I’ve been missing something lately.

The whole thing started around 1970, when Paul and my father began having dinners together on Thursday nights when my mother had to work because her bank introduced extended evening hours. It migrated to Fridays when another friend, also coincidentally in a bank, complained because he had to work Thursdays, too, and was missing out on the fun. Somewhere along the early line, it changed from random dinner fare to spaghetti (more often vermicelli, actually, or even capellini—we like the thin stuff). And we plugged into it solidly when we got back to town for good in 1976.

So, for over 30 years, a core group, and a gradually shifting, changing, expanding, contracting set of friends and friends of friends have been gathering every Friday night (at my dad’s until his tick illness in the fall of 2006 and at our place since then) to drink cheap (often very cheap) wine, eat hefty servings of pasta, argue, laugh, insult, and support each other. We’ve had deaths and births, divorces and marriages, budding relationships and breakups. We’ve had great new people moving into town, and great old people sadly moving away. My dad used to delight in inviting the random passing signature-gatherer in for a bite, and I once brought a Congressman who shocked me by accepting the invitation but obviously had nothing better to do. Folks passing through always knew where to find us and a decent meal on Fridays.

At one time a normal weekly number at table was in the teens, counting kids, but not counting those not infrequent friends of friends who often added wonderfully to the mix. We’ve had Scots, we’ve had people from that country south of Scotland, we’ve had Ozzies, we’ve had Russians, and Danes, and even Californians. Now there are no kids, no regular foreign presences, only occasional friends of friends, and the usual number is six. Six crotchety old people retelling the same ancient stories, having the same arguments, and still drinking cheap wine. I figure we’ve done this almost 1,500 times, and it’s still quite fun, actually. Things have been sputtering a bit lately because some of us have had health issues, and some of us have just decided to hit the road more often and travel, and although I’ve had a great time out and about here and there, and intend to keep doing so, I’ve missed the regularity of our Friday evenings. I’m glad we’re revving up again tonight, even though two of the basic six will be absent (health and travel again).

(H, of course, grew up as part of this circus. She’s coming East in a month or so for some interviews, but she can’t be here on Friday…so for once pasta will be on Sunday.)

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