Just a Stream of Thoughts
Posted 30 November 2009on:
Yesterday I was at a beautiful wedding – not large by Jewish standards – around 170 guests. I used to live across the road from these friends and knew the bride 32 of her 33 years. I didn’t know at the time who lived in the house opposite because I used to work in the City, leave home early, get home then collapse in a heap. However, my neighbour obviously knew my movements, because as soon as I stopped working to have my first baby, there was a knock on the door and that was the start of a new friendship and the start of becoming part of a community and an amazing circle of friends. Being so close in every possible way, we obviously got to know each other’s extended families, so I knew all the Hull side that came down to London and the American branch too — it was lovely to reunite and catch up with so many people on such a joyous occasion. Sadly I had to go up to Hull a couple of times recently as my friend lost first her brother and then a few weeks later her father also died – so to be celebrating a simcha together was especially beautiful, one that the Rabbi said in shul on Shabbat was long time coming – and no one took offense. Good for the bride – she waited until it felt right and her new husband is a truly wonderful guy – long may they be blessed .
The chupah took place in a beautiful West End synagogue; the ladies and men seated separately. Everyone is aware of my single status so a good friend jokingly remarked, “Look at that lot over there,” referring of course to the men, “which one would you take home?” The truth is that the men across the aisle while most certainly losing their youthful glow (and their hair) and most now in retirement mode were great guys. I knew them as good and honest and respectable, decent people, all I’m delighted to add still happily married to their long term spouses. I just smiled, but the thought did cross my mind that I didn’t think any one of them would actually want to take me home.
I did have a wonderful time; the bride was s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g… she is very very tall and very very slim and she wore a gown I had never seen the likes of before and I don’t think I could do it justice trying to describe it, but when I told her that I thought it was very Carrie, of SATC fame, she said that was the best possible compliment. As I said, I did have a wonderful time, but!!!! I don’t brood on it, but something was definitely missing. The bride and groom were not so young, in fact someone told me the groom was about 38 and it made me think back because at that age we were celebrating No.1 son’s Bar Mitzvah. And then it really hit me; this was my old crowd, my good friends. We’d shared simachot and sad times and children and grandchildren and the ups and downs of life together for over thirty years, yet one was missing and he should have been there; we should have been there together, dancing like we all had done together twenty years earlier, still the same, but now just a little worn in the joints.
So, I look around at all my friends and wonder. Can I leave you now? Is it time to up sticks and move away from them? I am blessed to be part of a lovely community, to walk into synagogue and not feel a stranger, to know I have such a wide circle of friends locally. Yet — I don’t live near a single member of my family. I moved to this area where my husband and his family lived when we got married 34 years ago. My mother, my brother, my aunts, uncles, cousins and now my son and daughter all live in North London.
The days of spending afternoons with friends and children are long gone; the days of entertaining each other, making dates ahead of time so we could get babysitters are long gone. Some are retired and globetrot, many owning second homes abroad. Some are grandparents and Saturday night is likely spent babysitting. On days off, ‘ladies who lunched’ has now become ‘retired couples who lunch’ – which is all lovely, but where does that leave me? Oh, I’m not moaning, just noting that the whole dynamic has changed. I hardly see them any more. Sure we still talk, but you can chat to anyone, anywhere at the end of a phone.
Apparently Jamie who, bless ‘im, is an open book, told a friend of mine he had seen a house he liked. She told me this across the dinner table last night. Jamie sees all my friends. He commutes back to Chigwell to work and near his office are hairdressers and beauty salons that they frequent, so he sees ’em all and they all love him —- he’s such a shmoozer. When I mentioned that maybe I’d buy his apartment there was a stunned silence around the table. Another friend asked me to repeat myself and then the first friend said, “What about book club?” Well that was exactly why I had formed it – for selfish reasons. As I just commented, I wasn’t seeing anyone, but I wasn’t losing friendships, everyone’s lives are so full and different now. This way I was seeing around 12 girlfriends every month, every one of them avid readers. I would never give up my baby, my book club – I’d still come back every month and see the girls, which is moreorless as much as I see them now… and at engagements and weddings and funerals.
So now I’m off to Jamie’s neck of the woods to take a look at the run-down house he wants to buy and renovate and take a closer look at his place which is literally down the same road. Maybe it really is time to move on, as they say! But don’t tell mother – I haven’t told her yet – much easier for her health and mine to wait until it is a fait accompli.