A long long time ago...

...I can still remember when.

When I was 15, I ended up one time at a youth conference, or rather a youth adjunct to a conference, in Toronto where I lived. And while there I made many friends, as one will do then, often fleeting friendships, promises of writing never or only briefly fulfilled, and on with one's life.

At this conference, though, I made a friend who made a huge difference, though I wasn't to know it then. There was a dance, and this was 1981, so it was all skinny ties and a lot of hats. So many of us had hats. I had a grey vintage fedora I rather liked and wore often, she had a big black pork-pie. I was thought of as a boy then, by pretty much everyone, including her, and eventually we got to what young people do when they're left alone in a room full of pheromones. But not that weekend. That weekend was one of those magic ones you read about - and indeed you are - the ones where you meet one of those people who will change your life, and in some way you know it, but maybe not up-top. Down deep in the lizardy brainy bits.

We stayed up all night talking, and then again. This, mind, was in the days long before the Intertoobz and its wonders, when it was a long-distance call from my home in the suburbs of Scarborough to her place in Mississauga, at the far end of town. Neither of us could afford a car, or even to visit as much as we'd like.

But we carried on a relationship, and we wrote letters, and took pictures and held them til they faded from creases and greasy fingers and teen tears. It sounds positively Jurassic, really, but it was good. We fell in love. Probably my first true love, past the puppy infatuations, I fell, we fell, hard.

Her mother was cool. They were German immigrants, as we were English immigrants, so we had some commonality there. We went to see Culture Club in concert, we were both big fans, and we scored some weed, and got stoned. Her mother was at the concert, she made sure we got home alright safe enough. Another time we got hold of way too much alcohol for commonsense, and over the course of an evening, ended up crashing parties all over Mississauga in a night I'm sure was mined for the movie 200 Cigarettes. We got home, and in the morning, when I came downstairs horridly hungover, there was her mother, in her underwear, to make me mint tea, and laugh at me when I threw up all over the kitchen. She was a nurse - she didn't much care about the mess, she'd sure seen worse, and told me she never had to tell kids not to drink - anyone with sense could get that message from the first time they overdid it, the question was would I listen to the message?

She was beautiful and bright, her smile lit me - she catches my breath just thinking about it now - and she enjoyed being with me. I'd lucked into what was more or less the ideal partner. And life being what it was, and me the fool that at heart I am, in a moment of infatuated madness, I broke up with her, some many months later, by sending a note to a party I'd been supposed to attend.

Time went by, and we got back in touch, and she wasn't awful to me as I deserved, and we kept in touch some - phone calls now and then, I'd go and visit her family around Christmas, that sort of thing. When I finished undergrad, though, I moved away (to here, actually), and we lost touch.

I've regretted that for many years, and for a long time, I've said if there was one person I could ever find again - if there were someone I'd hire a detective to help me find - I've done searches from time to time online, but their last name is quite common in Germany, and she's a bit of a hippy anyway.

About six months ago, I got a message on my Facebook - which is under a pseudonym, because I don't really want people from my past to find me randomly or easily. It hasn't, as you may imagine, been a basket of happy-smelling roses to have transitioned nearly twenty years ago. I'm not complaining - my life is good, in general, and I couldn't be happier with my choice. But it hasn't always been easy, and a certain degree of distance from my old name and life is important to me (and if I need to say it, this can be different for every transition, so don't judge all trans folk by my example!).

I got this message, and it was from her elder brother. He said they'd been looking for me just as hard as I'd looked the other way, but never managed to find one another til then. And as we talked, he gave me her number.

I've hung on to that number until today, because I wasn't sure whether I was ready to call...to face the possibility that another cherished person from my old life would be unhappy to find me changed. That the old me was what they loved, and not what I knew to be inside. And, well, regular readers won't be surprised to know depression played its part.

Today I finally sucked it up. I called. We talked for two hours, catching up. She never once used my old name. She's a bit of a hippy, I said: she's got no e-mail address right now, as she pointed out. So I'll be writing letters again, as so long ago.

Her brothers both have children, and she does, and I have my stepkids whom I love as my own, as ever. I made her laugh: "Could you ever have imagined, when we were 15, that we'd be sitting here at 43 talking about how I'd become a grandmother before you?"

"No," and she laughed loud and long. "Cait, honey, I didn't think either of us'd see thirty, let alone forty-three and grandmothers."

We've made some plans to meet, when we can suss the details. And we're both pleased, and we both said "I love you" before we hung up.

That's all. No big lessons. Maybe, "Don't lose track of the people who really love you, because that's rarer than you'll think."

But it has a happy ending. :)

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