What's in a name? Friendship, a group picture

My friendships flourish in a group with a name. It started with The Crew. This fledging group of friends threw me a surprise 15th birthday party after I’d suffered a major social humiliation (being rejected from the social sororities that ruled our school). Well, as sometimes happens, the consolation prize became the grand prize. We spent the rest of high school in each other’s basements, eating shortbread cookies and drinking Diet Rite, and having more fun than anyone. Several of us still have our highly attractive mustard-colored sweatshirts, with THE CREW printed around a line drawing of a sailboat.

In the decades since, as we scattered from California to Florida, we have stayed in touch as life demands and geography allowed. Now that we have launched our children and moved through our professions, we do a better job of getting us all face to face, planning a days-long Crew outing every other year in places like Estes Park, LA, the nature coast of Florida. Next destination: Lake Geneva in 2015.

 

After college, an assortment of friends landed in the Chicago area as teachers, accountants, graphic artists, a couple of business guys, one architect, a dentist, a nurse and one lone counselor, me. What could we do to keep the fun going? We started a “gourmet” dinner group, meeting regularly for a pot luck featuring dishes from a different country each time. It was not what you’d call either organized (for one German dinner, almost everything was made from red cabbage) or fine dining (during our health food dinner, one diner proclaimed, “If it’s not dry and tasteless, I’m not eating it.”) In another case, at our house, one notable loaf of bread, lovingly crafted by my husband with great effort, was found the next day in the medicine cabinet with a razor thrust through it. It was apparently a little too heavy to eat.

We vacationed together, watched our children grow up together. Over time, we lost members who moved away, gained other friends who moved back. We were The Gourmet Group, and we prevailed until we couldn’t withstand the loss of one of our members, the funniest and most ribald of the women. She died of cancer that was discovered soon after our favorite getaway of all time – days at a lodge-style house in Galena. On the last night, we sat out on the deck, watching the stars, singing songs, and never dreaming that we were about to face such loss.

But we’ve stayed together since in other ways, through Facebook, golf trips, dinner outings. Most of us were together last weekend at a reunion, and we picked up right where we left off – with streaking stories, food recollections, and new fun. One thing is for sure: The longer you go in this life, the more you recognize the treasure of old friends who knew and loved you before you became whoever you became.

 

When we moved to a new town where we would raise our kids, we trolled for friends the way everyone else does –  among other parents at our elementary school and newcomer’s club, and drew in friends of new friends. One pair had moved from California, where they told us they’d formed a group that attended movies together and then adjourned to someone’s house for wine, dessert, and discussion. They had us at the wine. From backstage at the school talent show, I recruited my favorite co-worker, another brought in a tennis friend, and someone grabbed the fun-loving PTO president. Move Group was born, with five couples. Our first movie was Mississippi Masala; our most recent Chef.

Monthly, for years, we have chosen a movie (host’s choice), watched it, and either actually discussed it or not. In the process, we became close friends who now have dinner together most Monday nights, have our own investment group, and are off to New York in a couple of weeks. We are struggling with the departure of one couple who moved away. We can’t live without them, but are managing somehow, especially since we will soon see them in NYC.

 

The Crew, Gourmet Group, Movie Group – where would I be without them, and where would they have been without the names that rendered them distinct and enduring sources of friendship, support, and fun?

 

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