Posted by: jevcat | March 14, 2020

On Friendship and Memory

Yesterday was my last day of work at the office, programs having been shut down and work being done at home now and for the immediate future to prevent spread of the corona virus.  I was meant to be going with a friend for dinner and to a Duke Ellington tribute concert with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, but we found out late in the afternoon that the concert had been cancelled.  My friend suggested we go to dinner anyway, and, in the spirit of “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” I had been thinking along those lines, myself, so we did.

 

As more and more events, shows, and sports seasons were cancelled, the evening took on something of the feel of “the condemned women’s last meal.”  We went to La Bonne Soup, a restaurant we’ve been going to since we were in our twenties, which makes it practically ancient.  It was once third on our list of go-to restaurants (number two, La Fondue, was across the street, and number one, a branch of the late, lamented Magic Pan chain, was a few blocks away) and is the only one of the three still operating.  We got what we always get:  the special, consisting of a glass of French sparkling cider, a green salad with the house mustard vinaigrette, slices of baguette with butter, a crock of French onion soup, and chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream.  It’s been a long time since we were there, and we lingered a length of time I hope was mitigated for the server by the size of the tip and the fact that the restaurant was much less crowded than usual.

I think those rare times we get there now, the food is seasoned and enjoyment is multiplied by the layers of memory involved.  Walking to the from the restaurant to the subway afterwards, we passed the City Center theatre, and I reminded her of a time in our twenties when we had eaten a massively indulgent, large, and heavily fat-laden (also incredibly delicious) meal at the lost La Fondue.  As we were finishing dessert (I no longer remember whether that night it was the chocolate fondue or the ice box cake, a tower of tiered chocolate wafers and whipped cream), we realized we had lost track of time and had only minutes to pay and get the block or so to the theatre and up to our nose-bleed-level seats for an Irish company’s ballet version of Synge’s Playboy of the Western World.  We somehow managed to pay, run when we could barely waddle, and race stumbling up several flights of stairs, sliding gasping into our seats just at the last possible moment.  I think it was intermission before my cardio-pulmonary rate resumed its normal level.

Last night, trading lines of “and then we . . . ” punctuated by whoops, we laughed all the way to the subway, still amazed, after all these years, that we hadn’t died of heart attacks on the City Center stairs, and shaking our heads at the foolishness of our young selves.  It is a gift to be old and silly with the same people with whom you were young and silly.

While waiting on the platform, my cell phone buzzed with a call from my best friend – more of a sister, really – who decades ago moved out of New York, calling to update me on an on-going family situation.  We talked until my train came, hearts reaching across the miles, as it always is with us, speaking sometimes almost in shorthand, the way old married couples complete each other’s sentences.  We’ve basically known each other all our lives, we’re the third generation of our families to be close friends, and the ties between us are like sedimentary rock, built up over years and years of shared experiences, laughter and tears mingled and piled up, settled and solidified, as firm a foundation as anyone is likely to find.  I couldn’t help, but I could listen, as she has listened to me at other times and in other places.  The memories are more than I could number.

Today is an anniversary of sorts for us, as the first time we remember meeting was on a long-ago Friday the 13th, and even though it was in September, we have always celebrated Fridays the 13th, no matter when they fall.  We must have had contact in the neighborhood or through our families before that, but that was the day we spoke to each other on the school bus.  We’ve been speaking to each other ever since:  in person, on the phone, on paper, on line:  years of words – and silences when there were no words.

Perhaps it’s the times, with ordinary life shutting down amid fears of the novel corona virus and apocalyptic scenarios abounding (not least of which involves the scarcity of toilet paper) but I’ve been thinking ever since how blessed I am to have such depth of shared memories, with these women in particular, and also with other friends of many years, including my lost-and-found Beloved.  They provide a background, an anchor, a refuge, a grounding, a fabric that winds around and through my days and years.  They are part of me, as I am part of them, invisibly connecting and supporting.  I am profoundly grateful.


Responses

  1. Hello Janet. It is so wonderful to hear your exquisitely expressive voice again in this beautiful memoire. I share so many of these memories: City Center, La Bonne Soupe, La Fondue, laughter with friends, trekking from and to Staten Island. Though we met much later in our lives, it’s as if we knew each other all along. Yes, I’m still knitting, now in the English countryside, where it is, perhaps, more appreciated. Stay well. Stay clear of coronavirus and keep those friendships strong. Best, David Q

    • Oh, David, so good to hear from you! And in the English countryside, so less. That makes me happy — no more heart split in two. Where in England are you?

  2. Always liked your blog. Hope u r well n happy. We r all fine. I am working in a school for Special children as a teachers aid. I do not like retirement. I have been working since I am 14 n can’t stop now. LOL. Hope u will be back at work soon. Norma

    • Glad you are well and have such a fulfilling job. And I agree — even if I could afford to retire, I would have to find something to do to keep my mind and body active.

      • Lovely


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