My grandmother had a home in the town of Briare, France, about an hour south of Paris. She didn’t actually live there though, the house sat empty, waiting for whatever family member wanted to escape Paris for a weekend in the country.
Often that family member was me, usually accompanied by some of my closest friends.
Man did we have some rocking parties at that house.
The checkered living room tiles just begged to be turned into a dance floor. And the many bedrooms were the perfect place for everyone to pitch a sleeping bag for when we were finally too tired to party.
It never occurred to me to marvel that so many of my friends would drive an hour out of the city to join me for a party in a truly rural town. People in France just don’t drive places. Going an hour out of town is not something people do unless they’re heading out for a week long vacation. But they were my friends. And they came.
I loved those weekends away. I loved the casual camaraderie of it all. Friends clustered in the kitchen. Everyone pitching in to prepare the party that they’d all be attending. We would all spend the afternoon decorating, cooking, and clearing furniture. Then we’d head to the bedrooms and bathroom to get ready for the party. Sometimes extra people came for the actual event, but for the most part it was all the same people, from sun up to sun down.
These people were my friends, my chosen family.
Ten years later I can’t remember if we were already starting to lose touch before I left France or if my departure marked the beginning of the end. I just remember how I was affected by that summer in New York. I broke up with my boyfriend by phone, met M, and in a heartbeat decided that I wasn’t going home. I never stopped to think about the friends I’d be leaving behind or how my departure would affect them. I guess that I assumed they’d just go on being friends without me, that I would step out of the circle and that the circle would tighten to fill the void. Then I got caught up with life in another country and, even though I missed them all terribly, I didn’t worry about them.
Over the last year I’ve reconnected with many of those old friends, primarily thanks to Facebook, though it kills me to admit it. This morning, one of them sent me a link to some pictures from the last of those infamous parties. Instead of packing up my computer and taking my children to daycare I found myself dragged back to 1999. For a moment I was single and childless and utterly silly and carefree again. There was no work, no worries, no bills, no taxes, no children who needed me to brush their hair and find their shoes. There were just great friends and endless time to hang out and just be together.
The caption under one photo grabbed my heart and twisted. “I never found another friend like you.”
I’ve been busy creating a life for myself these last ten years. A life filled with great friends and an incredible family. I’ve grown up, become who I was meant to be. But it’s true for me too. I never found other friends like them.
Thank you to my old friend Cecile for the photos. I’m very grateful she found them and took the time to scan them.