Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn Open House and Old Friends

This weekend I attended an open house at the home of a long-time friend, Mary. We work at the same place and she happens to be married to my ex-husband’s cousin. Small town living. I saw many familiar faces, some from work, but more from the extended in-law relatives there, part of the massive Cogan clan. (I am still considered an in-law, rather than out-law, despite the divorce). The great thing about this open house was the opportunity to spend time with people I don’t see enough of, or haven’t seen in years. A number of us expressed regret that our lives have taken us on paths away from each other. Daily distractions and responsibilities have taken the focus away from friends in a way that we wouldn’t have allowed happen when we were younger.

Mary and Danny have a beautiful new-old home. Danny is a master carpenter, and had a vision for what appeared to be the neighborhood’s ugly duckling. Together with his grown children and Mary, they have transformed this formerly non-descript house into a beautiful home. This house, this home for their future, tells a quiet story of coming home and settling in. Last evening, as the cold weather descended upon us, the warmth from their kitchen threw its arms around all who entered the space.

It was very good to see brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and kids with babies of their own. It was particularly good to see Betsy, another friend and cousin-in-law. Even though we live in the same town, it’s been over a year since we’ve seen each other. My daughter Katie spent many of her formative years at Betsy’s house, an un-official mother’s helper with Betsy’s then newborn son Corey. Today, as I witness Katie mothering little Henry, I hear “Besty-isms” come from her mouth all the time, and wonder if I had any influence at all! Last night we all expressed that we will make a real plan to deliberately spend some time together, and maybe after that, it won’t take so much intention to enjoy each others’ company. Maybe it will come easier again, like it did when our children were young and growing up with each other -- when we grew up as young mothers together.

I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time yesterday, where in this warm kitchen there were hugs, embraces, and spoken regrets that we don’t make more of an effort to keep in touch, each one of us as guilty or innocent as the other. I noticed my beautiful mother-in-law, Mary Lou, now in her 80s, wisely watching as these re-connections took place, certain she’s more aware than the rest of us how important these relationships are, and how we should hold dear to the people that matter. They may not be the relationships that matter most in our lives, those that take most of our time, but they matter nonetheless.

Now for the food:

There was an abundance of food, and a dessert table that would knock your socks off. Knowing there would be many delicious desserts, I decided to do a "180" and made Artichoke Dip (recipe follows), since Mary suggested an appetizer when I asked what I might bring.

Here's the recipe for my version of Artichoke Dip:


1 12-oz. can artichoke hearts

1. 5 cups mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1.5 cups grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

½ tsp. garlic powder

A few grinds of black pepper

Nice crackers.

Drain artichoke hearts and finely chop.

Mix all the ingredients together, including drained, chopped artichoke hearts.

Spray pie plate or heat-proof serving dish. Spread dip in dish. Bake at 350˚ F until it bubbles and the top is begins to brown.

Serve warm.

Refrigerate if not using and warm in microwave or oven when ready to serve.

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