Food has always been an important part of my strongest friendships. There’s something special about sitting down together over a meal. It doesn’t need to be something grand — in fact, in my experience, the simpler meals are often the best — but there is magic in the sharing of food.
I first learned of that magic back in 1969. Seventh grade homeroom, the first day of what was then called “Junior High,” the big step from a daily single classroom and teacher to moving from class to class. We felt so grown up…and so terrified. Would we get lost in the maze of hallways? Would we make friends or be marked as pariah? Would we perish or thrive?
Many of my new classmates were strangers, including the auburn-haired lass seated ahead of me who suddenly spun around with a bright smile and declared, “Hi! I’m Wendy!” (Considering my fascination with Peter Pan — a state unrealized at that time — this is obviously fortuitous.)
Wendy possessed the airy confidence I lacked. Her family had traveled around a lot, so she was familiar with the routine of going into new places and making friends instantly. I liked her at once.
We shared no classes, so our time together was confined to those few minutes of homeroom five days a week. When summer came, we went our separate ways, staying in touch by telephone, but busy with our own plans. Assigned to separate buildings for eighth grade, we remained apart until high school brought us together again. Our reunion was seamless.
Early in our relationship, Wendy and I discovered a shared enjoyment of food, particularly tea and crackers. Keep your hot fudge sundaes or massive hamburgers — to us, this was the ultimate comfort food. There was nothing so soothing as to sit down together with mugs of hot black tea laced with milk and sugar and a plate of saltines liberally slathered with salty butter. Ah! Over such feasts, we solved the world’s problems as well as our own.
As I write this, 42 years of laughter and turmoil bind us. Through shared visions of hope as well as moments of soul-shattering devastation, Wendy and I have remained friends and become sisters. She has helped ground me when I needed it and I have provided her with flights of fancy.
Nowadays, we don’t see each other nearly as often as we would like, but we keep in touch. Email helps, and neither of us is afraid to pick up the telephone at some odd hour just to hear the other’s voice. As often as not, tea is involved and crackers with butter. We stand in our separate kitchens, waiting for our kettles to boil, and the distance melts away. We are together, united and invincible. God willing, we’ll remain so.