Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things I learned at a Picnic

I remember learning about friendship at a very early age. In my neighborhood there were probably a dozen kids or so who were our age. Our moms would throw these make shift picnics in the backyards. They would spread ratty old blankets across the grass and lay out a spread of sandwiches, homemade cookies and usually some sort of prepackaged supermarket treat. At first I can remember that these little alfresco dining escapades captured our imaginations and allowed us to dream up grand adventures in which we were pirates eating our spoils on the deck of a great ship or fair maidens trapped forever in a castle by a wicked emperor who would only allow us to eat what grain we could find scattered on the grounds of our beautiful prison. Later though, our little yard picnics became long, lazy afternoons filled with the lively banter or delicate discussion of friendship. We began to share our lives in the well tended grasses of our neighborhood. “You get your mom to make the lemonade and I’ll talk my mom out of the chocolate chip cookies she was making this morning. Meet back here at two o”clock and don’t forget your boom box.” We would meet beneath the protection of the weeping willows that outlined T’s property and spill secrets before the plastic cups and Tupperware containers hit the blanket. Our words were backlit by the drama of the tunes that spilled from the speakers; the likes of Bryan Adams and Madonna.

I had forgotten about those blissful afternoons until the other day when one of my best friends called and asked what I was doing. I recited a litany of duties including such things as laundry, cleaning and cooking when she intoned, “ Okay. Well I just made a great new recipe for cookies. ( This friend happens to be an incredible chef…how lucky am I?). and thought maybe if you had the wine we could sit on your patio and hang out.”

The laundry went undone that day and I’m pretty sure I still haven’t cleaned out the back closet but P and I talked for hours snuggled deep in the bright teal Adirondack chairs on my front patio. We talked over our marriages and shared concerns about our kids. But we delved further still. We talked about dreams we still held for our lives and giggled over a few aspirations we were glad had failed.

As P’s taillights drew slowly away from my house later into that evening I watched, thankful for the grassy backyard picnics of my youth. Our moms gifted us then with what they must have understood would be so important one day… that friendship takes time. It always seemed okay back in the neighborhood to invest time into relationships. I don’t think there were less demands on my mom. I don’t think her time was any less valuable than mine. I think she just chose to value people over schedules. I’m pretty certain that has everything to do with why I can make real and lasting connections with friends today.

We’ve come a long way since those clandestine meetings beneath the whispering willows I suppose. And then again if you call me on any given day, you can be sure I’ll uncork the wine and pull the homemade cookies from the freezer. Pull up a teal blue chair my friend and tell me what’s on your mind.