Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Garden of Friendship

Hibiscus Jordan planted by my cottage
She had to trim a tree to get them enough sun for blooms
Several women have said things to me in recent months that amounted to, “You have so many friends. I don’t have friends like you do.” I think they don’t realize you must be a friend to have friends, and you must work at friendships.

They really are like plants in a garden. You cultivate them, from planting the seed—or idea—to nourishing and feeding often. One woman (she’ll recognize herself, so please know you are not alone in this) said a new widow near her mentioned going out to dinner, but it hadn’t happened. I pointed out it wouldn’t unless she took herself over to the woman’s house, knocked on the door, and said, “Let’s go to dinner.”

Over the years, I have had countless dinner parties in my home, mostly small but always people I wanted to spend time with. One friend said something about my guests reciprocating—that old, “If I entertain you, then you owe me.” No, they don’t always reciprocate, but it takes a lot of rudeness to get yourself off my friend/guest list. I persevere, and I’ve decided most people appreciate it. They may not have time to entertain, or interest in cooking, or it may just not occur to them. I don’t take it as a personal affront.

A friendship I cultivated: a young woman (from my perspective) who was once a work-study student in my office. She went to work in a writing-related field, but then moved away. Suddenly she was back, having gone to cooking school and worked in a vineyard. Voila! We had two things of interest in common: books and food. She’s a sous chef at a major restaurant in town. We met occasionally for lunch, and she kindly brought me lunch more than once when I was housebound. Now that I’m cooking, I’ve invited her for lunch—a bit intimidating, but I think I can handle it. Just an example of the two-sided work that goes into a friendship.

When I meet someone I think is interesting or has interests like mine, I’m not shy about inviting them over, maybe first for coffee or wine on the patio. I do cook dinner for friends some, but it’s limited in the cottage with sparse cooking facilities. But entertaining is a great way to make and keep friends.

Letter-writing has become almost obsolete in this day of social media, and I’m the first to admit that I communicate by email and Facebook. Using those tools, I’ve re-connected with friends from my childhood, including the girls who grew up next door. They live in northern Michigan, but one visits me when she’s in Texas—what a rare treat! I also have a couple of friends I’ve kept in constant touch with for fifty years or more. Some are not the frequent communicators I am, and I have to realize that silence doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve forgotten me…nor I them.

Tonight I had dinner at Press Café with Betty, my longtime dinner pal. For years now, we have made it a habit to go out to dinner on Wed. nights. When I was housebound, she brought me dinner. But now we’re exploring new restaurants and having a ball. Press Café is not new, but we both love the fish sandwich—except that it’s hard to eat and I got half down my shirt. But Betty is yet another example of a friend—we work at it, we make sure to keep up with each other. And I know she’s there if I need someone.

Tend to your friends, folks.


Pat Bean said...

Great post Judy.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Pat.

Suzanne Pitner said...

Fabulous advice, Judy. I was struck by how much you valued your friendships when I read your cookbook. Most of the recipes are not hard, and they all have a little story with them about the people in your life. You've been blessed, and now you're helping others realize what it takes to be a friend, too. I'm glad you're feeling better.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Suzanne. I'm so glad you're enjoying the recipes. And, yes, I have been blessed with friends. I thank the Lord daily.