You know that game where you are asked, “If you could invite any 5 people in the world to dinner, who would it be?” I love that game but always wind up with about 20 people. Who do you choose – the Dalai Llama or George Clooney? (Don’t answer that.)
Yesterday I was thinking that in reality, if I could invite any 5 people in the world to dinner I would choose my friends, who are scattered around the globe.
First on the list would be Tina, who lives in Germany. Tina and I met when she was an exchange student at my high school. She was a Senior and I was a Junior and she was running lights on…was it “South Pacific”? of which I was a member of the chorus. One evening after rehearsal I was waiting outside the auditorium for my ride home and she came up and gave me a hug and we started talking.
Before that we’d barely spoken 10 words to each other. After that we were friends for life. That’s the kind of person Tina is.
Over the years, even when we didn’t see each other for years, there was a comfort in knowing the other was available; through boyfriends, husbands, kids, ups and downs and everything in between. Tina missed my wedding (such as it was at City Hall) but was with me at the birthing center when Maya was born. The ocean that separates us physically cannot sever the bonds formed over 28 years (wow we are old).
Next on my dinner party list is Anna, who for the moment lives in Colorado. Anna was the witness at my City Hall wedding and no matter where she is in the world, never fails to send me anniversary wishes as well as wishes for “Happy Birthing Day” for Maya & Ben’s birthdays. Anna was my backup person at both births, despite not even being in the same city for one of them.
We met 23 years ago (yikes, again!) at Go America Tours. I remember being a little in awe of Anna. She was so confident and, to my midwestern eyes, worldly. Born in Hungary and fluent in five languages, creative, kind and energetic.
Truth be told, I’m still a little in awe of her. She has traveled everywhere and has such an open mind and spirit that it is rare to hear her criticize another person. (The exceptions are, for that reason, quite memorable!) Looking ahead to the round the world trip we’re planning, I am looking most forward to the section that will take us through Russia and Mongolia, because Anna will be joining us for that leg, which will make the experience complete.
Next at my dinner? Well that would be Karen. Karen is my English friend, and we met as pen pals just before I got pregnant with Maya. Her girls were 7 & 9 at the time. I still do a double take when I see photos of them now, grown up and out on their own. How did that happen?
On this dinner party list Karen is the person I’ve known the least amount of time – a mere 13 years – but it feels like I’ve always known her. I remember the very first letter I got from her. I had joined an international pen friends group, and as such was sending and receiving letters to people all over the place. It’s funny when you receive a letter from someone how quickly their personality shines through. Karen’s letter, which included a story about her and her husband Chris attending an opera, made me laugh out loud and I knew this person and I were going to be friends.
Less than three years later I visited her, and England, for the first time. She had tears in her eyes when we finally met in person, me with a very tired almost two year old in hand.
Karen and I laugh a lot when we’re together. It’s one of my favorite things about her and something I miss. As Bette Midler once said, ”Nothing beats a deep from your gut belly laugh with a good friend. Not even great sex, and I’ve had great sex!”
Next up? My dear friend Nan, who is the only one of my friends who lives here in New York. Despite that, we often go months without seeing each other, due to different lives and schedules and her living ALL THE WAY down in the East Village! (In reality that’s maybe 2 miles from me, but is seems so much farther in the city.) Nan and I met 18 years ago when I called her to book a massage from a flyer she’d put up in the gym to which Joshua and I belonged. She worked out of her apartment on Mott Street, where I went to meet her for the first time.
The rest, as they say, is history. Nan and I have literally traveled the world together. We’ve been to Belize and to Germany & Austria. For years here in New York, before kids and when I worked at our store on 14th St., we would meet at Starbucks on 8th St & 6th Ave every Friday for an hour or two just to chat. Often our laughter would entertain those at neighboring tables, as would Nan’s “colorful” language. Nan & I both sew and both love photography, and some of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten are from her hands. She even gave me a framed page from an ancient New York Times which held an open letter from John Lennon and Yoko Ono to their fans, who at the time were wondering what had happened to them. (I imagine it was the time that inspired John’s song “Watching the Wheels”) I love it. It could only have been a gift from Nan.
Last but certainly not least, my friend Mendy. I have known Mendy for 40 years. (How can I have known someone for 40 years? HOW?!) She lives in my hometown of Columbus Indiana, so I see her twice a year when we travel there. We had dinner together two weeks ago, and as is the case with all old friends, we tend to pick up exactly where we left off as though the conversation had only been on “Pause”.
We met at Vacation Bible School. She could do cartwheels. I couldn’t. I went home and practiced in the backyard until I got it. You could say Mendy is responsible for my entire career in gymnastics. She is also responsible for my only brawl.
Which also happened at Vacation Bible School.
We had a mutual “most hated boy”. He was mean. I’m being nice when I say that. So one day at VBS we ganged up on him Me and Mendy. Mostly Mendy. When my mother arrived, post brawl, I proudly announced that “Me and Mendy beat up Shane.”
I repeat. At Vacation Bible School.
Mendy and I have so many memories together it’s tough to sift through them all. She went on many summer trips to Michigan with us. For a time we took gymnastics together. In 5th Grade we were chosen to help grade some papers, were rewarded with bottles of Coke and proudly walked through the halls with them, drinking them in front of our Coke-less peers. We roamed the woods of my parents’ farm together, swung on vines over the railroad tracks and hunted treasure in the ruins of old sharecropping shacks.
There you have it. My dinner list with five dear friends. You know the best part? They’ve all met each other – we’ve hung out, vacationed and had dinner together before. Not all together at the same time, but in two’s and three’s and enough so that they would feel comfortable showing up to sit down together. I’d venture to say they’d even all look forward to it.
And trust me, there would be laughter.