1969. Me, an American girl wanting a Girl Scouts pen pal merit badge. She, a Scottish boarding-school girl, required by a teacher to get a “pen friend.” Both age 10. I requested a French boy. Liz requested “anything but an American girl.” Clearly fate knew better. Our lives share striking similarities. We both lost one parent as children, the other in our 20s. She’s a theater director; I’m an actor. We both found our soul mate after 40. We’ve laughed, commiserated, traveled and celebrated together, 54 years and counting. Random pen pal to lifelong friend. The best merit badge ever. — Mindy Steinman Shaw

When my Indian father immigrated to the United States in 1976, his first dream was to own a pair of bluejeans. Ever since watching Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary, “Woodstock” in a Mumbai movie house, my father adored denim and Jimi Hendrix. Selling fake IDs in Times Square for $3 an hour, he cobbled together enough money to buy bluejeans. He wore them with pride, setting aside money for rent and food and, of course, more denim. After I was born, he bought me my first petite pair. I now wear bluejeans every day in my father’s honor. — Raj Tawney


Her big blue eyes and chaotic curly hair weren’t what I noticed first. It was her smooth leg brushing mine in the back seat of my father’s car in our church parking lot. “Is that your sister?” my friend asked whenever she pulled up at my South Carolina high school. Back then, it was easier to just say yes, that’s my sister, not my first love. When she, 18, left me, 14, for college, I thought I would never recover. I discovered my sexuality in the parking lot of a homophobic church. It’s taken me two decades to release the shame. — Jessica Furniss

It’s our regular morning routine: “How did you sleep?” coffee, fruit and bagels; exchanging sections of The Houston Chronicle. The news seems to be worse every day; it’s difficult not to feel despondent. My husband, David, leaves the room with comics in hand. I can hear him all the way from the back of the house — his laugh loud and long, and totally uninhibited. It is and has always been one of my favorite things about him. If David can get such a kick out of the funnies while the world is such a mess, there is still hope. — Anne Lewis



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