Reconnecting 10 Years Later 'Was The True Test Of Friendship And Time'

Dec 21, 2018
Originally published on December 21, 2018 11:30 am

Last year, friends Jeanne Satterfield and Barbara Parham reconnected for the first time in a decade at a place neither of them expected to be — a homeless shelter.

On a visit to StoryCorps in October, Satterfield and Parham recall how reuniting at the Pine Street Inn, a shelter in Boston, couldn't have come at a better time.

"When I came through the door, I was scared to death," says Satterfield, now 62. "I didn't know what to do. I had never been homeless before."

For years, Parham had been caring for and living with her ill mother. When her mom died, Parham wasn't allowed to stay there anymore. Satterfield had to give up her apartment after losing her job, and also found herself without a home.

Satterfield arrived at the shelter last July, a few months after Parham.

"But I remember seeing your face," Satterfield tells Parham. "I was shocked. I go, 'Barbara!' and I waved to you. People were really astonished cause they said, 'Oh, you two know each other.' I said, 'We go way back.' "

The pair first met in the 1990s. And as sometimes happens with friendships, they lost touch over the years.

"From that day, my whole life just felt easier," says Parham, 57. "It helped me to be able to talk to somebody, believe it or not, who was like me."

During the few months they spent together at the shelter the friends had each other's backs.

"We were like big sister-little sister, sounding board, coach, therapist, for each other the whole time," Parham says.

While at the shelter they discussed getting an apartment together, but brushed the idea aside, figuring as middle-aged women, they'd really prefer to live alone. But they soon realized living without a roommate wasn't realistic for them.

"We're both in the same position," Parham says. "We both need each other."

Satterfield says it was important to her to share the space she calls home.

"I just wanted to feel a part of a home, not feel as though this is my home, this is your home — it's our home," she says. "So, we were able to get a place together."

Parham says, "What I did learn is you don't have to be alone. And meeting that day in that shelter, honestly I felt like, for once, divine intervention was in my favor."

A program at the shelter helped Satterfield and Parham with the first few months of rent until they found stable footing.

"I don't know where I would be if you and I didn't run into each other at the shelter," Satterfield says.

Parham agrees. "This was a true test of friendship and time," she says. "And we've still had each other's back."

"We've come a long way and I can't fathom my life without you," Satterfield says.

Produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. It is time now for StoryCorps. Jeanne Satterfield and Barbara Parham first met in the 1990s. And as sometimes happens with friends, they fell out of touch. For years, Barbara was caring for her mom, who was sick. And when her mother died, Barbara lost her home. Jeanne was in the same situation after losing her job. That's when the two friends reconnected for the first time in 10 years in a place neither of them ever expected to be - a homeless shelter.

JEANNE SATTERFIELD: When I came through the door, I was scared to death. I didn't know what to do. I had never been homeless before. But I remember seeing your face, and I was shocked. I go, Barbara. And I waved to you. We were really astonished because they said, oh, you two know each other. I said, we go way back (laughter). So...

BARBARA PARHAM: From that day, my whole life just felt easier. It helped me to be able to talk to somebody, believe it or not, who was like me. We were like big sister-little sister, sounding board, coach, therapist for each other the whole time.

SATTERFIELD: I remember when we first started talking about getting an apartment together. We said, hell no.

PARHAM: No.

SATTERFIELD: And then I remember when I said to you, you know, Barbara, we really need to consider this roommate thing.

PARHAM: We're both in the same position. We both need each other.

SATTERFIELD: And I just wanted to feel a part of a home, not feel as though this is my home, this is your home. It's our home. So we were able to get a place together.

PARHAM: What I did learn is you don't have to be alone. And meeting that day in that shelter, honestly, I felt like, for once, divine intervention was in my favor.

SATTERFIELD: I don't know where we'd be if you and I didn't run into each other at the shelter.

PARHAM: Me either. This was a true test of friendship and time, and we've still had each other's back.

SATTERFIELD: We've come a long way. And I can't fathom my life without you.

(SOUNDBITE OF YUSUKE TSUTSUMI'S "UNTITLED #10")

KING: That was Jeanne Satterfield and Barbara Parham for StoryCorps in Boston. They'll go back to the shelter next week to help out for the holidays. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress. And you can hear more from Barbara and Jeanne on the StoryCorps podcast. Get that at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.