Sunday in the Park
July 24, 2009
We have been friends for more than 15 years. Which can seem very long if you are say, 16 or 30, but on the other side of 50, it seems about average. Friends long enough to not have to be reminded who her brother-in-law is that makes her crazy, or the child that is a challenge, or all the rest of the shorthand that good friendships contain.
We hadn’t spent time at my house in ages, I didn’t realize precisely how many ages, until she commented on the new paint on my kitchen cupboards which is at least two years old. We have met in restaurants mostly, a park once, I think. Just trying to fit in time to stay in touch between our work/life schedules. Sitting outside in my garden at the end of the day was delicious. We felt no need to vacate a table or a park bench to accommodate other folks. We just sat and talked. Commented on the birds and talked some more. There were beverages and chocolate and, eventually, sweatshirts, when the sun had long left the porch but the conversation was heating up.
She is a person I look to as a moral compass. She is very clear about kindness and ethics and when nonsense is nonsense. She is that friend everyone needs. So I tried a few things out on her that were bothering me, and she looked back in her direct fashion and said, well, "yes," and "no," and "absolutely not," and "of course," and "perhaps," and, "Is that what you want to do?" Along with … "I couldn’t," "I’d love that," "That might be too fine a line to see clearly," "You’re not serious?" and, "That just makes me laugh!"
We talked about her family and my family. We tossed in some disappointments and a great many dreams and moments of joy. We laughed. We laughed a lot. And at times we might have appeared, to an outsider, to be two scholars dissecting some weighty philosophical issue. There were books titles tossed back and forth and television programs and movies shared and new technology quizzed and even a bit of mutually agreeable politics included. She had a teenage child to pick up from a function or we might still be at it.
My friend is very focused and yet very flexible and unafraid of change. She is starting a new chapter in her life at a time when most folks are figuring out where the cruise button is hidden. She can do this, in part, because she also worked hard at creating a marriage where each partner is supportive and unthreatened by opportunities for the other. She is not without problems and sadness and family-of-origin issues that plague most of us from time to time. But what I so admire is how she has created a small, meaningful, tight family of choice that she manages to care for and nurture and needs very little outside validation to know she on the right path, for her.
When I had told my adult daughter this friend was coming over, she lit right up. "Oh, that will be so good for you. She is so no-nonsense." Until then I didn’t realize how my friend’s influence extended to my daughter. "And," my daughter added, "she is so genuine. You are so lucky."
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And I am. Lucky.
Lucky that the long days of summer can include long talks. Lucky that after 15 years we still can find endless topics of conversation and that we care for each other’s welfare. Lucky to have someone who seems so anchored and clear in my life, since my life often feels like I fell in a blender and somebody hit FRAPPE. Lucky that when I called her and said, "Let’s catch up," she responded, "Great, what are doing tomorrow night?"
Because life happens. And you can look back and wonder why you focused on so very many just busy things and forgot certain rewarding things. And a dear friend on a summer night is one of the rewarding things I mean to be grateful for when I am pausing this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.