I don’t need to say much about this week’s writing group topic. I chose to write about one particular friend, but there are others I could have written about with equal affection. Friendship is a gift to treasure.
The journey down memory lane was augmented by the stack of photo albums that I went through to find photos for this post. I couldn’t chose just two or even three, and even though I went overboard there were still dozens more good ones to chose from.
I lift my glass of bubbles to you Cynthia in thanks to all that you brought to my life. I hope to see you again soon.
Roly Poly Fish Heads
I had a wonderful surprise when I checked my email after getting back from the Hot Springs. I jumped out of my chair and did a quick twirl and even though it is uncharacteristic of me I may have squealed. We were camped in Banff, Alberta, 5000km from home, and it turned out, just over the mountains from Cynthia. She had travelled from Australia to visit her mom who lived in the town down the valley from where we were and saw on my Facebook page that we were nearby. Arrangements were made and she and her spouse, Martin, finally arrived.
I almost tripped running down the stairs to greet her and couldn't pry my eyes away - was I just dreaming her? We were soon talking as if we'd never been apart, and I was reminded how much I had missed her refined silliness and worldly innocence.
We had met in 1981 on my first day of work at Industry Canada (or whatever it was called then). I had just turned 19 and knew nothing about the technical environment which was to be my career. Cynthia was the pro. I'm not going to say we hit it off right away, but we were friendly. Our first outing together was to Brandy's, a local bar. We sat with our our glasses of cheap wine trying to find common ground and then a man at the bar sent drinks over to us. We both thought it only happened in the movies and had a good laugh. The seeds of friendship were sown.
For the next few years we were both busy with boyfriends, and a long bus ride made it hard to get together outside work hours. When my relationship was over I moved downtown not far from where Cynthia lived. Our friendship began to grow and crazy, zany things started happening.
We cooked Easter dinner at my apartment that year - rabbit stuffed with a wild rice dressing and some sort of vegetable on the side. Dessert was lemon pudding cake which my cat partially consumed while we were eating. We dressed up in old bridesmaid dresses and drank too much wine. We laughed at anything and everything.
Many Saturday nights would find us at my apartment cooking a multi-course meal. We'd spend days planning the menu and writing the grocery list. Saturday afternoon we'd shop and then we'd crack open the recipe books and a bottle of wine or champagne. (it was Cynthia that introduced bubbles into my life). By the time supper was ready we'd be tipsy and exhausted from laughter. We must have had some failures, but I only remember the fantastic successes.
We didn't just cook. Many times we would go out to a restaurant, Cynthia often treating as I never seemed to have any money. One of our favourite places was a little hole in the wall Chinese restaurant. We'd eat big bowls of noodle soup and other tasty morsels. Another favourite eatery was a fancy Moroccan restaurant. Couscous with tender vegetables dressed in a fragrant sauce would make us swoon, although it might also have been the handsome waiter that we'd bat our eyes at.
In the summers we went camping. I'd rent a car and we'd cram our camping gear among the coolers. One year we decided to forgo utensils and eat like cavemen. Food tastes better when you are camping, and when you are eating it with your hands it is even better (try it sometime!). Gin and Tonics signalled the division of a lazy afternoon and dinner preparations. Our campfire grill would be burdened with huge steaks, bacon and eggs, chili and other things that I can't remember.
In 1987 I met Carm and after a few months we moved to the country. As often as I could talk her into it we'd drag her out for the weekend. Shopping and cooking was our entertainment. One memorable evening it was far into the night and we were giddy with hunger. Giggling at our cleverness we plonked a bowl of soup in front of a starving Carm - he doesn't like fish, and the staring eye of the fish-head that completely filled the bowl threw him into a fit.
This little tune (fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads, eat them up yum) inspired our hilarity.
Lives change, even for friends. Cynthia met a man from Australia and moved there temporarily. On their return to Ottawa we picked right up again. The meals got more elaborate: a whole roast pig one summer and the next a whole lamb and various feasts in between.
Sadly, in 1998 Cynthia and Martin packed their things up for Australia again. In 2000, Cynthia returned to visit her sister in Toronto. I met her there and we took our nieces, who were both 3, to the Royal Winter Fair. We had a fantastic time, each moment precious as we knew it would be a long time until the next visit. And so it was - 12 years.
I've talked about what we did and I hope you can tell from my story how much she means to me. Cynthia is one of those special friends that can step out of my life and when we are re-united it is as if she has never gone - we pick up our friendship without hesitation. She is a friend that I love for her strengths, humour, beauty and wisdom, and also for her weaknesses. Unconditional love joins us.
I realize that much of what we did together was based on food and wine, or at least that’s what it seems from what I wrote! I didn’t include the time Cynthia and Martin helped plant a thousand saplings while I stayed in bed recovering from food poisoning the night before. I didn’t include the countless hours that we spent at work discussing standards and data management theories. I didn’t talk about our ‘all day pink’ lipstick or the time we played in a golf tournament. I didn’t include the parties we hosted together at my place (oh, that’s food and wine again)…