Secret Life of an Expat: TenTenTen, a broken pact

Several years ago my three favorite girlfriends and I were being pulled in different directions. We were starting to grow up and settle down. We knew we couldn’t let our friendship die, so, over several bottles of wine, we made a pact and signed a napkin. To reunite on October 10, 2010. TenTenTen. That’s in three days.

Come hell or high water.

With babies, or husbands, it doesn’t matter, we’ll make it happen.

TenTenTen. Ever since I moved to France in 2009, I knew I would go to the west coast on TenTenTen.

But here we are, and I haven’t bought any plane tickets. One of us has a three-week old, and another is organizing, of all things, a polo match for the very same day. I really wanted the TenTenTen thing to work. To maintain some sort of continuity. To honor our agreement. It would be like a reunion of sorts, for a group of women who only vaguely knew each other in New York, and bonded once we all moved to California.

But how do friends, once they’ve been separated by boundaries and families, stay together? I’m very out of touch with people I thought I would know my whole life. I realized the other day that I can’t remember the names of half of the people I worked or studied with in New York, even if we had been friends.

What with relocating and growing up, it becomes harder and harder to stay in touch. Once babies are thrown into the equation, forget it. Everything changes. We need things like reunions and planned get-togethers. My mother recently got together with her friends from college, some of them she hadn’t seen in 40 years and she was thrilled. they plan to make it a yearly thing. And they probably can, because they are in their 60s. Their kids are out of the house. Many of them may already be retired.

TenTenTen wasn’t going to happen, but as the date loomed, I realized I wanted something out of it. I made an executive decision. I assigned each of us to write a letter. A really long letter describing everything that’s happened in our lives since the last time we caught up. With lots of pictures and gory details. It shouldn’t be like a family Christmas letter, no trying to make things look prettier than they are. Just a big tell-all, covering everything that would be covered if we were together and the men and kids were away, polishing off several bottles of wine.

I wrote my letter this morning. I talked about home, family, pets, the house, the garden, work, relationships, health, and friends. I feel a little narcissistic but it’s supposed to be a report so it’s okay to blather on about myself for twelve pages, right? I’ve told this story many times, the ‘how has life been in France’ story, but to write it all down and put in pictures. To talk about the good times and the bad, it was useful, almost therapeutic. Sometimes life feels so crazy, and telling someone else about it forces you to put it in order. To take a step back. To vocalize how you feel about things, instead of vaguely pondering them in the shower.

I realized while I was painting this picture of my life that writing a personal yearly report would be a good thing to do every year, even if I never sent it to anybody. Even if I just kept it for when I was old. And maybe, for now, while the life part of life gets in the way of maintaining connections with important people in faraway places, emails and digital photos will have to do. I’m still holding out for TwelveTwelveTwelve, but maybe we’ll have more time in 2050.