My friend Wendy and I don’t spend as much time together as we used to. She is a true ‘super mom’ of two kids and she, her husband and the little ones moved to another state a few years back…ok, so it’s only 10 miles from my house, but still–it’s WASHINGTON!
We met each other shortly after I moved to Portland, working in a catalog call center (it was before the internet pretty much ran paper catalogs into the ground). We knew that it was a crappy job, but we were both transplants from the east coast and it suited her schedule while she studied for the Oregon bar (I was just glad to have a job). We started as ‘seasonal’ employees, brought in to handle the overload of incoming Christmas shopping calls, but we were kept on as customer service reps after the holidays died down. We connected immediately and were a team from day one, and after about a year at the company we were both nominated to be on a committee tasked with resolving employee grievances. In truth, it was a PR stunt contrived by management (aka ‘the Man’), with the intent of placating the motley crew of phone reps, but we embraced (milked) it, and were given all sorts of preferential treatment. Consequently, we were ostracized by the ‘little people’…our constituency turned on us! It was at this point that we came up with our idea to create a cast of characters for a movie version of our strange workplace…starring us, of course. Casting Amy Irving and Candace Bergen to play Wendy and Tammy was the solidifying moment in the origin of our story together…how could it not be?
Our friendship continued, even after we stopped working together. I regard that as the truest test of friendship…I mean, how many ‘work best friends’ have you had that fell by the wayside when you left your crappy waitress job to start an even crappier print shop or (shudder) office gig? The people you decide to take with you to the next level are the keepers, and Wendy was one of those. She’s managed to stick by me for about 20 years now…I guess the entertainment value of my life shouldn’t be sneered at! We’ve often attributed the strength of our bond to the shared insanity of the intensely crappy work experience that we endured together. I’ll always be grateful that she was there to go through those days with me. Her gifts to me have included many life lessons, not the least of which is learning how to not take life’s little jabs too personally. Not to mention that she taught me how to (almost) convincingly use quite a few Yiddish terms!
Our friendship is so tough that it was able to withstand many challenges, including:
- The painful (but entertaining) last days of my first marriage…to a Buddhist car salesman (can’t picture it, can you?)
- My first divorce…complete with a yard sale that the local junk dealer called the “best washing-that-man-out-of-my-hair sale” that he’d ever seen
- My subsequent need to move into Wendy and her husband’s spare room for a while, until I got my own place
- The early days with the man who would be husband #2, including our pagan wedding, where she cast the sacred circle with incense
- The following 4 years with the ever-entertaining #2
- My assistance at the birth of her second child (in a birthing pool…in her living room…with blood and placenta…and my crockpot…don’t ask)
- My tendency to periodically run in fear from anything remotely resembling a real friendship
I also give credit to our habit of periodically trying on clothes together at Goodwill. I’m telling you that if that doesn’t define true friendship, then nothing does! In fact, this woman has (on multiple occasions) taken it on herself to try on hideous outfits just for my enjoyment…stuffing herself into wayyy too tight leather pants, ‘interesting’ Christmas sweaters (she’s Jewish), slinky 2-sizes-too-small dresses that looked like coffin interiors, and our favorite–a shit brown, wrinkly one piece that we dubbed ‘the potato bathing suit’. I wish I had a picture for you…the one I posted here will have to suffice.
Another thing about Wendy…she’s always been very health conscious and is very careful about what her family eats. As an example, I remember shopping with her for a birthday cake for one of her kids, with the criteria of no gluten and very little sugar. Now, it’s not hard to find über healthy stuff like that in Portland, but finding one that tastes like something other than cardboard is a little tougher. She super-sleuthed it though, and we were able to enjoy a cake that tasted almost like birthday cake! On another occasion, we went to a video rental store with her (then) 3-year-old son in tow. He noticed a colorful display that turned out to be a Good Humor refrigerated case. Pulling her hand toward the case, he piped up, “Treats!” Without losing a beat, my gal responded, “Oh honey…those are doggie treats…you don’t want those!” all the while giving me a knowing side glance. I just wondered what was gonna happen the first time that kid was old enough to go into a bakery by himself! Luckily, a little of her food sense has finally worked its way into my thick skull, but not without a fight!
I think back on our friendship and I know, once again, that I’m blessed. It’s a fact that Wendy and I (happily) have one of those ‘I have to stay friends with you now…you know too much’ stories, but isn’t it nice to have someone in your life who knows most of your history…and still loves you? I mean, what shmendrick is gonna walk away from a friend who dressed like a vegetable just to make her laugh? Not this shiksa!