Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fare Thee Well, Neptune

Many years ago, my friend Brenda was leaving the job where we had met and become friends. This happens a lot. What also happens a lot is that friends say "We'll keep in touch", "Let's do lunch", and after a few months, they drift apart and never see each other again. Brenda and I didn't want that to happen. So, we agreed to meet every Saturday morning for breakfast. We decided on the Neptune Diner in Wallingford as it was roughly halfway between our homes. With the exception of vacations, minor illnesses and other inevitable interruptions, we've been doing this for 20 years. And then, this morning (yes, I know it's Sunday), we met at the usual time, got out of our cars, started walking to the front door, and we were told they were closed. What? "They retired. Closed the diner". What?

Wow! That explained the comment the hostess/owner made last time we were here. Her husband was always warm and friendly, happy to see us. She rarely even said hello. All we usually heard was "Thank you" as she took our money. Anyway, last time we were there, she thanked us for coming for such a long time. Brenda and I exchanged curious glances as we left. "What was that all about?" Well, now we know.  
I've been thinking about all of the things that had happened in that diner. That was where we always exchanged Christmas gifts. I was on my way to meet Brenda about three years ago, when a young lovely with no driver's license made an illegal turn and totalled my car. Less than 100 yards from the diner. I called Brenda, she left the diner and stayed with me. We did eventually have our breakfast that morning. The owners asked if I was OK.
But my favorite memory of all is the first time I met Brenda's future husband, Tim. Tim was in the Navy. Brenda often flew down to Norfolk to see him. He knew about me. We had even talked briefly on the phone once or twice. I don't remember the occasion, but Tim was coming to Connecticut for a visit. I wanted to meet him and Brenda and I decided to have a little fun at his expense. I went to the diner at the appointed time and rather than sit at our regular table (more on that in a minute), I sat at a table for 4. In walked Tim and Brenda. I totally ignored them. I heard Brenda say "How about right here?" She stood next to my table and said "Excuse me, can we sit with you?" I looked at her like she was insane. "Excuse me?" Brenda again asked if they could sit with me. "You've got that whole table by yourself." I said I was expecting two friends. This whole time, poor Tim thinks his girlfriend has flipped her lid and he's gently and quietly trying to guide her away from me. After a couple more exchanges between Brenda and myself, I said "This is ridiculous!" and stood up. I extended my right hand and said "Hi Tim, I'm Pat. Have a seat." The look on his face was priceless!! He still talks to me.
I mentioned our regular table a little bit ago. For years and years, we sat at a table for two in front of the fake fireplace. Over the fireplace was a wooden shark and a few lines of ship's rope. One year for Christmas, I made this for Brenda:
I was pretty new at dollmaking back then, but I'm still tickled at how this came out. Since then, I've given Brenda a hand-made gift every year for Christmas. She has more of my dolls than anybody.
The Neptune is gone, but the memories of these past 20 years will never go away. We tried a different diner this morning and we'll probably be meeting there for a while.
Here's to friendship!