Chicken Tetrazzini Means Friendship to Me

4 Aug

A few weeks ago my dad got together with two of his childhood buddies for the weekend. These fellows have known each other for more than 60 years, and their lives have taken them in very different directions. Honestly, I doubt they have much in common now. But that doesn’t really matter – it’s just a joy to see old friends.

One thing about reaching middle age is we have actually lived long enough to have some old friends. Friends we’ve known for years are often the dearest because they knew us when we were defined by our potential, rather than by our accomplishments or failures. They witnessed us as a work-in-progress, not just the finished product that we are by our 30s and 40s. They’ve also witnessed some of our proudest moments – and moments we would just as soon forget. They remember that you were the only kid in your 3rd grade class to campaign for independent candidate John Anderson in the 1980 mock presidential election; they’ve got pictures of you in parachute pants in 7th grade; and they know that you loved Sun Country wine coolers as a college freshman and refused to try beer.

Despite all of the angst about friendships in the teen years, it’s really much easier to form close bonds as a young person than it is as an adult. When you’re growing up, you see your friends all day at school, you play sports together, study together and hang out on the weekend.

Also, when we are young we are unfiltered in a way no one is after the age of 25. As a young person you tell your friends everything – including lots of things you wish you hadn’t. No adult is going to sit around for hours on a fall afternoon, smoking cigarettes and telling someone else all of their family problems … and no one is going to listen to you unless the listener is a paid therapist (and then you probably would not be allowed to smoke.)

I left Charlotte, my hometown, seven years ago to get married and move to Raleigh. I left behind the greatest network of friends anyone could ask for – I had friends from as far back as elementary school, as well as high school and college friends, and work friends. This group solidified between the ages of 22 and 30 when most of us were still single, and all of us had lots of free time to spend together.

In your 20s, when someone called you on Saturday morning and invited you to go out on the lake for the day, you could say yes! At our current stage in life, it’s rare that the stars align to do something that spontaneously.

Now the process for getting together with friends is more like this:  

Step 1: email couple and ask for dates they can go to dinner;

Step 2: go back and forth with average three rounds of emails until a date and location is set;

 Step 3: line up baby sitter;

Step 4: Friends can’t get a baby sitter;

Step 5: Plan to go to friends’ house with your kids and eat hot dogs instead of going to a new French bistro;

Step 6: Your child throws up 30 minutes before you walk out the door;

Step 7: Call to cancel;

Step 8: Start the process over and hope you see you friends in the next three months.

As adults, jobs are demanding, kids are demanding, managing a household is demanding. Who has enough time to stay in touch with old friends, much less make new ones? So I found myself in Raleigh knowing very few people, and being, quite honestly, lonely. I missed just seeing familiar faces at the grocery store. I had spent a lifetime developing my old friendships, and here I was at age 32, starting over.

I had desperate moments. My husband and I would go to dinner, and waiting at the bar, I’d spot an attractive couple. This was my internal monologue : “They’re our age …  they look like they’re having fun … they’re at our neighborhood place so they must live nearby … can I get up the courage to strike up a conversation? If I talk to them, how do I take it to the next level? Do I ask for their number? Will they want to see us again? Are we their type? Oh No! This is like dating. (Mental Gasp) Will they think we’re swingers? I’ll just sit here and drink my drink.”

I still spend lots of time driving up and down I-40 and I-85 to see my dear friends in the Queen City. But time marched on, and I began to see familiar faces at the grocery store, and I made some real, honest-to-goodness friends (without stalking them in bars). I came to realize that I would not have the same kind of network in Raleigh that I had in Charlotte, but that was okay.

Then I had my first baby, and the casseroles changed everything. Yes, the casseroles. If you don’t live in the South you may not fully appreciate this custom. Below the Mason-Dixon and this side of Florida, if someone has a baby, gets really sick or loses a loved one, friends and family bring food. And when my first son was born, boy did they bring food – for weeks! And every bite of chicken tetrazzini tasted like friendship to me.

So seven years, another son and dozens of casseroles later, I have a new network of friends. No they didn’t sit with me in the Red Robin Reading Group in first grade, or help me plan the junior senior prom, and they didn’t live on my hall in college. But they like the finished product that is me – and I like the taste of chicken tetrazzini.

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5 Responses to “Chicken Tetrazzini Means Friendship to Me”

  1. Elizabeth August 4, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    LOVE this one Kathleen. You nailed it!

  2. 40countdown August 5, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Thanks Elizabeth! I was thinking of you when I wrote … but I am sure you got that.

  3. Sarah Tilghman August 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Kathleen, you are so insightful! I love reading your blog…just signed up to get notified when you post a new entry. Looking forward to the next one! Take care, Sarah

    • 40countdown August 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

      Thanks for signing up Sarah! so great to hear from you … old friend! Take Care.

  4. Anonymous August 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    There really is something special about friends bringing a casserole after the birth of the child. I do love the South!

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