Today I would like to say thank you to my friend Esta. Esta is one of my many forever friends – one of the friends who has always just been a friend for as long as I can remember.
Esta and I were in the same grade in our small town school. Bainbridge, NY, our hometown, is the type of community where everyone knows everyone else. Esta and I were just two members of our grade of sixty-four students. Although we had our close friends, most of us were friendly with everyone in our grade. It’s hard to develop “cliques” when you are with the same small group of people for your entire school journey.
Esta’s childhood home was just a few houses up the hill from our elementary school, and across the street from the town cemetery. This meant most of the slumber parties at her house involved hide and seek at twilight in the cemetery. I don’t remember being scared as we ran among the tombstones and graves. But as we grew older, we told ghost stories and tried to scare each other with spooky tales.
In high school, Esta and I were both in orchestra, band, chorus and the women’s choir. Esta played the flute in the instrumental ensembles so we didn’t sit near each other. But we both sang alto and we sat near each other in singing ensembles.
In tenth or eleventh grade, our choir teacher encouraged both of us to consider singing solos at the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) music festival. Although I had participated in NYSSMA for years as a violinist, I was shy about singing a solo. I practiced with Esta and the other soloists outside of school hours at our teacher’s house – something which I’m sure would never happen today. I remember Esta had a positive comment for everyone after they sang.
Esta is like that – finding the best in a situation. At least, that is how I remember her. And from the times we have been together since leaving our hometown, it is still how she engages with the world. On social media, she is encouraging to others. When mutual friends post about success, she is quick to congratulate them and express her joy.
Esta has a sense of adventure and enjoys spending time in nature. She shares photos of herself hiking with her husband, Tom, and these always remind me how important it is to unplug and get out in the world. Earlier this year, Esta started sharing photos of the cutest chocolate lab puppy – the newest addition to her home. I am not a dog person, but this is one adorable puppy and I am enjoying sharing that cuteness from a distance.
Last year, when I first told my friends about my upcoming trip to Australia, Esta was one of the first to contact me with an offer of support. Her comments made me realize how each of us touch other people in ways we may not realize at the time.
I remember when you took that trip in high school and all of your amazing stories. I’m so glad you get to go back and visit again!
I don’t really remember talking much with Esta when I returned home from my first trip to Australia. I’m sure I did because Bainbridge is a small town, and I returned just before high school graduation. I know we saw each other that summer before we went away to college – Esta to Colgate University and me to The College of Saint Rose.
I may not remember those encounters, but Esta remembers. Esta realized what a difference that trip made in my life. And Esta knew how important it was for me to go back and thank the Tasmanians who changed my life twenty-five years ago.
When I asked Esta if I could share the story of our friendship on my blog, I told her about my memories of the cemetery and how I think of them whenever I think of us as children. In response, she said, “I was never, ever scared of it (the cemetery). Mom used to tell me that the people buried there were just people from Bainbridge, so they protected us.” What a great way to think of our ancestors who have gone before us.
Esta – thank you for decades of friendship, and for encouraging me to open my eyes to the beauty which can be found all around us. Although we may only see each other now and then, I know whenever we are fortunate enough to spend time together the time will be full of laughter and positive energy. You have always been a loyal and steadfast friend, and I am grateful for your assistance in helping me assist others through my speeches this past year.