The original Italian Mama (who had sadly moved away from our town), returns for a visit. We gather–minus one who was traveling– at a little restaurant. When my husband asks when I’ll return home, I say, “Well, these are the Italian Mamas we’re talking about. It could be hours and hours.”
(I remembered that first time we gathered for lunch. I thought it might take an hour. Four hours later, we were just beginning another vital conversation. The coffee and cannoli hadn’t even arrived yet.)
Hours? It could have been days. I would have stayed for days and loved every minute of the honest conversation—raw and hearty and overflowing with love—from friends I’ve journeyed alongside all these years. It’s a different stage of life now with children in college or headed to college. We’re older. We’re seasoned. We’ve settled into ourselves in a way that only growing older allows.
I listen for all the wisdom I can.
At some point, the Italian Mama brings out gifts of delicious olive oil from her new city. Of course! She advises dipping crusty bread into this particular kind of olive oil.
(I recall all the advice: the kind of bread to serve, the way to make your red sauce, how to create the perfect setting of roasted peppers and cheeses. She once left a jar of clam sauce on my doorstep for linguini.)
I think of the gift of friendship and how living with flair always meant connecting to some true, essential thing. When you find that, especially in friendship, you hold on. You reconnect when you can. It might only last for a Saturday afternoon, but it will sustain you for the year.