No one usually ever realizes the last time that they will do something or be somewhere until after they’ve already done it. Not many people remember when the last time they crawled, the last time they were picked up by their parents, or the last time they ever saw their best friend from pre-school. As time passes, you experience the first of everything and the last. Some experiences you miss and regret, but the majority of these experiences fly by without anyone noticing. I came to the conclusion myself that I was (most likely) visiting the town where I grew up for the last time when I exited the main highway going north this past weekend and let my tires hit the familiar trail of dusty road.
I made my way to the tiny dairy-farming town for the last time to visit my best friend of nearly 23 years. She was finally making the move out of state, and I wanted to give my proper goodbyes until next time I saw her and her husband in their new place. We drove around town that day visiting all of the old places where we had spent so much time in our lives growing up and becoming the people who we are today. I visited my old childhood home, went to the nearly abandoned mall in town where we both watched our first PG13 movie in theaters on our own and took the scenic route along the backroads in the countryside on our way to lunch.
I felt a heavy sense of nostalgia build as we moved throughout the day around the town that we were both vacating for new ones. However, as I looked around at the town that had evolved and changed, I realized that the mild feeling of loss wasn’t about the town at all. It was the anticipation of missing my best friend.
For 23 years we were no more than a four-hour drive away from each other. I could throw a duffle bag into the car and arrive at her house in no time (especially if I was speeding). I could go and kidnap her in my car and take off together on an epic road trip to Oregon. I could lay down in her back yard on an old blanket while drinking cheap sparkling wine, watch all of the shooting stars, and stare endlessly at the brilliant constellations. We would probably never grab sushi at our favorite spot in town, meet up with other old friends at the library where I fell in love with reading, or have her mom make us pancakes in the morning.
Even though I knew that we would see each other again after I drove away from the tiny town, I still teared up a little. We were all grown up and going our own separate ways to new towns. I thought about my four-hour drive to visit my best friend turning into a four-hour flight. I knew at that moment after I hugged my best friend for the last time in California that everything was about to change. It would be the last time we had anything to tie us down to that place.