Tag Archives: friendship

Old Friends…

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Earlier this week we spent an evening with friends.

IMG_0189We were celebrating the 12th birthday of their daughter. Our girls met each other as toddlers in the Little Sisters Preschool in our old neighborhood. When I did the math, I realized our girls have been friends for a whole decade: a marvel!

IMG_8031When I was a child, my family blew around from town to town like tumbleweeds, wherever the winds and my father’s schooling or career took us. At my daughter’s age, I had moved six times and had never been in one place long enough to make lasting friends.

One of the great joys of finally settling down has been the ability to forge friendships with longevity. It makes me happy to think that my kids will have friends they’ve known since they were tiny. Although I’ll never have that experience, I am delighted and amazed to have friends I’ve known for decades.

Last week I spent a long weekend in Tucson, Arizona with some of those friends. A few years ago my college friends began getting together once a year. Three out of the four of us live on the East Coast, but Debbie moved to Alaska and has missed all of our reunions. This year, we made a special effort to plan our reunion around her already scheduled visit with her daughters to Arizona.

“Hey! I was your age when I met your mom for the first time!” I exclaimed to her 17 year old, whom I had just met for the first time. “Your mom was so sweet, she took me out for dinner for my first birthday away from home. Your poor mom! I was so homesick, I cried the whole time!”

That was then:

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After our first year, we moved out of the dorms and into an apartment over a clothing store called Rosey Jekes.


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If I learned anything in college, it was that a side bun is never a good idea.

This is now:

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More on Arizona tomorrow…

 

 

 

Dr. B & the ties that bind

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Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm: for love is strong as death…

On Saturday we went to a beautiful service for my friend Peter. Residents who had been mentored by him painted Beta Bridge in his honor.

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At the reception we saw a couple who had been our very first friends in Charlottesville. We hadn’t seen them in ages. Almost twenty years ago now, I attended a UVA Women’s Club event for newcomers. I was desperate to make friends, but there was only one person there who looked even remotely close to my age. I assumed that her mother had brought her along. I struck up a conversation with Emily and was delighted to discover that we were about the same age and had both just moved to Charlottesville. We had both recently gotten married and were trying to finish up our dissertations while our husbands were just beginning their academic careers. Overcoming my natural reticence, I told her that I was not going to leave without her phone number.

For many years we got together on a regular basis, but the last time we were really in touch was right after the birth of their third child. The baby had come so fast, they didn’t even have time to make it to the hospital. The baby was born at home with Peter giving instructions to Emily’s husband over the phone. At church the next Sunday, Peter and I chuckled over his easiest delivery ever. That was years ago, and now we were meeting again at Peter’s funeral. In his honor, we made a commitment there and then to rekindle our friendship. Just as I had resolved not to leave without Emily’s phone number all those many years ago, we resolved not to leave the church without putting a date on our calendars to get together.

On Sunday we were sad to learn that yet another friend and fellow church member had died that day. My daughter and I talked about other friends we had lost touch with and decided that it was high time to check in with Dr. B. I asked my daughter to write a note to herself to remind her dad about this. The girl does not mess around:

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“Bug Dad. -Dr. Bradley -Phone”

Dr. Bradley was our neighbor at the first house we lived in when we moved to Charlottesville. He had been a Colonel and an army doctor – a true officer and a gentleman. My English husband once said Dr. B epitomized all the things he loved most about America: he was generous, wide-eyed with wonder, curious, eager to learn, and open-hearted. Before we had even moved in, he put up bluebird houses for us and had planted tomato plants for us to enjoy. He would come back from trips to local orchards with bags brimming with apples and peaches to share with us. At Christmas, he would bring over a plate of the cookies he made using his late wife’s recipes. As a retiree, he was able to audit UVA classes and he would often take advantage of this benefit by sitting in on my husband’s classes on political theory.

We learned far more from him, though. After living in New York City for many years, my husband and I were faced with an acre of lawn and more leaves than we had ever seen in our lives. We kept putting off the Sisyphean task until finally one weekend we decided to face the music. We began to laboriously rake massive piles of leaves toward the woods. Our arms and backs were stiff, but we had only managed to move the leaves a few feet. Dr. Bradley strolled into our yard carrying a leaf blower and a tarp. He helped blow our leaves into piles and showed us a far easier method of moving the piles by loading them onto the tarp and dragging them to the woods. We were so grateful for his help, but deeply embarrassed to take it at the same time. We kept trying to hint that he had done enough for us, but he cheerfully continued to work alongside us until it became too dark to see.

“What time shall we start tomorrow?” he asked. We demurred, but he insisted that he loved using his leaf blower and that it was fun for him to spend hours and hours helping us clear our yard.

“Well,” I responded, almost believing him, “We’re going to church tomorrow, but we should be back by 12:30.”

“OK!” he said, “I’ll be back then!”

The next morning we woke up stiff and sore and decided that we would sleep in rather than go to church.

We were still lolling around in our pajamas at around 11 am, when to our horror we heard Dr. B’s leaf blower roaring into action. We couldn’t possibly let our elderly neighbor take care of our lawn, but if we went outside, it would be obvious we were goofing off rather than going to church as I had proclaimed we would be doing. Of course, we threw on our clothes and slunk out of the house to help Dr. B help us with our leaves.

One Halloween, I made a special point of visiting Dr. B’s house with my sons in tow. They were dressed up in Scottish kilts and I knew he would appreciate this as he had just been to Scotland on a tour:
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We found him sitting in a dark living room, reading a letter by the dim light of a floor lamp. It was from his grandson, who was serving in Iraq. Dr. B wanted to read out loud to us from the letter, so we sat and listened. Just a few weeks later his beloved 20 year old grandson was killed in action.

We moved away from our first neighborhood and then two more times after that. Dr. B moved too. We tried to keep in touch with him, and visited him a few times in his nursing home. He always had things set aside for the kids…img_9516

The last time we visited Dr. B, we brought him some peaches we had just picked at the orchard. He wasn’t at home, so we left them for him at the desk. We never heard back from him.

It was time to reconnect, so I looked Dr. B up today. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that he died almost a year ago, on January 19th. He was 93. I wish we had kept in better touch. I wish we had had the chance to say thank you and goodbye. Dr. Bradley’s name is written not only on our arms, but on our hearts.

Weekend Snapshots 45

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We’ve been getting ready for the holidays…img_2148Around Halloween time, I was wandering around the dollar bins at Target. In my mind I could hear my mom’s repeated admonition: “DON’T BUY JUNKS!” But her voice was overpowered by the siren call of the best Target dollar bin loot ever! I got three white ceramic houses with holes in the back into which you can insert tea lights. On Saturday I went back to buy more. Tragically, they were all gone. Shoulda bought more junks when I had the chance!

img_2145That evening my daughter and I got dressed up for my son’s piano recital and realized our outfits perfectly coordinated. Obviously, a photo was in order! The dogs insisted on getting in on the action:img_2181

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After the recital we raced back home to welcome some very special guests…I feel very lucky to have a close friend I’ve known and adored since we were just twelve years old. She lives in California, so we don’t get to see each other very often, but as is the case with the very best kind of friendships – time and distance don’t matter. I was so happy to get a chance to catch up with her and to finally meet her fiancé.

img_2187-2img_2190Looking forward to going to their wedding next September!

Adulting and Other Adventures

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I had a conversation with one of my friends recently about a curious phenomenon she’s noticed lately. Whenever a crisis arises, she immediately looks around for an adult to handle the situation…and then suddenly she remembers she’s an adult. I could immediately relate to this. It’s always a shock every time I realize I’m no longer a child, or even a young adult.

Last week was all about adulting. For example, after YEARS of saying “We’ve GOT to write a will!” – we finally did it:IMG_6010.jpgWe also came to terms with the fact that our youngest child no longer needs a babysitter. Every summer our friend and former neighbor would host “Camp Barbara” for my daughter and some of her friends. She would take them on adventures, teach them manners, introduce them to new games, cook with them, and throw parties for their birthdays. Whenever I tried to sign my girl up for any other camp or activity, she would complain bitterly and say,  “No more camps! I only want to go to ‘Miss Barbara’s’!” This year Miss Barbara announced that my daughter and her friends were ready to be on their own this summer. This was highly disconcerting for her young charges, who were not yet ready to be kicked out of the nest. To tell the truth it was just as disconcerting for the girls’ parents, who were not yet ready to face a summer without Camp Barbara. The girls had the lovely idea  to show their love and appreciation for their beloved Miss Barbara by throwing a (surprise) party for her for a change:IMG_6028 (1)The day after the party, I hit the road for the almost five hour drive to Charlotte, NC.

A little side note here, to explain the thoughts that were in my head as I headed down 29 South…When I was a little girl, I went on a field trip to our local fire department. The fire chief impressed upon us the importance of planning an escape route in case of a fire. The minute my dad got home from work that evening I shared with him what I had learned and begged him to come up with the fire escape route forthwith. Being an amenable sort, he agreed. We walked up to the second floor and he walked me down the long, narrow hallway from my bedroom to the bathroom. He cast his eye about the bathroom until it landed on a plastic hairbrush. He placed it on top of the toilet tank and demonstrated how to use it to break the window. “And then you can jump out the window!” he concluded. It never occurred to me to ask him why I couldn’t just open the window. I didn’t sleep a wink, so certain was I that our house would become a blazing inferno that very night. I would have to have all my wits about me to make it to the bathroom, avoid piercing my jugular on the jagged edges of the bathroom window, and to leap far enough out of the window to avoid dashing my brains against the stone patio two stories below.

With the same sense of conviction that I had those many years ago, I was absolutely sure that, having just written a will, I was definitely going to die en route. But this year was my 25th college reunion. (25 years – WHAT?! How is that even possible)?! I’ve never once been back to my college since the day I graduated, but I have kept up with a few of my friends. Last year they came to Charlottesville. This year we met up in Charlotte. Sometimes, adulting means doing things that terrify you. And so I made the drive…

Even though we’re adults, 25 years out of college, we played in the rain:

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We visited the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art:

IMG_0520…and had a blast in the open studio playing with watercolors:

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We fell into a comfortable rhythm: eat, nap, play, eat, nap, play. (Perfect for babies AND old people adults)!

We ate at wonderful restaurants, but my favorite was Amélie’s, a French bakery and café. with delicious food and charming décor:

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IMG_6033.jpgIMG_0526IMG_0523We promised to meet up again next year, because when you do finally grow up, you realize you never outgrow your true friends.IMG_6042

Making Music and Merry

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Many years ago, in one of my darkest and loneliest of hours, I made a friend who became like a sister to me. I was living alone at the time. Every night I would cry myself to sleep in a grim, rat and cockroach-infested apartment in a welfare hotel that was gradually being converted into graduate student housing. I know this sounds maudlin and over the top…like something out of the 19th century Russian novels I was reading for my degree at the time, but it’s true.

When my friend and I decided to become roommates, we lucked into that rarest of commodities – a beautiful and affordable sublet in an elegant pre-war building in New York City. It was a sign. For one magical year, we lived in an apartment with a fireplace and a large turret window overlooking Riverside Park. That year it seemed like anything was possible and everything was going our way. We spent many a night talking and laughing into the wee hours of the morning. We threw lots of parties. We started a graduate student singing group. Two of the people we auditioned were already friends who knew each other from another choral group. They sang their way into the group and into our hearts. A few years later, we married them. Many more years and six kids later we live a few hours away from each other, but we try to get together as often as we can.

My friend still knows how to throw a great party. This weekend my husband had to stay behind to fulfill his professional singing obligations, but the kids and I drove up to Maryland to attend the party of the year. …a cozy affair with just my friends and all of our kids.

While the kids decorated cookies:

I wandered around feeling nostalgic as I looked at Christmas decorations I remembered from our old Riverside Drive apartment…

I admired some new ones too:

After dinner, we played a game that involved drawing winter scenes on paper plates…

while they were perched on top of our heads!

We opened Christmas crackers.

They contained whistles that played an entire musical scale…

So naturally we played a few songs…

under the direction of our very able conductor:

We played dreidel:

This boy may have lost the dreidel game, but he’s a triple crown winner nevertheless:

We opened gifts:

We were sorely missing one of our tenors, but my favorite part of the evening was singing Christmas carols:

How lucky I feel to still be making music and merry together all these years later with these dearest of friends.

What to expect when you’re expecting…

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Like many mothers-to-be, I diligently read The Book cover to cover when I was expecting my first baby. My husband and I binged on an entire academic year’s worth of classes on childbirth and childcare. Despite all this, there were still many things I was not prepared for when I had my first child.

The daughter I was expecting turned out to be a son. When he was handed to me, I gasped, not in wonder and instantaneous love, but in horror to be perfectly honest. After 20 hours of labor, his head was alarmingly cone shaped. Jaundice had already started kicking in, and he was an unnatural shade of yellowish orange. Nursing, which I thought would be a piece of cake, turned out to be a sweaty, complicated affair that would leave both of us cranky and exhausted. It was so painful, I kept checking my babe’s toothless mouth to make sure there weren’t rows of razor sharp shark teeth hiding out in there. No one told me that I would be a walking spittoon for regurgitated milk and that I would consequently smell like rotten cheese for the first six months of my baby’s life. And in all of the many birth and parenting classes I took beforehand, not a single person told me about the mustard yellow projectile poop that would squirt all the way up the baby’s back to his neck.

Another thing I didn’t expect was that in these many classes I would make life-long friendships with other new mothers. I met the women in the photo at a prenatal exercise class. Our friendship has lasted through many joys and sorrows. Together we’ve celebrated the births of our first, second, and third babies, we’ve attended countless birthday parties, commiserated over illnesses and the inevitable issues that arise once babies become schoolchildren, and have consoled each other as other “baby friends” moved on to other cities. Last night we celebrated these thirteen years of friendship as we said goodbye (for now) to Christine, who is also moving away to continue her work as a developmental pediatrician in another city. In retrospect, I’m so grateful for all those classes I took. I met women who would teach me so much more than I could learn from a book or in any class…not only about the project of raising children, but about friendship. Until our next dinner date – “May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind be ever at your back…” Thanks, Christine!

Central Park

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For our last morning in NYC, the boys wanted to go to Central Park.

As the boys climbed the rocks, Rosita and I sat on a park bench and chatted (and took pictures, of course). Here’s her lovely photo of a horse-drawn carriage:

It was time to leave New York and head back to our lives in different states.

When Rosita’s family moved away four years ago, I gave her a seal that said this:

When we met up this time, she gave me this pendant she had made using the seal:

Rosita's pendant

Rosita’s pendant

It was hard to say goodbye to our friends, and of course, we could never forget them.

Friends then, now, and always.

Happy Birthday, Nicholas & Noah…We love you.

*Read Rosita’s take on our weekend in NYC hereEnhanced by Zemanta