), thinking she might show up. Again, it didn’t happen.

        Enter Facebook. Still, it took seven years for us to “find” each other there. She’s not the Internet type. So much has happened since our last connection. Her second son is a paid musician. Not sure what his taste is, but I’d guess an eclectic mix of bluegrass, folk and anything along that line. There’s no denying the parental influence there. There was a younger daughter also, who inherited her mother’s sweet voice, but hasn’t decided what role music will play in her life. Years ago My friend got a nursing degree. Hey, it pays the bills, right? But she still makes music on the side, often with her now-grown son, who is also married to a musician. She’s divorced now, but apparently the ex still plays gigs too.

        Last year my friend lost her Mom (Dad passed a few years back), sold her house and bought a little cottage on a secluded, private lake in upstate NY. She lives alone, except for when the kids come to hang out, eat good food and jam. I think she’s still trying to emulate Joni, and if that makes her happy, so be it.

        *I want to thank you for allowing me to elaborate on this a bit. To be honest, I’ve spent decades feeling somewhat responsible for how things unfolded for my friend. Might she have found her passion had I not introduced her to it? Maybe. Who knows? But I do know it caused the entire path of her life to change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. You never know the influence you might have on someone, especially when you’re only seventeen.

        1. Wow.

          It would be facile to say she was ready to change & you were simply the pebble that started the avalanche. Over in the real world, I can see how this would weigh on a person, both for the good and the bad.

          Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Love this! All of us share different parts of our lives with different people, and it’s lovely to keep a connection, even a loose one, or reconnect after so long! Great story and thanks for sharing…and writing! EBH

  3. Katherine Walcott, I remember you very well as Kathy Tuttle. When we’d exchange notes at the barn and just sign with initials.
    I still, at 62, get people coming up to me in stores and telling me they recognize me from junior high and in one case elementary school! Conversations are brief, just in the store because we were just really classmates, not real good friends. Makes me want to look up someone….

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