Nikki has been my friend since high school when we both competed in interp. (Sorry for outing you, Nik.) We lived a four hour drive away from one another but saw eachother constantly at competitions and shared many of the same friends.
One thing that made Nikki special is that she was one of my few friends from Miami that wasn't Cuban. Or Catholic. Despite our best intentions, going to college in the same city didn't make it as easy for us to see each other all the time like we'd thought. Moving to NYC for college requires lots of baby steps. At first, your entire existence takes place within a 10 block radius of your apartment (at best) with perhaps the occasional trip to Times Square. Each year the radius gets bigger to include the rest of Manhattan, the other boroughs... so it took us a while before the trip between Columbia and NYU was any better than Orlando to Miami. But we manage to have a low maintenance friendship. (Come to think of it, most of my friendships are low maintenance. Probably because I'm lazy.)
I don't remember the first time we talked about Judaism, but I do remember a consistant loving tug coming at me from Miami: you're mom is Jewish, Kate, and that makes you Jewish. You need to find out what that means. Happy Chanukkah, Kate, are you celebrating? Kate, the High Holy Days are coming up, why don't you come down to Miami and come to synagogue with me? You're Jewish. It's time to find out what this means.
And I always had an excuse. My parents wouldn't want me to go to Miami. How would I get there? I was too busy in school. Nobody else in my family cared that we were Jewish, why should I?
By freshman year of college it was harder to come up with excuses. I made myself busy and avoided her calls during the holidays. I called her afterwords with apologies and promises to meet up for drinks. Having not yet yet mastered upper Manhattan, I didn't make good on those promise, either.
My mother's sister came from Toronto and we went to visit her friend, a songwriter, a Holocaust survivor who wrote haunting music that didn't suit the Bronx. I went with my aunt to see her on Shabbat. Stella knew Yiddish and was involved with the Jewish community in Toronto, but knowing we'd both be basically ignorant together, I was bolder. We went with Beyle to her shul, a tiny building with a mechitza that was more wall than anything. She and I flipped through a siddur, enjoying the look of the Hebrew and the sound of the prayers. We whispered and giggled and got several amused and curious glances from the regulars. After the services, we made our way with Beyle to the kiddush. The Rabbi, grinning, told us where to hide our purses (which we had no idea we shouldn't have been carying). It seemed like it had been ages since anyone at this shul had had a new person come daven. Stella was her charismatic self all though kiddush and everyone laughed and joked and watched her with delight.
Sophmore year, Nikki called again before High Holy Days. Again, I didn't go. But this time I wasn't going to be able to get away with it. A month later I was fed up with feeling like a coward and signed up for a 3 day Jewish learning weekend with NYU.
Three years later, I'm in Har Nof, talking to Nikki just as rarely as ever. But when we do talk, she hears about my classes at sem and I hear about her fabulous NYC life.
She doesn't ask me anymore to come to services but wishes me an automatic Shana Tova. We've come a long way, love. So come to Jerusalem and I'll buy you that drink. :)