It’s the longest stretch of time we’ve spent together since we graduated, and it will probably always hold that record. It’s the first time we’ve “vacationed” together for an extended period, and it will probably be the last. It was a weird, wonderful, remeniscent, random, frustrating, fantasticly fun week, and I miss them already. They’re still technically in The Big Apple, but I can’t help but tear up a bit thinking about them leaving.

Three of my closest friends from high school stayed with me this week. (You may remember them from my Friday 02 December 2005 post entitled “The Journeys We Take . . .”) We’re all done pursuing “higher learning”; all still unmarried; and all still able to travel. I may be an optimist, but I also understand that opportunities like this one don’t come often, and though these three people are life-long friends, this kind of time together probably won’t ever happen again. We all come home for Christmas (at least for a few days), and our parents all still live within 15 minutes of each other; but this week was special. I will probably go back to the Italian restaurant where we ate their first night in town, but the three of them may never go back (much less all together, with me). I’m fairly certain that Cass, Jeff, and I will never again ride the ferris wheel in Toys R Us.

And that ‘s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the craziness of this week. They came to church to hear me sing; they went off on their own in the mornings while I worked; we had dinner at all sorts of restaurants with all sorts of people; we went to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Times Square, Spamalot, Caroline’s, et. al. We had New York pizza, burgers, Turkish food, Chinese food, and more (and I still didn’t feed them everything I’d hoped). I absolutely loved having them here. We didn’t take enough pictures, and believe me, we took a LOT.

And I think the main consensus among the group was a very common theme in life:

You’ve got to get out there and live it while you can, because you may never get another chance.

Being smart is good, and being safe is good, and being practical is good. We were all of these things. But we’re coming off of a week that has given me the kind of high I used to get from summer camp — when you love people, when you’re blessed with friends, when people come into your life who’d do almost anything for you just because they love you, you relish it. Savor it. Enjoy it. You tuck it in a pocket of your heart and treasure it forever, knowing that even if — let’s be realistic: when — communication dwindles, these friends are like the $20 you found in the pocket of the coat you haven’t worn in weeks: a gleeful surprise that you may have forgotten you had (and may have even lamented misplacing) but that was always there, and which makes you all the richer. It may not be enough all by itself to solve all your problems, but it helps, in a time when you didn’t even realize it was still there.

How’s that for an extended metaphor?

**Added 24 Mar 06: Additional trip photos can be found here: