I used a green and white Whole Foods shopping bag to pack essentials: one bottle of wine, one package of Skinny Pop, one container of ice, one can of Le Croix, and four paper cups for drinks and snacks.
We had a late afternoon date to meet in the outdoor garden space of our building. I had been a resident since the end of May, and my friend Carol had moved in only a few days before.
Once we settled ourselves on the cushions of the wicker lounge chairs and unloaded my goodies, we plunged into an hour-long conversation that ranged from our childhoods, marriages, children, single women romances, and current worries.
After returning to my apartment and tossing out the remains of our impromptu meeting, I realized how much I had missed the special gift of a friend who lived a few floors, doors, or blocks away.
I can go as far back to the years 1964-68 when my spouse and I lived in Prairie Shores, on Chicago's near south side. Many of my friends there were married to interns and residents at nearby Michael Reese Hospital.
On inclement days, when we couldn't gather with our toddlers in the playground, we'd meet at one of our apartments. While our offspring played, the moms would chew over burgeoning feminism, our ineptitude at parenting, and our absent, on-call mates. One special dialogue has stayed with me: Will having an affair ruin your marriage? How I wish I had recorded our responses.
Now, let's segue to South Commons, only a few blocks from Prairie Shores, but divided by one unhappy year in Glenview, IL. Vaso and I shared a wall between our townhouses. We each had two daughters, born equal months apart, and these girls were also best friends who often communicated through our heating vents.
It was the conversations between Vaso and I that have remained, as well as the appreciation of a friendship that has lasted beyond those years in the '70s. As our daughters romped in the courtyard, Vaso and I would sit on a stoop divulging secrets. Instead of recipes, our ingredients were disappointments and longing, stirred with dreams of our own ambitions.
My next memory of nearby friends were the women of Dakin St. in the Independence Park neighborhood. Before Tommy and I landed there in 2000, I had dragged my husband to Geneva, IL. claiming I want to see trees before I die. I saw trees; I missed the city.
As soon as we moved into our home, neighbors welcomed us with flowers, food, and block parties. When Tommy and I adopted Buddy, we added dog park people to our resume.
Front porches were the preferred meeting places, and it was there we revealed our children's highlights, career updates, marriages beginning and ending, and partners' declining health and deaths. I left those dear neighbors in 2013, but continue to be grateful for their part in our lives.
Again, it was dogs that brought two young women into my life. After Buddy died, I would pet any dog I encountered. I met Diane and her Paperanian (Pom mix) in the lobby of the River North highrise I landed in after Dakin Street. And it was the dog park at The Aqua that introduced me to Jani and her Cockapoo, Ellie. Both first meetings led to immediate friendships and occasional spur-of-the-moment visits.
All of this retracing of friendships -- floors, doors, or blocks away -- sheds light on a recent exploration, earlier this year, of Evanston as a potential home. My friend Ruth, who lives in that perfect college town, has been part of my life since sixth grade grammar school. We attended the same high school and college, stood up to each other's weddings, and bore children nearly the same age.
To scratch my nomadic itch, I toured a building a few blocks from Ruth's. I envisioned us resurrecting easy and spontaneous get-togethers. I saw us arm-in-arm as we faced the challenges of aging. But at the end, I chose Chicago.
Despite the miles, Ruth and I meet for lunch once a week halfway between our homes. While our dates are not spontaneous, instead recorded on tacked-up and electronic calendars, our delight in affirming this long-time friendship is more delicious than our meals.
I figure that when Hubbard Place's pool and garden zip up for winter, Carol and I will relocate to our ninth floor lounge area. We'll plop by the fireplace, sip wine and munch popcorn, and continue conversations that began outdoors. Join us?
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