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Simple Pleasures of FriendshipCelebrating the Ones We Love
By SUSANNAH SETON
Conari PressCopyright © 2004 Susannah Seton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFriends are the folks we play with, as kids and as adults. Our adventures together give life its zest, even if we are doing nothing more than sitting around together sharing a meal or a movie. And watch out when we really get going!
What is it about shopping that cements a friendship between women? Perhaps it's the shared time browsing together, enjoying the splash of colors, fingering the smooth silk or the nubby tweed, while the scents of perfume from the exotic to the floral drift through the stores. Maybe it's the idea of the quest, the search for the perfect black dress or the pursuit of a bargain, with the malls and stores becoming giant treasure chests filled with wonderful and exotic discoveries.
As a teenager, I'd hit the mall with my friends. We were a giggling pack of self-conscious hormones. We tried on dresses, then outrageous, floppy hats that we'd never buy, always keeping an eye out for any cute boys.
Now I'm a mom. I park my stroller at the mall playground and catch up with my friends in between shopping forays. We compare childhood developmental notes, trade discipline strategies, and laugh over silly things our kids say, while the mall fountain ripples in the background.
More than anything, I think we shop together because it mirrors our relationships. Men play golf; they compete. Women stroll between crowded racks and weave in and out among display cases, with conversations meandering with their steps. Our casual chitchat can dip unexpectedly into private pain and confidences over a rack of shirts or in front of the three-way dressing room mirror. Our conversations crisscross, our paths wind through unexpected turns, while our lives intertwine in deeper friendship.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning
After you've shopped your heart out for a gift for a friend, consider adding a special touch with your very own wrapping paper. Or give the paper itself as a gift. You'll need solid color wrapping paper, small cookie cutters, and heavy-body acrylic paint (available at art supply stores). Lay out the wrapping paper. Dip the cutting edge of the cookie cutter into the paint and stamp onto the paper, beginning at the top left-hand corner. Thin the paint with water if it's too lumpy. Continue until you've covered all the paper. Shapes can line up or overlap, depending on the design you've chosen. Allow to dry thoroughly before using.
When I was younger, I thought friendship meant constantly being together, doing each other's hair and nails, and talking about boys on the phone. I'm twenty-five now and have moved around a lot in the past years because of my job. As a result, deep and lasting relationships have been scarce. Thanks to the modern technology of e-mail, however, I have friendships all over the world.
My friend in Germany sends me recipes she thinks even I would be able to follow. My friend in Brazil can find anything about anyone on the net, which comes in handy when I'm looking for the latest news on my favorite French actor. An artist buddy scans all her work and mails it to me before putting it forward to the various galleries, so that I can have my say-which is always good, of course. If I lived in New York, I would be the first in line to her show, to say so.
I reply with news about my day, about the comings and goings of life in South Africa, and the status of my seemingly never-to-be-finished novel, which I don't have time for. I scour the Sunday papers for interesting tidbits of information that any of them might find remotely useful.
Thanks to that little voice crying, "You have mail," I live in a city with millions of people that I don't know, yet I never feel lonely. There's one other advantage. No matter how many times you move, one address remains the same. Your e-mail address.
The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth
The Girls on the Second Floor
Everyone in the apartment complex knew us, the girls on the second floor, by the sounds of rolling luggage at all hours of the day and night, by the slamming of trunks and car doors echoing off the buildings, by a car starting and then speeding off toward the Baltimore/Washington International Airport.
The four of us were in our twenties, just starting out as flight attendants. We all had pagers on our hips and an ear out for the phone. Bored and restless, we would wait for scheduling to call, passing books from one to another to help the reserve days go by quickly. Scary movies were another favorite pastime. We would sit on our futon couch, scrunched up together in the dark, eating popcorn. At some point one of us would always scream, causing a chain reaction. But we always ended up doubled over in laughter.
When one of us finally received "the call," we would scurry around the two-bedroom apartment, throwing makeup, hair-spray, and travel necessities in the chosen one's suitcase. She'd put her uniform on, touch up her makeup, and pin on her wings. With a final look in the mirror, she would be out the door.
Whoever was left behind was responsible for making sure the Friday night parties happened. The music started out soft, with just a few friends present. As the evening progressed, however, the music grew louder and the apartment teemed with people. Finally a broomstick would pound on our living-room floor from the apartment below, which led to a formal apology the next day.
On weekend mornings, we received a wakeup call from Navy planes flying over our apartment. The planes appeared so close that it seemed as if we could touch them if we stood on a ladder. We would climb out of bed, drink our coffee, and talk about the night before. Eventually, we would get ready for the day. By late afternoon we were found wandering the brick streets of Annapolis, admiring the old homes that graced the historical area. We attended Navy football games when it was a home game, and made our presence known at the local pubs later on.
On mellow evenings, we would gather with a bottle of white zinfandel and chat on our apartment balcony, Tracy Chapman's song "The Promise" playing in the background. Sometimes we resolved an argument. Other times, we dreamed about our weddings, having babies, whether or not the guys in our lives were "the one." We talked about the rude passenger that yelled at us, or the man who passed out in our galley. Sometimes we shared a pack of cigarettes, at other times a box of Kleenex.
Now, years later, the idea of having roommates makes me cringe. Still, I treasure the memories of dancing in the living room and the pictures of us in downtown Annapolis. Every fall I search for a certain candle that smells like the candy corn we burned in those days. It never fails to bring me back to the living room in that second-floor apartment.
You don't have to live together to have a movie night. Why not call a few friends, pick a theme (scary, romantic, top favorites), rent a few videos or DVDs, and try this popcorn recipe? It's much tastier than the packaged kind, and unbelievably easy to make. The flavored salt gives it even more of a distinctive flavor.
2 teaspoons cooking oil 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn 1/4 cup melted butter 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese salt, garlic salt, or celery salt, to taste
Put the oil and popcorn in a popcorn popper and pop until done. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing cup and pour over popcorn. Stir well and serve. Makes 2 quarts.
Our house had been on the market for six months, and there was still no buyer. What if we never sold it? The new house would be ready in eight weeks, and then what would we do? Two houses, two mortgages! It didn't bear thinking about.
Besides, I was fed up keeping the place so clean. The flower arrangements insisted upon by the real estate agent made it look and smell more like a funeral parlor than a house. The scent of Lysol overlaid with chrysanthemum was a stench reminiscent of decay. I needed to kvetch, so I called Eileen. "I've got just the thing," she said, after hearing of my dilemma. "I'll be right there."
I sighed. "She's probably bringing over another set of curtains," I decided. She'd loaned me the ones in the spare bedroom-the previous set having been described by our agent as "a bit too sixtyish." I wondered at the time whether possessing an attitude of disdain was a prerequisite for a job in real estate. In any event, I was sure it was going to take more than better curtains to sell this house.
Eileen was there in an hour, waving what looked like a white plastic toy in my face. "I could have given you lunch," I said, slightly annoyed. I thought she'd gotten the toy free with burger and fries.
"Look," she said. "I've brought St. Joseph. We'll bury him in the backyard, and then your house will sell. Come on, where do you want to put him? He has to be upside down or it won't work."
Had she lost her mind? I knew Eileen was religious, but this was ridiculous. My own grandmother had been institutionalized once with something called "religious mania." Could my friend be going the same way? Should I humor her?
"Eileen," I spluttered. "I don't think saints do things for Jews, do they?"
"St. Joseph's flexible."
I just looked at her.
"It might not work," she said. "But I've heard of people it has worked for."
"But you don't actually know any, do you?"
"Well ... no ... but ..." She giggled.
I began to giggle too.
Laughing, we went out back, dug a hole, and plunked the plastic figurine into it, upside down of course. I hoped the neighbors weren't watching.
I was still smiling as I said goodbye to Eileen. The sheer ridiculousness of the adventure had made me feel better. Eileen was the best kind of friend, and if St. Joseph had to be part of the deal, so be it. But it would take more than a statue to sell the house.
The house sold the following day.
Celebrate the happiness that friends
Fighting back tears, I watched one of my best friends walk down the aisle. While I was incredibly happy for Molly, memories of us goofing around when we were younger made me long for times past. That morning, her cousin had presented her with an album of pictures and stories of her premarriage life. We had all submitted something. As Molly neared the altar, I thought of my contribution to her album-a picture of the two of us at fourteen playing our French horns.
Molly and I met in junior high band. At the beginning of band, our conductor would tune the different instruments separately and then tune us all together. The French horn has a thumb key. When depressed, the thumb key can completely change any note you play. Molly and I thought it was funny to depress the thumb key when the whole band was tuning on the same note.
Our conductor, Mr. Timber, would make a little wrinkle in his forehead, trying to locate the source of the horribly out-of-tune sound. At first, he couldn't pinpoint that it was us, so he would have to go back and tune each instrument separately, as we concealed our grins.
As time went by, Mr. Timber caught on to our little game. One day, as we began giggling after an episode of tuning, he marched briskly toward us, pointed two fingers-one at each of us-and barked, "You two!" Then he proceeded to go into the next room, indicating that we were to follow him. We exchanged a scared look and went out after him.
To this day, I have no idea what Mr. Timber said in those five minutes. I was just concentrating on not smiling. I knew that if I smiled I would make the situation worse. I also knew that if I gave Molly a sideways glance, it would set us into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. This was very difficult since we were also both trying to avoid Mr. Timber's bad breath. We were trying not to breathe, trying not to look at each other, and trying not to crack a smile.
Now, at twenty-five, it is something we both still laugh about-and laughing together is the best thing to do with a friend. When you can laugh at yourself, you can handle anything. Realizing that, I knew Molly would find happiness in her new marriage and that we could always count on each other for a good laugh.
I opened my blue cookbook a few days ago to look for a recipe that a friend gave me. Where was that recipe for ice cream pie that my neighbor Kim made for my husband's birthday? She filled a crushed Oreo cookie crust with softened ice cream, then topped it with drizzled chocolate syrup. Oh, there it was, folded into my copy of Joy of Cooking, along with a well-creased paper, an e-mail from a friend at work, with the recipe for her easy and wonderful Christmas fudge.
That got me to thinking about all the food I've shared with friends: a creamy alfredo noodle dish from Bev, the chicken pasta salad another friend made for me when I was pregnant and my husband was out of town. I still make that pasta salad, and every time I toss the chicken, noodles, carrots, cucumbers, cheese, and dressing, I remember our relaxed conversation while I set her table and then perched on a chair while she pulled warm rolls from her oven. Food's pleasures are doubled when shared.
Excerpted from Simple Pleasures of Friendship by SUSANNAH SETON Copyright © 2004 by Susannah Seton. Excerpted by permission.
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