“I never had any friends later on, like the ones I had when I was twelve…Jesus….does anyone?”
–Stand By Me
Last weekend, I trekked down to suburban St Louis (technically Southern Illinois) for an all-too-brief mini-reunion with my oldest friends. Some exposition: I met Rebecca on the first day of kindergarten in 1979; I linked up with Karyn and Emily in Jr. High band (they played clarinet, I trombone) at some point in the fall of 1987. I met all other members of the gang in the interim. Our friend Callista lives in Swaziland, Africa, and was therefore unable to zip to Illinois for a weekend, but the rest of us met up for laughter, food, wine, and Erasure-soundtracked dancing.
So, yes, I’ve known all members of this 8-gal posse for at least 24 years. Ooooof. Is that really possible? Not that we’ve aged so much since meeting, but that we remain so close-knit despite the miles, the life shifts, and the simple reality of the human condition.
It’s especially amazing considering I moved away from these fine ladies in the summer of 1988, when my Dad took a job in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A transplant to the buckle of the Bible Belt immediately before beginning high school? Seemed like an unmitigated tragedy at the time, but I quickly took the Girl Scouts’ advice and made new friends while keeping the old.
I kept in close touch with my StL-area gals despite the lack of email, the expense of long distance, and the scarcity of visits. We made mix tapes. We wrote actual letters. We talked when our parents allowed. And I have never taken their friendships for granted.
Anyhoo. Last weekend. Our friend Mike (one of the honorary male members of our gang) joined us as the founder of our feast. He and his wife are both professional chefs and split time between Dubai and Dallas, Texas (I’m not sure how they tell their differing homelands apart).
Mike prepared pounds and pounds of beef tenderloin along with cod for the non-red-meat eaters (i.e., me). He also made simple preparations of interesting produce that allowed the flavors to shine. Mike introduced us to the wild world of gourmet salts, treated us to Hungarian dessert wine, and reminded me how I tried to cheer him on at a seventh-grade track meet. (He still placed last, but I refuse to believe this was my fault).
Rebecca’s girlfriend Lori, shouldering (literally!) four lbs of beef tenderloin
Mike cooks while Nicole looks pretty
My enviable plate (clockwise from left: roasted Jerusalem artichokes, cod, artisan bread, spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, green salad. Melange of mushrooms in the middle (prepared as a topper for the tenderloin but I partook of a taste)
Not bad for a bunch of late-30-somethings
Dance Party USA, proving that some things never change as you age
Our little group has always been, and always will until the end. It’s a blessing to have a group of friends that has known you forever. And thanks to my geographical upheaval at age 13, I actually have two. This is something for which I will always be thankful – I know it doesn’t happen for everyone.