She swung her little stuffed dog to and fro across the top of the table, laughing hysterically the whole time.
Her father said something about how it must be nice to be 4, but in a way, it’s hard to believe she’s only 4.
After all, I did hold her in the hospital room the day after she was born, and that seems like it was long ago.
She (and the dog), her parents and her older brother were having lunch with Suzi and me.
There was no particular reason, no special event, just taking advantage of the fact that after numerous moves since her mother and Suzi met while working in Albany more than 20 years ago, we’ve managed to land within a half-hour of each other.
Sometimes it’s all of us for lunch; sometimes the two of them do brunch.
And then there are the parties — birthday parties for both of the children, plus ecumenical parties for the Jewish holidays.
The parties are their own little ecosystem of people who, if any of them are missing, it doesn’t feel the same, even if there’s a decent chance I wouldn’t recognize them elsewhere even if they walked right up to me and said hello.
They include a little girl who was maybe 2 when she and I were sitting next to each other at the kitchen counter during a birthday party.
She had a little sippy cup in her hand, and when she picked it up she tilted it in a way that, were it not for the cover, probably would have meant spilling everything on me. I gently took it out of her hand and set it back on the counter.
A couple minutes later, she picked it up again …
… with two hands.
… over her opposite shoulder.
… while giving me the stink-eye the whole time.
It was one of the funniest and most-adorable things I’ve ever seen.
And then there was the time when our friend was talking about her cookie business — I’ve done extensive product research over the years and can tell you her work is of the highest quality — and she explained that because of the requirements for her business license, she can’t sell outside of Massachusetts.
Another parent at the party chimed in, explaining that can’t be true, citing a different circumstance and a different law in New Hampshire, which is also a different state.
We looked at each other, not needing to say anything to convey “Is this guy doing what I think he’s doing?”
I don’t think we’ve seen him since.
* * * * *
“Are we rumbling this weekend?”
No, my buddy Mix and I weren’t planning an altercation with another neighborhood gang; he was texting to ask if I was going to come over and watch the Royal Rumble wrestling event that Sunday.
He also joked that we could watch the Pro Bowl beforehand, but even we have our standards.
We ate chips and drank soda, guffawed, gossiped and roared at the spectacle of it all. We basically acted like silly boys, which is pretty much par for the course whenever we get together. (Suzi likes Mix and his family, but usually leaves us to it for our get-togethers, in part because she has less than no interest in professional wrestling.)
Mix is an old college roommate, another one who we’re now lucky enough to live a short distance away from. We get together for the big wrestling events, went golfing together last summer (and played together in a tournament in Maine several years ago).
We went to UMass-Lowell hockey games when I used to be able to get tickets through work, and a few months ago, he texted me to ask if I wanted to catch a Bruins-Rangers alumni game in the area that included Ray Bourque and Brian Leetch.
I don’t we’ve ever gone to a baseball game together, though. We’ll have to change that.
The thing about Mix isn’t just that he’s a great guy (although he is, one of the best I know) or that we have a great time together (although we most certainly do), it’s that we have a history that started in South Hall at Utica College and continues to this day.
He gets me. I get him. When we get together, I feel like I can fully relax.
And it feels great.
Suzi recently celebrated a birthday, and decided she wanted to head south to Plymouth to have lunch at a restaurant that we sometimes went to for special occasions before we moved out of the area.
While we were there, I suggested getting together with my mate Gardner on the way back, since we’re not there all that often. He was game.
Gardner is the one who truly introduced me to English soccer back when we were coworkers — Suzi tends to refer to it as “creating a monster” — and as a Manchester United fan dating back to when he was a small child in England, it’s killing him that my Liverpool side is running away with the Premier League.
We worked together during a time when our office was full of people who weren’t just excited about their jobs, but were excited to be together every day.
It was a glorious time, probably the best five years I’ve ever had of work.
But nothing lasts forever, and most of us left, some by choice (I moved to a different office, and then a different unit, which is why I live elsewhere now), others not. Gardner was one of the last to go, until circumstances changed so much that he didn’t want to be there, either.
For a couple hours, Suzi and I sat with him — and later his wife, who came home early from work — and talked about the good times, where it all went wrong, politics and soccer.
We spent a long time talking about his family’s recent vacation in London, since even though it’s where he grew up, Suzi and I had been there three times since he had last been.
Eventually, their little guy got dropped off on the school bus from kindergarten, and it was time for Suzi and I to head home before the traffic got too bad.
Previously, the last time we had been there was when England played Sweden in the World Cup two years ago, and we left with plans to come back down for an England game in this summer’s European championships.
“Family is family, in church or in prison
You get what you get, and you don’t get to pick ’em
They might smoke like chimneys, but give you their kidneys
Yeah, friends come in handy, but family is family.”
— Kacey Musgraves, “Family Is Family”
Kacey isn’t wrong, even though I think some of my friends would give me a kidney, and I’d give them one, if necessary.
She also right that you don’t get to pick your family, but to me, that’s the power of friends.
You do get to pick ’em.
Which means you can let them go whenever you want, or sometimes they just drift away for no good reason other than life happening.
But the ones where you keep picking each other … those are special.
I just finished reading “Open Admissions” by Ned Bachus, recounting his last semester teaching at Community College of Philadelphia and his monthlong sabbatical on the coast of Ireland.
The settings for each chapter alternate between the college and his cottage, and each chapter is a story about the week. It gave me the idea to write a week’s worth of posts with a story inspired by that day, and this is the first one.