Old Friends (Sat on the Park Bench Like Bookends)

Posted by mwallach on August 17, 2011 in New To You |

Dear That’s Life,
There is nothing like getting together with old friends. People who still call you by your maiden name, no matter how long you’ve been married or how many kids you have, because you’re still the person they remember from fifth grade. They put up with all of your craziness, know all of your quirks and idiosyncrasies, and love you anyway – even when you are so loud in a restaurant that everyone else stops and looks up, leaving you to look at them and say, “Uh, sorry ‘bout that.”

To say that I hesitantly joined Facebook about six months ago is a major understatement. It’s almost like saying I may be a little too loud for my own good. Nevertheless, one of the best things to come out of my finally giving in to the FB world is how I have reconnected with a number of friends. (I can almost hear some of you saying, “That’s exactly the point, Miriam.”) While it may seem as if I am simply pointing out the obvious, my motive for joining was professional, not personal. It seemed to be a clear way of promoting my column, increasing readership and drawing listeners to the radio show. I did not think FB would be this much fun, nor this gratifying to find people with whom I have not spoken or seen in a while. In fact, it has been and I’ve been reaping the benefits of FB both professionally and personally.

Before a friend who had been in New York for a number of weeks returned to Israel, we decided to go out for dinner, inviting a third friend to join us. I’ve known one of these women for about 30 years, the other for about 20 (an amazing feet considering I’m only IN my 20s now…) We met at a local restaurant, faced immediately by what appeared to be a full and exciting menu. “Are there any specials tonight?” I asked our waitress. “No,” she said, only to add almost comically, “and we don’t really have most of the menu because the delivery guy didn’t come.” After looking at each other quizzically, we decided to order. “How are the ribs?” asked my friend. “They’re really good,” said the waitress, “but it doesn’t matter – we don’t have ‘em anyway.” Such was the case with a number of different items about which we inquired. Trying our luck, someone then asked about one dish which had a black dot listed next to it on the menu. “Oh,” replied our waitress. “We never have any of those with the dot next to them.” Choosing our entrees became closer to process of elimination than anything else, but rest assured: we did not starve.

Way after the last bit of food was eaten, we sat at our table, laughing our heads off, just enjoying each other’s company. The tissue in my pocket saw a lot of action as it wiped my tears of laughter which seemed to start when we sat down and continue for hours. At one point I asked the waitress if she needed the table. “No,” she said. “Don’t worry about it.” I smiled. “Good,” I responded, “Because we really have no intention of leaving anyway.”

I cannot remember the last time I had that much fun with people I rarely get to see. That’s the way it is, however, with old friends: sitting down to dinner is simply picking up where you last left off. No pretense, no facades, no nothing. About four hours, two rounds of “Happy Birthday!” to people sitting near us and five glasses of water later, we decided to pack it in. We had already sat at the table much longer than our measly bill allowed, though none of us was actually interested in leaving. I have never closed a restaurant before, but last night we could’ve locked up for the manager.

Gathering our things, we finally got up from the table, making our way to the door when we were stopped by another waiter. “Are you guys getting ready to go?” he asked me and I laughed. “You’re closing,” I said, “we’ve been here for over three hours – and you have no food on your menu! Yes! I think it’s time we go.” And away we went.

Even after we left, our conversation continued on the sidewalk. We talked for a while, looked at the items for sale in the store windows, laughing at the people who don’t shop on Zappos. As the saying goes, however, all good things must come to an end. With that, we said our good-byes, parted ways and went back to our respective homes.

All were sound asleep by the time I walked in the door. Unable to wipe the smile off of my face, however, it took a while before I fell asleep. For the second time this summer, I found myself swept away by an experience I thoroughly enjoyed but did not realize I needed. This time, the words I was looking for came much more easily. Sitting down in front of my computer, “There is nothing like getting together with old friends,” spilled on to the screen, knowing that even if someone read no further than that, he/she already knew exactly what I meant.

P.S. In case you are confused, the title of this piece is a Simon and Garfunkle song. (And shame on you.)

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