A few weeks ago, in the middle of the week, my dear friend Valerie and I finally pulled off the simple feat of getting together. It took years (including the “year” of Covid), but we did it. Time just gets away from us as we live our busy day-to-day lives. But we can only text and message so much!
A beautiful and busy grandmother of five gorgeous grandchildren, Valerie lives near San Juan Capistrano. I live in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains –- our oft-logistical challenge to “doing lunch.” But nothing would stop us this time.
Valerie was keen to get up to the Pasadena area. We didn’t meet at a restaurant but chose the tranquil setting of the renowned Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. Meeting for a 12:00 Noon lunch at the café there, then walking the gardens and art galleries couldn’t be more perfect.
But truth be told, we never made it to the art galleries. In fact, we didn’t properly tour the multiple gardens there – a testament to a reunion that was long overdue. The serene gardens were simply the setting.
As soon as we stepped out of the café after lunch, we set out on the paved walkway towards the spectacular Chinese Garden.
Cement paths soon intersected with dirt trails. But immersed in conversation (we had decades of catching up to do!) and oblivious to other visitors around us, we kept walking and let the winding passageways lead us any which way. We did come up for air, though, to admire the garden’s stunning lake, architecture, and intricate tile work on the ground.
Then, in mid-stream conversation, we plopped ourselves onto concrete steps, carried on chatting, and managed to take a few selfies. What we hadn’t realized, though, was that we were blocking the way to another level of the garden – but visitors were kind not to interrupt us and took another path (thank you!). Later, we snagged a nice visitor to take our photo – for posterity, of course 😊.
Finally, I blurted, “I’m ready for a coffee, are you?” It was unanimous. I remembered the nice coffee shop at the entrance.
Time flew as we lingered longer in the outdoor patio, Valerie with an iced coffee, me with a frothy cappuccino. Before long, we spotted maintenance crew cleaning up around us. The clock was about ready to strike 5 o’clock – closing time! Egads, I cannot remember the last time I went an entire afternoon without checking the time.
This spoke so much about our friendship of 40 years. We met in Lamaze class when we were first-time expectant moms. My daughter and her son will celebrate their 40th birthdays this year. Oy vey! Valerie also has a beautiful daughter.
We did a lot together in our early years. And something I looked forward to every Christmas was Valerie’s homemade mincemeat pies, a recipe from her native England. We rationed them out and savored every morsel!
And I will never forget Valerie’s generosity when she insisted that I stay with her parents in Derby in the Midlands of England. I was embarking on my first trip to Europe (by way of London) to visit my American friend, Jeannie, who was living in Paris.
I was absolutely touched by the kindness and loving hospitality of Valerie’s parents who -- having never met us before -- welcomed me (and Louie’s aunt, Magdalena, my travel partner) into their home. I will forever remember the image of Peggy and Jim standing on the platform waiting for us to arrive at the train station.
If there is a definition of “quality time,” our reunion was it. Can’t wait until our next afternoon at The Huntington.