Friday, August 21, 2015

A Toast to Treasured Friends

You know how some friends remain steadfast, even when you sometimes go five years or more without seeing them in real life? You know how some friendships encompass not only your friends but their entire families?

I'm lucky enough to have some friends like that. I met Pat, who I used to call Patsy, when I was 11 years old, and she went on to become my best friend during high school. She was matron of honor when I got married, and I was maid of honor in her wedding a few months before mine. 

Pat even came to visit when Marty and I moved to England. She and her cousin Pam and I were a triple dose of trouble when we were teenagers. Pat's little brother Jimmy was a good friend of my younger brother Thom. And Pat's older brother Howie and I were pen pals of a sort when he was stationed in the Pacific.

Pat's dad died many years ago, but her mom is a more recent loss and we all miss her. Every New Year's Eve I think of her dad and his potent, steaming glug and I can't hear of a Polish food without thinking of Pearl, Pat's mom. I'm sooo glad I got to see Pearl again a few years ago. She had health problems, but she still had a great smile and a wonderful sense of humor. (She needed one, to put up with our escapades.)

Jimmy is an artist extraordinaire and a fabulous banjo player. Pam is also an artist - one of her paintings hangs on the wall next to my desk. Pat's talent is dancing, and I'll never forget her 16th (?) birthday, when her mom gave her a big dancing ballerina doll to celebrate her accomplishments in Orchesis.

That's the backstory, leading up to my wonderful, wonderful day yesterday. The weather was perfect when I went to meet Pat and Pam at the Art Institute of Chicago. (When my daughter called it a museum, I disagreed. "What would you call it then," she demanded. "A house of art." She thinks I'm nuts, but I still think that describes it better. However you describe it, people like it - a lot. (Okay, so maybe it is a museum.)

We enjoyed the Degas exhibit, and the always-breathtaking Monets, and then we had lunch outside at the awesome Art Institute restaurant, Terzo Piano.We ate outside with a view of Millennium Park and a nice selection of Chicago's skyscrapers, remembering when the Prudential Building was the tallest building in town.

We took a stroll through Millennium Park after lunch, took some pictures by the Bean (real name: Cloud Gate) and then Pat and I sat at a sidewalk cafe and reminisced about old times, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and killer seagulls in Cornwall while Pam, Howie and Jim took a 2 1/2 hour Segway Tour. Pat and I, fueled by memories of our spectacular klutziness, kept a safe distance from those wheeled behemoths. Pam said it was fun, and by the end of the tour she said maneuvering the Segway had become second nature, but I think Pat and I made the right decision. 

The first time I saw New York, it was with Pat - well, and with my husband, too. First time I saw New Jersey, Pat was there. And Fort Lauderdale, too. Pat has seen every house Marty and I have lived in, except one, and we've lived in a lot of houses, all over the place. 

As teenagers, Pat and I knew each others' houses as well as we knew our own. She could stroll into my house at any time and be sure of a welcome - well, apart from That Night. I must have slept soundly that night, because when I woke up, every bra I owned was frozen solid in the freezer, I'd been pummeled with silver dragees (cake decorations) and every picture in the house was ever-so-slightly crooked. I don't remember how I got back at Pat, but I'm sure I did eventually. And then there was the mystery of the fried chicken under the bed, but that's another story.

I could drop in on her at any time, and I often did. I'll never forget the time Jimmy let me in and said, "She's in her bedroom." I followed the sound of typing, but couldn't find Pat. I finally figured out she was in the closet. Pat was the fastest typist I knew, but I don't think I ever did discover the attraction of typing in a small, enclosed space.

We've met up occasionally - in New York, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Chicago, London and Las Vegas. No matter how much time has passed, we always have a blast.

Back to yesterday. Pat and I met up with Pam, Howie and Jim at The Betty, near Chicago's Fulton Market, where we were joined by Jim's son and daughter and more family and friends. I think there were ten of us altogether. We polished off a stack of pieroges and cringed at memories of czarnina (duck's blood soup, a Polish specialty). We had a little alcohol and a lot of tapas, some of which were out of my comfort zone - octopus with the tentacles clearly visible? I don't think so! The tapas-style menu was a fun way to feed our large group.

I hadn't seen Jimmy since I was skinny and had red hair. He's no longer the little curly-haired banjo virtuoso, but he's still in many ways the person I remembered - only now he's a grandpa of twins! Howie, who had a full beard last time I saw him, is now a very talented dancer, and he regaled us with stories of his recent cruise to Spain. It came as no surprise that he basically danced his way across the Atlantic. It was a lot of fun getting to know the younger generation of Pat's family, too.

It was hard to say good-bye after such a fun day. When Pat and Pam dropped me off outside my condo building, I saw my daughter coming up the street. I had a weird moment of déjà vu as my past and present collided.

I hope we won't have to wait years before getting together again - next time hopefully our husbands will be able to join us, and maybe my kids will come, too!

Getting old(er) isn't always easy or fun - we griped some about blisters, bunions and the impossibility of wearing high heels anymore. Things change, inevitably - loved ones lost, illnesses endured, blood pressure to be watched, and the occasional frustration of forgetting a name. I'm no longer the skinny redhead, but I remember enough of our "golden youth" to recall it wasn't all sunshine and roses even then.

But it's nice to be able to look back and remember good times with old friends. And it's even nicer to create new memories with the same friends. Here's a toast to you, my friends - new and old. Thank you for making my life so much richer because of your friendship.

*Pat and Jimmy took a bunch of pictures yesterday. I don't like getting my picture taken, but these will have historical value. I'll share some of the pictures later.


marye.ulrich said...

Sounds like your "golden days" are memories from the past, but also living in the present and planning for the future. Best wishes for more days of fun and friends. Love ya.

Becke Davis said...

Mary - I always think of that old song, "Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold." You might be one of my newer friends (wait - we've been friends for how long now? Seven or eight years? I think you count as an "old" friend, too), you'll always be one of my treasured friends!

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