changes and cheesecake

Well, I left town, and now I’m back.
It’s a comforting thing to have friends whom you’ve known for a decade and a half — friends who know you because the bunch of you have spent many hours, days, weeks, sharing fears, foibles, and failures. Because you’ve spent even more time celebrating strengths and successes.
We used to go on vacations together, one gloriously rainy week in a house we rented on Chappaquiddick Island of Ted Kennedy infamy.
But things change. My taking on the care of my mother was the biggeest change the group had to face. Years ago I had started a discussion group for single/divorced women. We six are what is left of the original large monthly gathering. We have helped each other through marriages, divorces, illnesses, and accidents. Together, we have celebrated marriages, divorces, partnerings, births, and deaths. They are more my sisters than any I might have had.
And so getting together with them over the weekend was really like being on vacation for me. Saturday night was pizza and beer and wine and catching up — on children, grandchildren, male partners and, for me, family of origin. We all agreed that Keith Olbermann was the guy we all would like to be stranded on a desert island with, and we are all fans of The Daily Show, so you can imagine what our political rants sounded like.
Sunday was a deliciously fattening breakfast at the newly opened Cheescake Factory in Albany. It’s amazing how much has changed since I moved a year ago. New mcmansions being built where the nursery was where I used to buy my plants; the strip mall where I would hunt for bargains at TJ Maxx, empty.
And we are changing, too, as each, in her own time, reaches retirement age. Four of us had careers with state government, so our pensions are better than most. The other two are worried that they will never be able to retire, since their work histories are different. One, for example, works for the post office. Her retirement pension will be only $7000 a year.
And so we bury our concerns under mounds of fluffy French Toast and various flavors of cheescake. ( I chose the sweety tart Key Lime cheescake.) And then each of us goes her own way, vowing that next summer we will do the vacation thing again and pencilling in plans for another get together next month, a gathering that will include the Cheesecake Factory again, of course.
All around me, changes. The leaves on the mountain are starting to turn and fly. The hummingbirds seem to have gone already.
But within these walls here, nothing has changed. I walk in the door, back into the exact environment I left.
Next summer. Vacation. Someplace by the ocean. Maybe Maine. The group of us drinking wine under the stars and sharing sweet and tart fantasies about Keith Olbermann.