Cue up the music: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And by that I mean Thankgiving, when the whole country gets on their gratitude, even if it is only for one day. I’ll take it, because when it comes to gratitude, even if you’re opening yourself up to the concept for 60 mouth watering seconds before taking a big ol’ bite of turkey and mashed potatoes (and don’t get me started on the mashed potatoes, because you know how I am, so really, don’t) it’s better than not. I mean, a little gratitude is better than none at all, always.
Today mine is all about a 48 year old friendship, and a new city. I met my friend Steph freshman year of high school. We were 13. She’d just moved to town from Westport and our friend Bobby (who would later become my boyfriend for a whole bunch of years and the nicest guy ever) scooped us up in his Jeep and drove us to his house to hang out. I remember so distinctly, and note here, how I cannot remember what I went into the kitchen for half the time, the two of us standing by the fence in his beautiful backyard and just being so excited by the prospect of having this new girl become my new friend.
She was artistic and had a difficult dad like I did. And there’s nothing quite like having a difficult dad to cement a friendship, I can tell you. She was always up for fun. We did lots of stuff together over the years, including being bad girl cheerleaders, laying on the roof of my house to get a tan during April vacations in Connecticut, and plotting our futures in California, which never did quite come to fruition (although my son lived out this dream for both of us).
She visited us on our family’s yearly month on the Cape, came to see me during college, saw me through broken hearts and family deaths, came to New York to see me and meet my husband to be, when I lived there, and Boston when we moved back. We spent a Vineyard vacation together, and kept in touch throughout her time living in Colorado and then settling down in Fairfield with her new husband. I even helped to do the flowers at her super beautiful barn wedding, way before they were even a thing. For the past 48 years, we’ve remained in touch, sometimes just by phone, sometimes in real life. Steph has the most distinct and perfect handwriting of anyone I know and she has always been in contact with me by mail. To get a card from Steph, which doesn’t just have the great handwriting, but also some of her artwork, is to get something you keep in your “stuff to keep” file.
Old friendships give you a sense of time. They help you measure where you’ve been, how you’ve grown and who you are. My parents have been gone a long time (sadly, my mom, for 28 years). She knew them. She understands me in a particular way that someone who didn’t know them, can never understand me. That alone, is money in the bank. Her knowledge of the totality of my life is kind of everything in the friendship game.
For the past four days, I was with her in her home in Asheville, NC. We are four days apart, and we kept talking about how we just had to celebrate our 60th together. We didn’t, but of course, we spoke and i did see her a few weeks ago when she came East for a mini high school reunion on the Cape, which I missed because of Ally’s senior game. Anywho, she called me a few weeks ago to tell me that The Moth was going to have a Gratitude edition in Asheville and I should come. I thought I shouldn’t because of Thanksgiving and work and it being an inconvenient time of year, and then in a split second, I thought I should and I had to. I hadn’t been to her new city since she’d moved there and it suddenly seemed like here was a way to celebrate our 60th before we hit 61, and appropriately around gratitude!
And once again, our time together was the most natural thing in the world. We never lack for conversation, whether it’s remembering and laughing about high school, or discussing our current day lives, getting older, careers, our crazy love for our dogs, or doing new stuff to add to our decades of memories. We are like a comfortable pair of slippers. You throw them on and feel instantly cozy.
Asheville is absolutely fabulous. It’s heavily populated with artists, amazing places to eat, and cool things to do. The Moth was great fun and something that’s been on my To Do list forever. And of course, it was extra meaningful to hear the stories focused on gratitude.
Steph is a professional artist and pilates teacher, which is cool combo. I got to see her gallery space, another space she sells her work, and even attend an art opening at the renovation of the local hospital where two of her paintings are gracing the walls. I most loved her home studio, where she keeps her bounty of art supplies. I am not an artist, but I love all things that make art. And up until high school, it was my biggest interest, so being around art making brings me back to a time of comfort and curiosity.
I do not want my dog to know, but I kind of fell in love with her dog, Rio. He initially barked at me when I walked in, but pretty soon after, our love affair began (and if you tell Riley, I will deny it, so don’t even think about it). I hadn’t seen her husband, Paul in literally decades, but we picked up just like we’d been together a day ago. It was the most fabulous visit, filled with good things to eat, a hike to see the Blue Ridge Mountains up Craggy Pinnacle, a visit to the National Gingerbread House Competition at a super beautiful resort, a lecture at Creative Mornings, a craft fair, and of course, a little bit of shopping.
So much gratitude goes to a friendship that has endured and grown. 48 years is nothing to sneeze at (although I did sneeze throughout my visit, because, yup, I’ve got a cold). Glad to share another chapter with my friend, to see Asheville and to know that to have a friendship this long is to have a kind of gratitude that is rare.