Chuck saw me first and my heart melted when I saw the smile spread over his face. He came over and gave me one of his bear hugs...hugs like no other. He is a big cozy guy with hugs that I can only explain as home. You never want to have to leave.
It was his birthday that week and he was turning 54. Sonny is also around that age. They showed off their garden, an impressive maze of color and aroma and many herbs and veggies I'd never even heard of.
Then they told me that they'd both lost their jobs.
"What now?" I asked.
"Don't look so scared," Chuck laughed, "We're taking a month off and then we'll see."
I just stared. Didn't say what I was thinking as I looked around the house they'd waited so long for. And I hoped that all those people they'd housed and fed and nurtured back to emotional health would step up. I hoped karma would serve Chuck and Sonny well.
I bought a set of small pea green saucepans with flowers painted on them that I was sure they'd had since the '70's. I'd think of them every time I looked at the funky green treasures.
And then it was time to say goodbye.
"Do you ever miss the old times on Friends Ave.?" I asked Chuck.
"We talk about them all the time," he sighed.
***In our apartment complex, Chuck and Sonny, (grand central), lived in the front apartment. James and Jason lived above us. During our famous BBQ's, the place became one big commune. The doors of all the apartments would be unlocked and wide open, lights ablaze. We'd walk in and out of each other's pads.
We'd have BBQ's once a month and the whole block was invited. The guys would somehow get the most reclusive of neighbors to come. There were bday BBQ's, holiday BBQ's, BBQ's because we'd all gotten paid, or because one of us needed a pick me up. Eventually, there was the pre-wedding BBQ for Paul and I :).
When I moved in and became an official member of the family, they assured me I had nothing to worry about. I was safe with five guys living in the apartment complex.
"The only reason I'd peep through your bathroom window is to tell you that your bra does not match with your panties, girl," Chuck said.
Even then, we knew it was too good to last long.
It was a wink in time. None of us had started our real life:
...the overwhelming responsibilities of mortgages and kids and getting old...
Ahhh...the end of things...
the end of things hurts.
***My Trishie is retiring. She has been one of my best friends for almost 20 years. She saw me through long flippy hair, short dikey hair. She was one of the few who was excited when I decided to get dreadlocks.
She has made me eat my words when I got married and had two kids. Once upon a time I was single and angry and adamant about keeping my freedom.
My mantra was: "Wedding Rings. Golden Shackles."
Monday mornings she'd anxiously await a story about a date I'd been on that weekend.
She was the only one I wanted in the room the first time I tried breastfeeding at home. The baby screamed because it wasn't working and she just sat there, talking as if all was normal.
When Eli's teacher told me he'd be "suspended" from pre-school if he doesn't potty train by the end of the month, Trish said, "I don't know any 18-year-olds who aren't potty trained."
About every crisis she said, "I don't know any 18-year-olds who...[fill in the blank]"
She baked a birthday cake for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US, EVERY SINGLE YEAR. I swear some of those people didn't even remember their own bdays until they saw their cake.
I can't begin to imagine how many are on her bday list now.
People humbly ask her to please be added to the list.
She decorated the cakes with fresh flowers, picked from the school garden
I would see her at that garden picking flowers, while I was caught up in some meaningless work-related drama. Suddenly my shoulders would relax. I had to smile.
"New flowers won't grow if the old ones are still there," she'd explain, and off she'd walk back to her classroom, nose buried in sweetpeas.
It had been a while since we'd left the yard sale at Chuck and Sonny's house and Savvy was worried.
"Are we lost, mommy?" She didn't wait for me to answer. She knows me well enough. Of course we were lost. She started to cry because we'd missed Eli's game.
Just then, we crossed the street and started walking on a block lined with shedding Jacaranda trees.
"It's raining purple!" Savvy said, her face turned up, an offering to the sky. She spun around as a breeze kicked up and purple petals rained down on us.
I looked up at the anemic looking trees and thought it sad that they'd have to lose such beautiful blooms.
"New flowers won't grow if the old ones are still there," Trish would say.