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FRIENDS I HAVEN'T SEEN IN A LONG TIME

24 July 2005

Mission Accomplished.

Today we pulled off a surprise 60th birthday party for my friend Melody, who had two surprises in store for her. One was arriving at what she thought was going to be dinner with her kids, only to find a room full of her friends.

The second surprise was when the door opened and in marched all five of us who had come in from out of town--Shirley and Joe had driven from upstate New York, Laura had flown in from Oregon and I had flown in from California (and Walt, of course, was already here).

Missing were Cindy (the same Cindy I used to bike with), Roberta, and Clara. The 7 of us comprised the staff of The Secretariat in the 1970s and 1980s. It was Laura's business. She had left a position as a high-powered legal secretary to open a secretarial business. Those were the pre-computer days (we typed on Selectric typewriters), and students needed our kind of business to produce decent looking term papers. We also edited and helped write papers for a lot of students...we often felt that we deserved credit for many of the degrees that were awarded--especially to football players.

While we worked together, we formed fast friendships. The Secretariat was not only where we worked, it was where our best friends were as well. The couples would get together regularly for international dinners and games of Trivial Pursuit.

We were there to support each other in good times and in bad. Those of us who had kids watched our kids grow up. We celebrated birthdays together.

Things do change. I left the Secretariat under less than ideal conditions and moved on to another secretarial service. Shirley gradually stopped working there. Melody followed her heart across the country. Other people filled in the positions that we all had held, but the friendships were never as close as they were among this little cadre of people.

We all came together to celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Secretariat and to reminisce about all the things that had happened during its 15 year existence.

In time, Laura decided to sell the business. She and her husband bought an apple orchard outside Medford, Oregon and "retired" to grow apples (though I suspect they are working much harder now than they ever did in the Secretariat days.

At the same time, Shirley and Joe followed their kids and grandchildren across the country, first to Nebraska and then to New York. Melody hade settled in to a wonderful job in Washington, DC and, one by one, her kids moved out to be with her.

We got together occasionally, but never all together in a group again. There was a time when it seemed that I made a trip to DC once a year, but the last time I was here was in 2000. Shirley and Joe were here once a few years back. Laura has never been here.

Melody has returned to California a few times. She helped care for her mother in her last days, then moved her father to DC and helped him through his cancer as well. We tried to get together when she came to town, to settle her mother's estate and then to sell her home, but the last few times she came to California, she didn't have extra time and we were never able to get together.

In December, Melody and I discussed arranging a Secretariat reunion. We would rent a house somewhere none of us had ever been--we chose Sedona. We would get together in the spring for a long weekend. But then Melody's daughter called me to tell me they had decided to throw this surprise party for her mother's 60th birthday.

Melody turned the planning of our spring reunion over to me, and I told her that I was really too busy to plan it for spring and maybe we could do it in the fall instead, knowing that we would be here in July.

Since I told her I would plan a reunion for September, we haven't been in contact at all. I've been having this horrible feeling since I got here that I would run into her...somewhere. I almost had my hair cut today, but was afraid it would be the beauty shop where Melody was having her hair done, so I didn't.

But it's all over now and it was a rousing success. Melody's kids (Melissa, the twins, Tiffany and Shana, son Todd, their respective spouses or significant others, and 14 year old Tenere) pulled off a beautiful event, which included a delicious dinner, a gorgeous cake, souvenir CDs of Melody's favorite music for everyone, and a lovingly prepared slide show of Melody's life, the life of her kids, and her grandkids. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Melissa had also finished two beautiful quilts which Melody's grandmother had started many years ago and never finished.

The whole thing was done with such an amazing amount of love and there was laughter and lots of photos taken (I'd show you, but...you know...)

All us old farts called it an early night and plan to meet around 10 tomorrow to go to Melody's for breakfast. Then we are going to give Laura a driving tour around DC, since she's never been here before and must fly home to Oregon on Monday.

It has been so wonderful being with these special women again. The Secretariat years were very special and I haven't found the like of this close group of women since that time. I've missed it. It's too bad that it will all come to an end again on Monday.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

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Harry, Weasley, Hagrid

 
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