We’ve been saying a lot of good-byes lately. While each of these departures are for good, excellent, better reasons – marriage, a new job, a cheaper place to hunker down and start over – I mourn the loss of My People.
Still, I cling to that last hug. Sometimes the tears come, but usually they show up later. Because later is when it’s going to hit me. Later is when the void of their presence becomes real to me. Later is when I’m going to wish that I could gather all my favorites together, and not let them go. So, maybe I’ll dead bolt the doors, or drug them, or simply move us all to a commune so we can live off the land forever – whatever my mode of containment, I’m bound and determined to keep them close.
I suppose that’s why therapists cite that moving can be one of the most vicious forms of grief: because that person, those people, they still exist. They’re still around, but they don’t live three doors down any longer. You don’t gather on the front lawn to throw the ball with your dogs anymore, nor do you meet up over the lunch hour to trek the side streets of South San Francisco for a walk any more.
They’re not where you left them.
And life, as it tends to do, goes on with you. Their lives go on without you in it.
I was reading my friend Erin’s book the other day, and I can’t get the following quote regarding adult friendships out of my mind:
‘Professor Rebecca Adams was quoted in a New York Times article called “Friends of a Certain Age” explaining that the three conditions for adult friendships are “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.’
Because there are those friends that will stay with you forever, the ones you’ve known since you were five. You know their families and you hold every juicy, dirty detail of their adolescent lives; you love them still despite the ways you’ve both changed, the separate paths you’ve taken. But friendships formed in adulthood are different because these are the ones we choose, and, as Adams shows in the above quote, these are also the ones that choose us.
We said good-bye to one of those “Friends of a Certain Age” earlier today.
Jen (or “Auntie,” as Cancan’s taken to calling her), along with her husband Ryan and two young boys, have lived just a couple doors down from us for the past year and a half. To say that we conquered proximity in friendship is therefore an understatement. Then, because there’s this joint playground in the middle of our neighborhood, we became friends whose children play on the playground together, and friends who occasionally drink a glass of cold chardonnay on the side of the playground together if it’s been One of Those Days. And that led to us becoming friends who do dinner together, and friends who watch football together, and friends who walk miles at the San Francisco zoo together.
And eventually we became friends who enter through each other’s backyard gate, which really, if you ask me, is the best kind. You no longer knock, because it’s just assumed that you’ll open the latch and let yourself in.
By doing so, you essentially say:
You are welcome. You are welcome here. I let you in.
For those are the words that classify My People. We celebrate and we mourn, we laugh and we tell stories, we hope and we commiserate and we do real life, one with the other. And on our last night together, we let Chef Ryan do what he does best and cook, but our family also brings over a plate of perfectly gooey, perfectly messy, perfectly brimming-with-life peanut butter s’mores bars to share.
Because, Auntie, those treats seem to perfectly capture …us.
Peanut Butter S’mores Bars*
1/2 cup unsalted butter + a sprinkle of sea salt over the top
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 graham crackers squares)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup marshmallow, cut-up or minis
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×9 square inch pan with aluminum foil, letting it hang over the edges.
In a large bowl, mix together nearly melted butter and brown sugar. Grab a fork and mix until combined. (I know, amazing. You can just use a fork to mix ingredients together – who knew?). Add vanilla extract and egg, mix and set aside.
In a separate bowl, toss flour, graham cracker crumbs and baking powder together. [Don’t have crumbs on hand? Grab 8 graham crackers from your child’s stash, throw in a Ziploc baggie and pound mercilessly.] Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix well.
Press 2/3 of graham cookie dough into the bottom of the pan. Spread marshmallow creme on top – or, if you’re like me and don’t happen to have marshmallow creme on hand, cut up a bunch of marshmallow, covering the dough. Same thing, people, same thing. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top, in between and around the marshmallows. Then, melt the peanut butter in the microwave for about a minute and pour yummy, delectably salty peanut butter all over your creation. Top with remaining third of dough.
Bake the bars for 25-30 minutes. Do yourself a favor and don’t stick a toothpick in it, because if you do, it will come out perfectly gooey and you might get worried. Well, fret not. The bars are perfect.
Allow bars to cool for 10 minutes before serving and eating the entire pan yourself. Say “I love you, self,” and shove another in your mouth.
* = adapted from this original recipe
So, what about you? How do you do with good-byes? And do you agree with the above quote about adult friendships? As per the recipe, do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars, but get your hiney to the kitchen and make these, STAT.