I do not "go out on the town" very often. Meeting up with friends to catch up and enjoy a pint is not a common occurrence. That is not to say that we, as a family, do not dine out. My children are quite fond of visiting new restaurants. They have gone so far as to start their own attempt at a children's version of dining reviews. Their tastes range far and wide and their palates are quite adventurous. Some old stand-by's that are used as "control" dishes to measure the kitchen of an establishment, and are always ordered, are the calamari, the steamed clams, and the alfredo, preferably with grilled chicken. A good shrimp cocktail will always bring a smile.
However, dining out with family in order to spend some quality time over a few choice dishes is not what is on the menu. To visit with friends, trusted folks with which one can relax, talk frank, laugh, and enjoy company, just may be the perfect dish. I call many people in my life "friend" but most only wish to pretend at comforting, genuine interaction. Perhaps I am cynical (if you read this blog even a few times I believe this is glaring), untrusting, slow to let my guard down, but I find most people prove my reservations true. I do not hold it against them. I still consider them as close friends, but not close enough for dinner.
Which leads me here, over the last couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to visit with a friend and his family on several occasions. We do not see each other nearly as much as we should, yet each time we pick up right where we had left off. Life, kids, work, all draw us down separate paths and making time to review our adventures is tough to come by, but we always manage to squeeze something into our hectic schedules. As of late, we have taken to using our time in the pursuit of some of the finer dishes from the more refined restaurants we can find. This may mean a dent in the pocketbook but an experience well worth the extra hardship. The different venues and atmospheres, the candlelight and coat checks, the valet parking and origami dining napkins, the fine china and pomp. We live a little and laugh alot. I am mightily impressed with his children, older than mine by a generation (his being of college age and mine a year out of middle school) and still happy to share stories of school and work. They can easily convey their thoughts and engage in conversation with all members of our party, young and old. I can only hope that my children will mature as well (though it seems by their fine dining mannerisms and conversational ability that they have a good start).
The two families have laughed over amazing appetizers, debated politics and applauded achievements over main courses shared around the table, and have reminisced as towering desserts were conquered. Tales were woven through the foam of craft beers that had traveled from different states and around the corner. And, in the end, we have hugged and said our "so-longs" as the valet patiently waited. Maybe a few times a year is all we can afford, both in time and money, but they still are too few. Life is too short not to try new things. Time is too little not to laugh. I cherish the fine things, the finest being their friendship and the lives they share with us. I hope to see them again soon and tell stories both old and new.
(His daughter is preparing to embark on yet another life journey to help homeless children on the other side of the country. I would like to wish her a grand adventure, a safe return to tell tales of her journey over yet another dinner, and that she touches other lives the same way she touched our family's (my children's especially). And I hope her parents are as a proud, if not more so, as I am to know her, to see such a wonderful child grow into a marvelous woman and human being. You all are truly blessed and have blessed our house. We will see you all soon but not soon enough.)