"Yay!!! You're here!!!"
"Yeah, sorry I'm early, my parents wanted me to get on the road before the sun set and the temperatures dropped, but the roads are actually fine" I told her as I dropped my overnight bag and took off my shoes, surveying her parents' log cabin in the middle of Nowhere.
"No problem, Paul's here too. Want a breadstick?"
After what was possibly the worst Christmas on record (read: HORRIBLE stomach flu), I was ready for a New Year's Eve that was worthy of all the hype. Mom and Dad were kind enough to take Ainslie for the night so I could actually go out and feel my age. For years I've read Facebook invitations to my friend Shannon's New Year's Eve parties, and for years I've been unable to attend due to traveling or having just had a baby or some other good, but still disappointing excuse. But this year was different; this year I was finally going and I. was. psyched.
I walked into the living room and plopped down on the couch next to our friend Paul, who I've known just as long as Shannon: 13 years. The people making their way up to the cabin, affectionately referred to as The River House, were my oldest friends, a quality that makes my affection for them grow every time I see them simply because of their duration in my life. They also have the benefit of being extremely cool people whose coolness did not peak in high school, unlike most of the people who we all envied at the time. Blame it on moving so much growing up, but having friends that I've known for more than half my life is a REALLY big deal to me. I couldn't wait to see them.
Within a few hours, the breadsticks were replaced by pizza, a significant dent was starting to appear in the stack of Coors Light cans in the fridge, and The River House was full of friends who, apart from having known each other for so long, had relatively little else in common; Paul is an environmental engineering consultant based in New York City while Stacey is in Boston working the only job she could find after finishing Teach for America, Shannon is in medical school in Australia while Janie is getting ready for her wedding and reevaluating whether she wants to be a teacher, a small business owner or a baker. And then there's me: in grad school for Theology and a full time mom with a husband still in Alaska. We made a motley crew, but over the course about five hours, one raging game of Thumper, lots of commentary on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve, and a two hour-long dance party starting at midnight, those differences mattered even less than they did to begin with. We were simply oldest friends, dancing to N'SYNC songs that we still knew every word to (even the guys) and reminiscing about old teachers and acquaintances from middle school.
Somewhere in between "Since U Been Gone" and "Backstreet's Back", I lost my voice from singing so loud, got tired, and sat on the couch next to Stacey, one of the four girls who asked me to sit with them at lunch on my very first day of school in New Hampshire. We leaned against each other to stay awake and watched our friends' terrible dancing skills across the living room, probably both thinking the same exact thing: "I'm exhausted, but my friends rule."