Some of my earliest memories revolve around my friend Dee. I was six years old, living in a small town in upstate New York, when her family moved in across the street. My sister and I watched as they carried bed after bed across the lawn into their house. We were a family of four and they were family of 13, so we stared in amazement.
As young children, we were good friends. I remember building snow forts in the winter and riding bikes around the neighborhood in the summer. We played dress-up and went to each other’s birthday parties.
Dee and I were close for 44 years. We drifted apart for a time during high school, though we did have overlapping circles of friends. My senior year at Cornell University, after I returned from a semester studying in Amsterdam, we rented a house together. Our friendship as adults stood solidly from that point on.
My favorite memories are of meals we cooked together with ingredients from our local farmer’s market. Recipes from the Moosewood Cookbook, like Mushroom and Barley Soup. To this day, enjoying good food and making a meal to share, is a way I connect best with those I care about and an expression of love. Dee and I would sit at the table at our rented house on College Avenue and talk for hours. I learned so much from her and, over the years, could always count on her sage and to-the-point wisdom.
After college, I moved first to California and then Washington State. Dee moved to Vermont, then Maine, followed by Minnesota when she got married, and finally to Massachusetts. We kept in touch through letters and occasional phone calls. It was comforting to have a friend who understood me and knew my family history. Hearing her voice always centered and soothed me. She reminded me of what was truly important in life. Dedication to those you care about, deep friendships, and being true to oneself.
This weekend, Dee’s friend Kate was in town for work and we had an opportunity to catch up. Dee and Kate met in college. In fact, it was during my stint overseas that Dee transferred to Cornell and sublet my apartment. I spent time with Kate too, but she was Dee’s friend. Over the past thirty years, Dee helped us keep tabs on each other. She was the glue between her friends. She remembered the details in our lives and stayed connected with us, no matter the miles or years that came between us.
I really enjoyed the time spent with Kate, kindred spirits and a shared friendship with Dee. We might not have reconnected in this way, if not for the December memorial in York, Maine. Dee died a few days before Christmas after a decade-long struggle with breast cancer. Kate and I were both at the service, the first time in 27 years we’d seen each other in person.
I feel so blessed to have known Dee. Her friendship was one of the greatest gifts of my life. I am, without a doubt, a better person for having known her. I feel a profound sense of loss that she is no longer in the world.
So it was a great honor, though bittersweet, to have Kate here in Washington. She was able to meet Big Papa and visit the Urban Cabin. We gathered the makings for dinner at our neighborhood farmer’s market and enjoyed a good meal and even better conversation, on our deck. We laughed. We cried. We reminisced. Together, we shared the simplest pleasures in life, which was the essence of our friendship with Dee, and the memories we will always keep close to our hearts.