Meeting With Old Friends

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Lou and Bill with the "Ski Twins, Connie and Joan, October, 2014

Lou and Bill with the “Ski Twins,” Connie and Joan, October, 2014.

Because I moved around so much as a child, there are only a few people I’ve known for a long time. My freshman year, college roommate, Connie, whom I hadn’t seen in a very long time until just a few weeks ago, is one of them.

We graduated tfrom Castleton State College, in Castleton, Vermont, fifty years ago this coming June, with Bachelor of Science degrees in Elementary Education. She lives in Connecticut and I live in Virginia. The last time I saw her was at least 25 years ago on a trip Bill and I took to New England. When we stopped to visit Connie and her husband, Lou, they took us out for a lovely evening sail on their boat. We ate luscious lobster for dinner and spent several wonderful hours together catching up. Over the years we’ve kept in touch with Christmas cards, an email here and there, and  few rare phone calls.

So it was delightful when a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from her, saying that she read somewhere on my blo, that I was going to be in Vermont to visit family, noting that she’d be there at the same time staying at her condo at Pico Peak, next door to Killington, where my parents built one of the first ski lodges on the mountain and where both Connie and I first tried our legs at skiing.

We met on a sunny day, in September of 1960, when we moved into our dorm room together. She was from Brooklyn and I’d recently moved to Killington, from Long Island where I’d grown up. Our New York accents stood out amongst a class of students mostly from New England. We both felt out of place.

The funny part of our meeting was that when our applications were accepted, someone with a crazy sense of humor, decided that Miss Connie Debski and Miss Joan Zabski, both from the New York City area, would room together. What’s better than one Polish girl who knows what perogis are? Well obviously, it’s two. Thank goodness it was a perfect match. Everyone on campus knew us as “The Ski Twins.”

We spent our freshman year missing New York, wondering if we really wanted to be teachers, dating cute guys, and crossing “the line,”  just seven or so miles away, into New York State where the drinking age was eighteen, compared to Vermont’s twenty-one. We both struggled with college level algebra and mostly thought we’d arrived in some weird place where we were supposed to grow up and become adults. But we both needed more time.

At the end of the year, we both decided we’d had enough. Connie went back to Brooklyn, and I moved back to Long Island, to Bellrose, New York in Queens County, where I lived with good friends of my parents. We both got jobs as clerks with the Bell Telephone Company,  known as “Ma Bell, ”at the time, and subsequently as AT&T. We hadn’t been keeping in touch, but Connie found out that I had been hired on the same day she applied for her job, when she saw a letter addressed to me on her interviewer’s desk.

We worked in different offices so we didn”t get to see each other, but occasionally met in the City, for lunch and shopping. Mostly we each plugged away at work and tried to figure out what life was all about. I dated a few of the guys in my office, but basically was bored with them and life in general. Something was missing. My life was all about taking the bus to work, filling out papers, making phone calls, and then taking the bus home again. All of my friends from high school had all moved away. Nothing I was doing made sense.

Connie was going through the same thing and decided to go back to Castleton on her own the following summer. In the meantime, knowing I wasn’t doing anything of importance, my father came down to the Island in early August, to talk me into going back to school. He’d already called the Dean and the President of the college to ask if I could return and when he arrived at my door, he took me to dinner and bought me a drink for the first time ever. Though I really didn’t want to return to the land of ice and snow or live with or near my parents, he didn’t have to argue long and hard. I knew that working in New York as a clerk, without an education wouldn’t get me anywhere.

This time I didn’t live in the dorm. My father asked me to live at  home and commute to school, about forty-five minutes away. I’d work for him waiting on tables at night at his ski lodge and I was to pay my own tuition at school with the wages and tips I earned working for him.

I was fine by day when I was in school. I dove into learning, took a mind blowing European History class, and a Literature class in which I didn’t have to agree with everything the professor had to say. Though I was not terribly happy working for my abusive and controlling father, I knew that school was my eventual way out of living with a dysfunctional family. So it really isn’t that strange, that I first met Bill, the love of my life, when I waited on his table on New Year’s Eve in 1963 at the Summit Lodge. We married in 1965 one week after I graduated.

Connie and I saw each other on campus for the next three years but because I didn’t actually live there, it wasn’t very often. Afer we graduated  in 1965,  we went our own separate ways, but the links between us have continued. We both have unbreakable ties to Vermont, and she’s my oldest friend.

Last week, Connie and Lou and Bill and I had dinner together while Vermont’s leaves were at their peak of fall color, and the fairly quiet, scenic byways were overtaken by what we fondly call, the “Leaf Peepers.”

Hopefully we won’t wait too long before we get together again, and of course, Vermont is a perfect place to do it!  Maybe next year folks?


  1. Joan — The photograph is fantastic and the backstory even more so! Thank you for sharing the ups and downs, the twists and turns, and the healing aspects of your life’s journey.

  2. I agree with Laurie, Joan. The current photo captures the joy of the lifelong bond you and Connie have enjoyed. What a delightful story of the lasting beauty of friendship through life’s ups and downs. Girlfriends are the best. Isn’t is amazing how you can reconnect after all those years and feel as if you can pick up where you left off. It sounds like another reunion is in order for next year. 🙂

  3. Thanks so much, Kathy. Girlfriends are the best and am so happy to be making new ones too! Someday, I’d like to meet you and all the others writing their stories in person!

  4. Girl Friends Unite! Thank you for an uplifting and thoughtful post of the power of friendship. Some may wax and wane, but good friends pick up just where they left off, no matter how many years have come between. Thanks for the reminder, Joan. Carol is lucky to share such history with you.