What’ll I Do?
Almost eight years ago, I moved to a new state not knowing a soul. It’s harder to make friends when you’re older. You make acquaintances at best, normally, but a real, true blue do anything for you kind of friend – that is usually reserved for childhood and if you’re lucky it strengthens and intensifies over time like a fine wine or cheese. At this late date, however, I’ve been incredibly lucky and managed to make one of these in Lori.
She walked into my gourmet shop about 7 years ago and was one of the most enthusiastic eaters I’d ever met. Those of us of Italian descent LOVE this. Nothing makes us happier than to watch someone close their eyes after that first bite, “oooooohing and aaaaaaaaahing” with pleasure.
We’ve had many happy adventures over the years, both culinary and otherwise. We went whale watching in Maine and ate lobster every night. We went to concerts, had dinner parties and watched the ponies swim in Chincoteague.
We’ve also held each other up in the not so happy times. She came to my rescue when a shady contractor was trying to rip me off during the renovation of a commercial building I purchased. We’ve played therapist for one another too many times to count. She’s fixed things for me at my house, my building and on my car, saving me oodles of cash I just didn’t have. She’s taken care of me when I was sick, been my support through the deaths of beloved pets and when various men have shattered our hearts into hundreds of pieces, we each, for the other, painstakingly picked up every shard and reassembled the damaged organ using patience and the love of friendship as adhesive.
She’s such a can-do person. Blonde haired, blue-eyed and pretty as a china doll, she’s skilled in every phase of construction and definitely not afraid to get her hands dirty. When a mason wanted to charge me thousands to fix some loose bricks on my chimney, she arrived the next day with $3 worth of materials, climbed up on the roof and got it done. When I’ve enlisted men to make repairs or most recently to get the squirrels out of my attic and they’ve (there’s no other way to say this) half-assed it, Lori, in her super-hero cape, has swooped in to help and does it right the first time. When my daughter was supposed to move into her new apartment just off campus in Charlottesville the day after the neo-Nazis marched with flaming torches and a young woman was killed, Lori arrived with her SUV. We loaded up my car and hers. She strapped a loveseat she had found for my daughter’s new place to her roof and together we drove south, not knowing what we were heading toward but knowing we needed to get Sarah set up before classes started on Monday.
She’s the friend who always has a tarp and zip ties in her car – the one my daughters and I always joke we’d call if we killed someone and needed help disposing of the body. She’s our person. She’d show up with her cheery disposition and can-do attitude and in no time at all it would be as if nothing had ever happened. She’s Mary Poppins (with tools!), in a way, and now she’s leaving on her next assignment – a new life in France. She’s done all she can here and the swan song of universal health care, fine wine, superb cheeses, crusty bread and impossibly handsome men calls to her now. She’s sold everything, packed up what remains in a 40 foot shipping container and is ready to go.
I’m excited for her and all the new possibilities of this new chapter in her life but selfishly dreading the ticking away of each day as her departure approaches. I’ve been so spoiled to be able to have a glass of wine, dinner or a movie with her whenever the mood struck. We met for sushi in Middleburg on a perfect spring evening, sitting at an outside table and watched the world go by in the beautiful, golden twilight. We took the dog for a walk, had a cup of tea, sat on the floor to adore and pet the dog and cats. We got together with friends for wine and guacamole and Lori bowled everyone away with her vocal harmonies as the guitar played the music of our youth.
Last night, we went to the farm and our dear friend and chef extraordinaire, Denise, gave us the gift of a five course-tasting menu using recipes from the French cookbook Lori had given her as a parting gift. We sat outside listening to the sounds of chickens, ducks, goats and a pair of donkey’s named Mike and Molly. The meal started with a crisp rose and a chilled watermelon soup. Then came seared scallops with a beurre blanc that could make you weep; followed by grilled romaine with shaved parmesan, chanterelle mushrooms all topped with a perfectly poached egg. There was a cheese course – two soft, incredibly sexy cheeses with freshly picked mulberries, some baguette and a drizzle of olive oil and finally, some chocolates accompanied by a Sauterne that made us all stop in our tracks and exclaim, “Oh my God!” in unison. We listened to French music and watched the sky turn to pink and then mauve and then the night was over. I didn’t want it to be over.
This morning I awoke with dread. I made it through my workday and returned home to several suitcases piled near the door and ready to go. My friend, so Mary Poppins-like dropped into my life and made everything better and more fun, but now it’s time to move on and bring her special magic into some new peoples’ lives.
We loaded the car and talked about silly things all the way to the airport. At the curb, I got out to help lift her bags from the trunk and lost it. I hugged her and blubbered without restraint. Upon returning home, I found a vase of flowers placed lovingly in every room, a beautiful card and a gift bag full of lavender soaps, lotions, candles and two exquisite French cookbooks, one from Laduree, my favorite shop for macrons. I dried more tears and texted to thank her. She said it was all part of her plan to make me think of her and imagine my first visit to her new home when we’ll tour the lavender fields and eat lavishly. See? She just makes everything better.