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Front Porch: Dinner serves up laughs over shared memories

We had dinner recently with friends of long standing, and it’s as if my whole adult life passed in front of my eyes.

OK, that’s a little dramatic, but, nevertheless, true.

We met this couple in the summer of 1967, when I first came to Spokane as a newlywed (my then-to-be husband having been stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base the year before). We had a small efficiency apartment in the basement of a building off Monroe Street on the South Hill; theirs was a one-bedroom unit on the top floor, and she was pregnant with their first child.

That was the beginning of a friendship that has spanned more than a half-century – through the expansion of our families, child-rearing joys and worries, sons and daughters leaving the nest, children’s marriages, our own moves away from Spokane and moves back again, trips together, serious illnesses, care of our aging parents, loss of those parents, job woes, arrival of their grandchildren, growth of the grandchildren into adulthood, retirement decisions and the inevitabilities of old age’s aches and pains and even debilities.

It’s a lot of history.

We haven’t seen one another socially in a number of years, so it was especially sweet that we got together again.

In addition to catching up on the current events of our lives, we reminisced about the way-back-when years, naturally. Because of shared experiences that span the decades, there are so many things that only took a word or a brief reference to bring a whole scenario back into clear focus.

We have laughed seemingly forever over the phrase “not the potato chips,” coming from an incident at the lake a long time ago. Just saying those four words out loud again at dinner brought forth the smiles again as the scene became instantly visible in all of our memory retinas.

How easy that conversation is. How familiar. How many things that we shared rushed through my mind – and are continuing to do so now afterward.

I remember a few months after we first met, she drove up with me to Mount Spokane, when I felt obligated to look for a dog (not mine), who my husband and I had accidentally left up on the mountain the day before. My friend was nine months pregnant at the time, and her husband and parents, not knowing she was off with me, were frantically looking for her (this was way before cellphones), thinking she’d gone into labor somewhere and was in trouble.

They were none too happy when they learned we had been poking around the woods and driveways up on a mountain when she was large with child. (Note: The dog was found safe and sound the next day. And baby daughter arrived safely as well on or around her due date later that month.)

She taught me to make pie crust. I learned how to make the world’s best chicken soup from her mother. I forced her to actually go into the water when we took the kids to the lake. We all took ski trips to Canada together and spent winter weekends at Priest Lake. We danced at their daughters’ weddings, attended the high school graduation party of a grandson of theirs.

I have been remembering how she was the first person to arrive at my house with a meal when my mother died, how the guys moved their youngest daughter into and out of different apartments during her days in college.

She and I have complained to one another in the past about our husbands’ hearing issues, and, in the case of my husband, the reticence to deal it with it in the way I think he should (which, clearly, is the correct way). And at our recent dinner, when the guys’ hearing interfered with communication, she and I just gave each other that knowing look again, no words needing to be said.

And, as might be expected with people our age, we migrated into conversation about physical ailments and the things we need to do to stay whole(ish), reasonably healthy and active. And, of course, the pills we need to take with dinner … and breakfast and maybe lunch and certainly at bedtime.

Getting old isn’t for sissies, which we clearly all agree on. But here we are, old friends remembering the past, still living in the present and looking ahead to how we might want or need to live in the future. And doing it with all the grace we can bring to the party, a party made much deeper and richer when shared with old friends over a lasagna dinner.

As long as the lasagna isn’t too spicy, which it wasn’t.

Stefanie Pettit can be reached at

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