Unlike my mother, whose best friend is someone she has known since kindergarten, I don’t have any friends from childhood. We moved many times before I was in high school, never in one place long enough to make any relationships last. I had friends in high school but going away to college in Minnesota and basically never coming back stretched and broke those ties.
I left college after two years and started my life (as I used to say) in Northfield, so I could be near my boyfriend. My second job in Northfield was at the brand new Ole Piper Inn and that’s where I met Dee (names changed to protect the innocent). Although the job only lasted about 10 months before the Inn closed down, it was long enough to cement our friendship. When Dee moved to the Ole Store, I went with her: she was the manager and short-order cook, I was the baker and occasional waitress.
Dee is originally from the southern part of the country and hates the cold weather. Most mornings I would pick her up on the way to the store (I had a car by then) and even with a short ride, she would come out of her house bundled up as if she was expecting to trek across Antarctica. She always said she was waiting for her youngest two kids (she has five) to graduate so she could flee the frozen tundra. Of course she is still here 45 years later.
We had a great time at the Ole Store. The Ole Store was part of a grocery store/butcher shop and sometimes we’d come in to find various chunks of meat in the restaurant fridge that needed to be used up. Once the owner left moose meat. We were joking around, trying to figure out what to do with it and I said (without thinking), “what about spaghetti and moose balls?” Dee laughed so hard that her side hurt and she had to sit down. Do this day, I can reduce her to a puddle just by saying “moose balls”.
When I married my wasband and moved to Milwaukee, Dee used to be startled into silence whenever he answered the phone, since he had never picked up the phone in my Northfield apartment. Once he answered the phone, said nothing for a minute and then handed me the phone…. “It’s Dee.” It was indeed, although she hadn’t identified herself. He told me later than whenever there was silence, he knew it was her. When we were first friends, she referred to wasband as the Greg-Person. Later she shortened that to GP.
For many years Dee and her youngest son worked at the Renaissance Festival every fall and it was always fun to see them. She did a wonderful costume for Child with lots of petticoats and ribbons. And or course, she knew everybody so we always got good food at a great discount. I made the wedding cake for this son when he got married.
Her family has a timeshare in Florida that they visit every summer and Dee’s favorite way to travel is to fill up the van with kids and grandkids and drive straight through. When YA was younger, she was included a couple of times.
Dee reminds me a lot of my mother. She is extraordinarily caring and she “collects” people. Once you fall into her orbit, her gravity holds you there. For example, one of her daughters was married for a few years and had a step-daughter. When the daughter split up with the husband, the step-daughter came to live with Dee. Now that step-daughter has kids of her own and they all happily refer to Dee as Grandma. Dee’s life is filled with stories like this. I am one of her collect-tees and she has always been there for me.
She’s going through a very rough time right now with a diagnosis that will most likely shorten her life so I’ve been thinking about our long friendship and how much I treasure her.
Who is the friend you’ve had the longest?