I hadn't seen her in 25 years, a long time when you're my age -- forever, it can seem.
She got out of her car, a weary traveler. I ran to her and we hugged like long-lost mother and child. But there was no child. We are the same age, and we'd been best friends since first grade -- through teen-age angst, double-dating, wartime marriages.
This glorious summer day the years melted away and Helen and I laughed and cried at the same time. I held her away from me, and saw she hadn't changed.
We had both been worried about that.
Were we going to look so old, so different, that we wouldn't recognize one another?
We spent six great hours talking, reminiscing, probing and excavating old memories -- filling in the blanks. But mostly we laughed.
I think that's what I'd always liked about her, from the time I saw her in our first-grade classroom -- where we were both scared to death-- her limitless humor.
She hadn't lost it, either.
Time and children had made her hair and mine a little grayer, and there were a few lines, but mostly the lines marked the places where the smiles showed through the years. How can two older women go back so far and remember so much? Men remember, too, but they are more reserved with their feelings, more unrevealing, perhaps.
As children, Helen and I lived for sports and having fun. The weekends growing up at her parents' farm were never long enough for all the capers we planned.
And that long, hot summer of 1945, when we waited for our husbands to come home from the war, we rented a farm house. To this day I can see the lovely formal living room turned into a nursery with two wooden playpens and diapers drying in front of the large hearth.
Today, women without men are still thought to be sort of dysfunctional, sort of left behind, or different. Wrong. My good women friends have been the stabilizing core of my life.
The other day Helen and I looked back at how young we had been during the war, living each day with hope while the whole world was treading water.
After the war, we went our separate ways to different parts of the world. And that's when our friendship lost its physical ties, but never its emotional ones.
Now I am looking back at the importance of our recent reunion.
It is so essential for a woman to have a best friend. Oh, sure, we had written and telephoned one another over the past 25 years, especially when there was a family crisis. But seeing her in person erased all those sad chapters.
A workaholic young woman told me recently she did not have a best friend because she liked her own space.She is missing out.
Sure, demanding families and careers cut into the time for friendship. Yes, my husband is my closest friend, but my women friends, my mother and my sisters, know more about me than my husband.
There are many times when I prefer the company of other women.
Recently, a Gallup Poll claimed that 92 percent of Americans polled wanted to renew old friendships.
We should try harder to do that.