In my new book, Window Friends, much of the story revolves around several unexpected relationships. If you haven't had the chance to read it, no worries- there are no spoilers here! For those have enjoyed the experiences of Sarah, Peter, and Richard, et al, you'll know to what I'm referring.
I've learned after a book is completed there comes a time of reflection. It wasn't my plan to create a scenario of unpredicted relationships, it was simply how the story evolved. Of course, Window Friends is fiction, and not real life. I began to wonder if all friendships are unexpected. That took some pondering. My conclusion is that yes, to some extent they are, however I don't believe you can ignore those extraordinary experiences when you randomly meet someone and there is an unusually strong connection
Years ago I formulated a lofty theory about relationships. It goes something like this: Imagine two separate circles, representing people, floating around the universe. Sometimes one circle will touch the other circle ever so slightly, but with an intense impact. After such an encounter you are never the same, yet you may never see that person again. Sometimes the circles will intersect for a season and share deeply, but ultimately go their separate ways. And if all the stars and planets align just right, every once in a while the two circles will line up in perfect harmony and you will be friends forever.
Looking at my own life, I have been privileged to meet and know an enormous number of genuinely remarkable people. And true to my theory, some stayed a moment, some a season and a few are in the category of forever friends. I could fill volumes with names and memories.
But what absolutely intrigues me is how people from all walks of life, from all over the world, with vastly different backgrounds and upbringing can arbitrarily meet and form a bond so strong that it lasts a lifetime. How is it that people meet at just the right moment, when each is open to an unexpected friendship?
I suspect most people have had similar experiences, and I'd encourage you to give it some thought. In doing just that, I contacted several people who fit under the 'life-time friends' heading and asked for information about their backgrounds and revisited how we met.
How we met: When I began producing television commercials and videos about twenty years ago, I needed to find a music licensing company to provide background music. I did a very scientific search thumbing through a magazine and called the first phone number I came to: Omni Music in New York. As my incredible luck would have it, Sally was the one who answered. As she says, it was unusual that she grabbed the phone that day, it could have been any one of several people.
Where we met: Years after our first phone call, my husband took me to New York. It was my first trip to NY and I couldn't wait to tell Sally. We finally met face to face when she and her husband showed up at our hotel room in Manhattan. We spent the most amazing day, visiting all the sites and ended up with dinner at the New York Culinary Institute.
Bond: Her kindness and warmth was evident immediately and before long we were sharing details of our lives and a long-distance friendship was born. Sometimes it's hard to explain how people just 'get' each other. There exists a mutual understanding, a common view of the world and a shared sense of humor. In Sally's words, "Our friendship was obvious in that first phone call." Our husbands clicked as well, and the rest is history. We try to get together every few years, and stay in touch with frequent phone calls.
Background: Sally was born and raised in Washington DC to parents who were highly educated, both being PhDs. She attended the prestigious school Sidwell Friends, a Quaker school in Washington DC for fourteen years, missing only the one year she went to a boarding school in the Himalayas when her parents lived in India. She went on to Earlham, a Quaker University in Indiana. In the years to come she would literally travel around the world in a Land Rover vehicle, begging one to ask about how they crossed oceans. Seems it was no problem.
The title of our book would be Phone Friends!
How we met: It was 1989, (which for those of you math-challenged is thirty-three years ago) and I had just moved to the Pacific Northwest and didn't know very many people. I needed to open a checking account and chose a bank by the time honored method of "eenie, meanie, miney, moe."
Where we met: When I walked into the bank with my youngest daughter who was around three at a time, a lovely blonde lady offered to help me and we hit it off instantly. Later that week, when choosing a church to attend, we walked into a small chapel and much to my surprise Rozanne was the organist! She and her family attended there for years.
Bond: It was easy to see that we were so much alike, after all we each loved caramel apples and butterscotch pudding. It didn't hurt that we were (and are) blonde and often mistaken for sisters. My mother considered Rozanne her 'second daughter' and they were great pals until Mom's death recently. Her twin daughters long ago began introducing me as their 'fake aunt'- a moniker I adore. Other bonding facts: my older daughter was the same age as her girls; at the time we were both married to men much older than we were; and we shared the same deep faith. We've been kindred spirits and shared three decades of life including children, grandchildren, elderly parents, divorce, remarriage, cancer, careers- and the ups and downs of all of the above. She is a constant source of encouragement, support, laughter and love.
Background: Rozanne was born and raised in the small college town of Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State University (Go Cougs), where she attended college. She moved to Tri-Cities Washington, spent time at the bank and later went on to lead two prestigious fund-raising organizations.
What are the odds of 'sisters from another mother' becoming besties from a casual meeting at the bank?
How and where we met: In 2017 we decided to take a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. It had been several decades since I had been there and had no idea where to stay. My husband located this incredibly charming Victorian guesthouse cottage online, (which I've written about previously) and we rented it. When the taxi dropped us off in front of a lovely two-story mod-1800 townhome, I was very confused. It looked nothing like our cottage. It was quickly sorted when Sarah warmly welcomed us and took us around to her back garden where stood the famous Victorian cottage. Her caring kindness made us feel at home. We have had the opportunity to stay there three times, and with each visit out unforeseen friendship has deepened.
Bond: When we met I liked her immediately. As I got to know her, I found her to be incredibly creative and interesting. We easily fell into conversations about nearly any subject and could talk on for hours. In addition to being exceedingly wise, supportive and encouraging, she is also really smart, caring and thoughtful! Sarah is now living in Johannesburg (her original home) with her family and we stay in touch frequently through WhatsApp.
Background: Sarah was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her father was an immigrant refugee from the death camps in Lithuania. She went to the university first in Johannesburg, then later Edinburgh. Her first major was psychology, but took an additional course in computing as she fancied one of the boys in the class. The boy was long gone, but the computing stayed as her new major. After a year of teaching robotics in Swansea, Wales, she came to Edinburgh to do her PhD. Back to Johannesburg, now married with two children, then a time in London and they finally found their way back to Scotland.
Out of all the places we could have rented in Edinburgh, we find wonderful Sarah!
How and where we met: In 1989, my mom and step-dad spontaneously bought a huge colonial house in a small town in Eastern Washington. This was all well and good, except they had an ongoing busy life in Los Angeles and lived in a condo, plus my step-dad owned a large electrical company that did jobs like Dodger Stadium, The family was surprised (to put it mildly) and I came up for a visit before they moved to see where they were going to live and view the house. I called the realtor, and lo and behold, I met Debbie!
Bond: It was clear from our first meeting that we had a lot in common. As fate would have it I ended up moving to the same small town with my family and became friends with Debbie. It wasn't until we had known each other a bit that we began to compare notes and realize we had lived parallel lives in many ways. In thirty-three years we have been there for each other in times of crisis, loss, heartaches and sadness. Thankfully, we have shared equal times of laughter, joy, triumphs and did I mention laughter? Our mutual faith has kept the bond strong as we have navigated some interesting waters. She is a wonderful friend to journey through life with.
Background: Debbie was born and raised in upstate New York, attending Syracuse University for a year before moving with the family to Portland, Oregon. After college she lived in Germany for three years, and San Antonio, Texas, for a bit before returning to the Pacific Northwest. She now is a premier Realtor, much sought after for her experience and wisdom.
Interesting how the East Coast girl and the West Coast girl bonded?
How and where we met: In 2017 we traveled to England with friends Greg and Marta. They had made the airline reservations and we found ourselves on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Seattle to London. Not being much of an "airline sleeper" a young flight attendant, Sully, and I struck up an overnight conversation at 30,000 feet in a Boeing 787.
Bond: When Sully, who was born and raised in England, found out that I grew up in Los Angeles, he shared how he and his parents loved visiting LA, especially an area called Agoura Hills. He said he spend a lot of time exploring the area and it felt like home to him. I was sure I had misunderstood. When I was growing up, Agoura, as it was known then, was hardly a blip on the map. In the middle of that blip was the thirty-five acres and an original adobe house my grandparents owned, rumored to once be the hide-out for the notorious Poncho Villa. After my grandfather passed away, the house was deemed a national landmark and is now open to the public and known as the Reyes Adobe. Sully and his parent had visited the Reyes Adobe several times and loved the area. He was fascinated that I had spent much of my youth there. We exchanged email addresses and I was quite sure we would never see each other again. Long story short, we began an email friendship and on our next trip to UK my husband and I took the train to their village and had dinner with he and his parents in their home. His mother, Nusrat, made her famous homemade chicken curry (unbelievably good!) and his father, Sajjid, drove us around on the most marvelous tour of the area where they live. We have happily visited with them again, and Sully has visited us in Washington State. They are the most giving, loving family with an incredible gift of hospitality. When my mother passed away, I received the most beautiful letter and music to comfort me from them.
When I asked Sully if I could share about he and his family and our relationship, he said he was thrilled. Here is a portion of his email to me:
"To fit everything in my busy schedule I often had to change trips which resulted in me moving onto a Seattle flight. On the way back home I met a lovely group of friends who were traveling to London and the two I spoke to more than the other happened to be Greg and Carol simply because of our familiarity with Agora Hills. Although we had met for the first time, it felt like we had known each other forever. Thank God our paths crossed, despite traveling the world and meeting lots and lots of people knowing the both of you and being able to call you friends always brings a smile to our faces... I started a company called Country Touring which Carol and Greg have helped us with a great deal."
Background: Sully was born and raised in Nelson, Lancashire, UK. Both his mother and father were born in Jhelum, Pakistan. Sajjid came to the UK when he was two years old with his grandparents, and Nusrat arrived when she was in her early twenties. Flying has always been a passion for Sully starting when he was a part of the Air Training Corps (part of the Royal Air Force) as a youngster. He earned his blue wings in engine powered gliding and was promoted to leading instructor Corporal. He went on to attend university in Buckinghamshire, studying aviation. At the same time he began working with Virgin Atlantic Airlines, allowing him the opportunity to travel as crew. A year into that, he decided to pursue his Masters in Entrepreneurship and Management at prestigious Cranfield University. After graduation, Covid forced a halt to nearly all international travel. Never one to be idle, Sully became a firefighter in his village to help out the local community. Working with his family, they have started a wonderful business called Country Touring, offering custom travel experiences for people visiting the UK.
The Joy of Unexpected Friendships!
So, let us celebrate the joy of all friendships and remember the gifts each one has brought to us. Ponder especially those friends who have arrived unexpectedly and stayed a lifetime. I look to Pooh, the wise bear of the Hundred Acre Wood, for inspiration.
"As soon as I saw you I knew a grand adventure
was about to happen."
"We'll be friends forever, won't we?" asked Piglet.
"Even longer," Pooh answered
"After all, one can't complain. I have my friends."
"We didn't realize we were making memories,
we were having fun."
"How lucky I am to have something
that makes saying goodbye so hard."
I would love to hear your stories of Unexpected Friendships!