I came to LA “the first time,” in the mid-nineties. Friends from the theatre department at Indiana were already out here. I got many of my first jobs in the city via friends of friends. I had a network that, looking back, I think I didn’t really realize or appreciate…And, we created a theatre company! And we went camping together, had holidays together. I was blessed by such a group of talented, hardworking, funny, crazy and down-to earth friends.
Due to work commitments I left the theatre company, but continued to support it. Over the years, there was some drama, there were some babies, there were some romantic entanglements (my own and others) that complicated matters. Families began to move back to Minnesota and Wisconsin, distant LA suburbs, whose photos on Facebook that never fail to evoke feelings of affection and nostalgia, but whose actual lives are vague and distant.
But here in L.A. some of those old ties have held. Last night a small handful of us gathered on the lawn at the LA County Museum of Art, and said goodbye to my friend Tom, who is an actor, his wife Echo, and their two gorgeous children. Next week they’ll leave for Massachusetts (wow that’s hard to spell) where Tom has a teaching gig at a small college there–not the stay forever, track to tenure kind og gig that seems the stuff of fairy tales, but the one-year-commitment, you’ll-need-another-job-get-by sort, that is still a foot in the door to someplace, that you are still relieved to get.
Our little reunion had grown into a farewell party of sorts, a patchwork of blankets on the lawn, of disparate groups of friends. Tom and Echo hopped from one to another (while also chasing kids) like a couple at a wedding reception, unable to give anyone as much of their attention as we wanted–but they are beautiful, and embarking on something new, so like a wedding, we were happy to be there to send them off.
And like better weddings, (the kind where you are not a single friend from out of town among strangers) we had our little blanket table of old friends, and so could catch up and reminisce. Our little group has grown smaller still, but we promise to have dinner and a board game in a month or so, and I hope that we do–and think the chances are good, because after all these years in L.A. It is still my friends from Indiana who follow-through on such things, RSVP even when they aren’t coming, make my standard 15-minute lag time actually look late instead of early.
My friend Erika had to be pulled away last night, she kept saying “I’m going to cry, I’m going to cry.” In the moment I was about logistics, folding blankets, nudging tired kids toward their car and bed. But I am crying now as I write this. I am grateful for such friends, who, through the years have always made me feel good to be with them, regardless of my life situation, for their honesty and humor, and the joy they find in life no matter what it brings them. I am grateful…