SotD: Billy Joel, “The Longest Time”

Today is a milestone birthday for Becky, a longtime and dear friend.

I spent a little time yesterday thinking back on the almost 34 years we’ve known one another. We’ve never lived in the same city; haven’t really even lived in the same state since 86. We see each other maybe once every three years on average these days. Nonetheless, she’s one of those people with whom your next conversation seems to pick up right where the previous one ended, no matter how long it’s been between.

Becky and I met in June 84 at Transy. She was there for a two-week computer programming camp for high schoolers, and I was one of the counselors. It was a really enjoyable bunch of students; they bonded (and behaved) well. I still remember several names of the campers from that group, but Becky struck me as one of the brighter students and was probably the one with whom I wound up interacting most. Later that summer we struck up a pen-pal friendship (I’d guess I initiated it) which we kept up for close to two decades (transitioning over to email toward the end).

For the first few years after we met, I’d make a point to visit Becky when I was in Louisville. (The first time, in May 85, Mark and I surprised her by showing up at the restaurant where she was a waitress.)  I went off to Illinois just as she was starting college in her hometown. It wasn’t long after I returned to Kentucky that she went off to Texas for a master’s degree. There she met her really cool husband-to-be, Jeff.

Becky and Jeff came to KY when Martha and I got married in 96, and we returned the favor fourteen months later, traveling to Florida, where they were living (Jeff’s family is from there).  It happened to be the weekend of Princess Diana’s funeral; I recall Martha and I watching some of it at our hotel room that Saturday morning.  We had a great time, and the reception was one of the most fun I’ve attended.

After kids came along, the seven of us would get together as time allowed–mostly as a part of their visits to Becky’s family–but we also had a couple of fun days at the beach on a vacation to Florida in 04.  Not long after that, they began an intentional search for a place in the north to raise their family and settled in Wisconsin. We’ve been lucky enough to stop by their place a few times since, the last time in 15. Their daughter is now in college in Ohio, their son a year behind Ben in high school.  Becky’s long been committed to social causes; recently she took on the role of Executive Director at Worker Justice WI, in Madison. It’s inspiring to know and count as a good friend someone who does such meaningful and important work.

Where does Billy Joel come in? Back at that camp at Transy, some of the down time was spent in the lobby of the dorm. Someone, maybe Mark, regularly brought a radio or a boombox there and would have it tuned to WLAP-FM. “The Longest Time” had been a recent hit, and I was well aware of its high school reunion-themed video.  One time in the lobby it came on, and I went into strut mode, snapping my fingers and making some lame attempt at crooning along with Billy.  Becky was amused and told me so. It may have become a bit of a joke for the remainder of the camp.

So, happy birthday, Becky! I treasure our friendship. Hope your day is fab!

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