Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crepe Suzette

We grew up 2 houses apart. The residence between us was just an annoyance and I used its backyard as a cut-through when I wanted to get to my friend's back door just a little faster. I developed a ritual of letting myself in unannounced, and would sometimes arrive, and stay, even though he was not home. That habit of assuming everyone was half expecting me has now continued for almost 6 decades.

My first unsuccessful attempt at a sleepover took place at his house. My succeeding efforts, equally bad, were never met with disdain, but rather with gentle humor. My stomach or head always ached just as we were readying ourselves for bed. But it seemed to matter not to my friend and my shortcomings were  merely treated as me being me.

When my friend turned 5, he and I sat at the dinner table with his parents and older sisters. He was able to request any food he desired. When the crepe suzette appeared in front of me, I looked at it, and then at him, and wondered whether I could ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Our bond was forged over our mutual passion, and natural aptitude, for sports. I was good, really very good. He was better. I could punt a football a long way, but in the endless hours we spent in the streets, kicking back and forth, I was always chasing the balls that soared over my head. I was a good pitcher, an All-Star, but despite playing hundreds of games of stick-ball, I don't know that I ever won. And then, there was golf. My dad introduced me to this game at a young age. I became, at the very outside circles, one of the best in the area. My friend followed my exploits and spoke of my successes  with a joy as if they happened to him. All these years later, he still tells tales of my early brush with greatness. Yet, almost from the first that my dad put some old clubs in my friend's hands, he was my equal, and soon even more. I admired everything about my friend, and jealousy at all the talent he possessed never entered my mind.

Over the past 40 years, life has taken us on different paths, with different friends and different levels of success. His drive and focus are legendary and have brought him to the pinnacle of every universe he entered. Our contacts have become infrequent, not because of any lack of effort on his part, but just because. Yet the feelings that came into being during those non-sleepovers, at the dinner table, on the streets and at the schoolyard, have endured.

In recent times, my friend's father passed away. I was asked to be one of the pallbearers at the funeral. At my friend's 60th birthday party, he invited many of those who had entered his life through the years to a golf extravaganza. My place was next to him in his golf cart. Last night my friend's daughter was married. People arrived from 4 continents to take part in an extraordinary event. There were many, I am sure, who had enjoyed long and important relationships with my friend. As Joanne and I took our place-card and headed to our table, there were assigned seats for each guest. Two seats to my left was my friend. Two seats to Joanne's right was my friend's wife. There is great significance in little acts.

So it was not all that surprising to me that I found myself tearing up throughout the wedding ceremony, and my friend's speech later in the night. When the desserts appeared at the end of the evening, there was the crepe suzette. Last night,  like that moment over 50 years past, I just kind of stared at the food before me. And I thought about peanut butter and jelly. And the meaning of friendship.


Nancy Leeds said...

That's a beautiful story!

Anonymous said...

Robert, Perfect. A delight to read and think about. Very touching. Thanks for sharing .


Gail said...

I hope your friend will show this to Bobbe--I know Jerry and Dad--and somehow Mom---are smiling about this piece.