Last weekend, I returned to New York City where I grew up, fortunately with a group of girls who became my lifelong friends.

We met in various stages of our childhoods, eventually forming a solid, inseparable group in middle school, and because all of us were raised by single parents, we formed strong familial bonds. Often, we were there for one another when no adult could be.

In 1979, as teenagers one day hanging out in Central Park, we wondered what we’d be doing in 20 years. Would we still be friends? Would we still live in New York?

We decided then to meet on that very day 20 years later. June 29, 1999, became known to us as “the date” to meet in Central Park at midnight. From time to time, to remind each other, we’d ask, “What’s the date?”

Years later, we scattered our separate ways later, some to the West Coast, me to the Midwest, and others returning to New York. But on June 29, 1999, then in our 30s, we did meet at midnight in the park. One of us knew some New York police officers who were off duty at the time and agreed to escort us for a fee. I think it was a six back of beer and $50.

As June 29, 2019, rolled around, we realized “the date” was creeping up once again, this time 40 years after we’d planned the first rendezvous. All seven us showed up 20 years ago; Saturday, five of us made it.

I hadn’t seen these women in three years or so, not since another visit to New York when we met for dinner. We’ve all grown into beautiful, accomplished people. Some of my friends had just celebrated their children’s high school graduations and are about send them to college. We have lived through our childhoods, our young adult lives, and attended each other’s weddings and parents’ funerals. Now in our middle years, we’re wiser and more confident than ever.

And as always, we picked up where left off and recalled all of our zany adventures as teenagers together in a city of steel and concrete, among the millions of others working hard to fulfill their hopes and dreams.

We didn’t meet at Central Park again at midnight Saturday; instead, on this hot, humid day, we headed for Rockaway Beach, basked in the sand, swam, and talked for many hours until a storm swept through that evening. When the skies cleared, the storm had left us a rainbow.

I’ve had many friends throughout my life, but none who know me as well as these women. They’ve celebrated all of my successes, mourned my sorrows, and have always been there when I’ve reached out. Only they knew me as a just a kid in that crazy city as we tried to survive high school and beyond and figure out our own places in this big, weird world.

Friendships such as these should be treasured, like rare gems, priceless and irreplaceable. I returned home Sunday well aware of these gifts in my life.

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