The three of them, friends since age 5, at just past ten on a Sunday evening, on the wide sidewalk in front of a row of brownstones, romping and playing as they always have, outlined by the streetlamps, the three of them laughing, laughing.
The gathering was last minute and spontaneous. Dinner had been had around a table clothed in vintage fabrics that made me think of a French country kitchen. The crockery was homemade by our host, a ceramic artist of great gifts, the meal simple and earthy and abundant, brown rice and beans, with feta and peppers and broccoli and seasoned sour cream all wrapped up in rotis, followed by a dessert of perfect green grapes and sweet cold pineapple. I didn't drink wine, just water with ice, and my daughter whimsically dropped grapes into the bottom of the glass. I ate them happily, talking with my friends, basking in the sight of our children, effortlessly close all these years later.
"This is a family dinner," our host said. And she was right. We were coming back together after a far-flung summer. We shared our adventures, sojourns in South Africa, New Orleans, college road trips, summer camp, the drummer boy and his rock band making their first CD. After the table was cleared, the 17-year-olds retreated to the bedroom, the mood in there set with holiday lights strung across the ceiling and snapshots clothespinned like miniature laundry to the cords. The star drummer played his CD for the girls, a very fine sound. He will be playing at a festival for unsigned bands next month, and his band might get signed. They are really that good. We will all be there, whooping.
The grownups meanwhile repaired to the living room, the conversation roaming. We shared college search anxiety and wisdom, comforting and assuring each other but mostly bearing witness. Mostly reminding ourselves that we are accompanied on this ride.
And then it was time to leave. The teenagers still had homework to complete. As we all walked to the car, the boy put his arms around the girls and pulled them to his sides and he rocked them back and forth and said, "These girls are my childhood friends." Just that. But it felt like a moment. His father was gone, his loss four short months ago unexpected and shattering. But this. This was his family, too, enduring and constant.
I want to remember.