Last Tuesday afternoon I hung out with my high school friend Joni, mostly in lighthearted reminiscing: “Remember when I came to your house when we were 12 and I didn’t dare talk to your older sister because she was so pretty?”

We also easily slipped into a heavier recent concern: “What does it mean that we are One?”

Little did we know that our evening later with other classmates might help us answer that question.

At dinner, a handful of us would inquire between “do you remember …?” and “what do you think now?” In our banter and great fun, we would experience Oneness.

There is something soulful about being with old friends, something about honest expression of feeling, something about comfort.

Old friends knew me when I had pimples and poufy bangs that had to be rolled in juice cans to maintain poufiness: I don’t have to impress them.

They remember the morning I read the student council notes over the intercom to the whole school. As secretary I was informing them that, at yesterday’s meeting, we had decided to let each class make its own choice about an issue we had debated. I read, “We decided to leave it to the discrepancy of the classes.”

As I later waltzed into second-period junior English class, Mr. Rose stopped me in front of his desk and held me there. As I stood, he announced, “Discretion.”

I asked, “What?”

He said, “You read, ‘discrepancy.’ The word is ‘discretion.”‘

Old friends know about young mistakes and feeling the dunce in front of 24 wide-eyed peers. They have similar stories.

I don’t have to be smarter than I am with my old friends, either. After all, the person sitting to my right last Tuesday remembers that she passed me a note in Mr. Quint’s senior English class. In the midst of we’re-in-this-together-every-senior-must-know-these-Greek-roots, she had sent me a riddle, “What do you call a cow that can’t give milk?”

I wrote her back, hid an underhanded stealth pass across the aisle, “I dunno. What?”

She scribbled the answer and slid it back to me. “An udder failure.”

She giggled as I read. My eyes looked up from the piece of ripped blue-lined white paper. I shrugged my shoulders, raised my eyebrows and furrowed my brow.

She said, “What?”

I said, “I don’t get it.”

She whispered, “‘Udder,’ it’s a pun.”

Later in the hall, I told her that I did not know what udder meant. I do not have to be smart with my old friends. No need for pretense; they know me and they know themselves to have made similar blunders.

And I do not have to fill in wrinkles or use products to make my thinning hair thicker. These friends know how old I am because we were all in the same high school class. At a fundamental human level, we are alike.

Old friends can ask, “Do you remember the night we sneaked out after our parents were asleep and went out on the boats in Casco Bay?” I can answer, “No.” And it’s OK. I was either with them that midnight in 1967 or I wasn’t. But the fact that I have no memory of the prank doesn’t matter to them. We all understand aging.

I roared with the person to my left, as we recalled our first-ever kiss under the bridge in sixth grade and the copper-colored paper ring he gave me which came from the neck of pink cigar-shaped chewing gum. It discolored my finger. That led to one other first-kiss story. And we joked about the coughing and hacking after a few of us smoked our first (my last) cigarette in seventh grade behind that barn.

There is something special, poets might say numinous, about feeling the same as others, about transcending differences.

With my old friends last week, we talked about work: “Are you retired yet?” Just as we jointly came of age in the 1960s, we now collectively know this almost-Social-Security time in life. We talked about caring for aging parents and the passing of those blessed grown-ups against whom we rebelled and who mightily survived our adolescence.

Perhaps spirituality could be defined as a relationship with something larger than our own ego, or our own history. If so, then it was spiritual to have dinner and chocolate profiteroles and strawberry trifle, sit at the restaurant for four hours, laugh, cry, mingle, relate and communicate with people just like me.

As we said goodbye after our evening of “still crazy after all these years,” we shared a peaceful pause while we all smiled and then hugged, “This was great.”

I drove Joni home at 11 p.m. We kept saying, “That was amazing.” Riding along, Joni and I talked about the French Club bus trips to Quebec and then revisited our adult query. “What does it mean that we are One?”

It means we share a timeless quality, the fact that we, as human beings, are more alike than not, that we share life’s passages, joys and sorrows. It means, therefore, that we can relax, let down, and allow into the world what the yogis call our True Nature, or what the Buddhists call True Essence. When my true nature meets your true nature, we connect, we unite, and we know that we are One.

Old friends can teach us.

Susan Lebel Young teaches yoga, meditation and mindfulness and is the author of “Lessons From a Golfer: A Daughter’s Story of Opening the Heart.” She may be reached at:

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