“Make new friends, but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold” — Joseph Perry
Never has this quote been more true in our life than this past week, when my wife and I hosted an open house in honor of our recent high school graduate, Joel.
If you have no idea what goes into preparing for a graduation open house, allow me to explain.
First, you pick the date months in advance. You have no idea if it will rain or snow on that day (it’s Iowa — we’ve had show-stopping blizzards in April before), but you hope to God it will be sunny so you can have it outside, thus avoiding having to clean your cluttered basement or garage. You negotiate to find the optimal date…the date that works for extended family who needs to travel and that does not conflict with your teen’s countless other engagements. We settled on June 2nd…it might as well have been June 6, since it was building up to be a logistical nightmare on the order of “D-day”.
Next, you try to come up with a creative yet practical menu — something other than the ever-popular “walking tacos” if at all possible. Our brilliant idea was pulled pork from a small-town Iowa meat market, homemade “Panera” style mac & cheese, sliced fruit, Chex Mix, the traditional cake, and umpteen batches of monster cookies.
Then, you invite the world through social media and have no idea how many will show up, much less how much food they will eat.
If you’re like us and naive enough to host this fiasco at your home, you spend the three months prior doing odd jobs that you would never do otherwise–scrubbing mold off your gutters, de-cobwebbing the garage, landscaping your entire backyard, and so forth.
A day or two before the party, you realize you’ve created the perfect storm.
For us, June 2nd was booked from the break of dawn until the party start time of 5pm. The “plan”, which was really more like haphazard chaos, went as follows:
First, one of us needed to make the 30 minute drive to pick up our pulled pork. In the meantime, the other had to run across town to pick up the beverage dispensers and stop at the grocery store to purchase the ice plus 80 pounds of fruit, which had to be cut and sliced the day of the party. At noon on D-day, Michele would start making the eight casserole pans of mac & cheese. Our son had requested two types of lemonade, so this would have to be mixed, stirred, and placed in decanters shortly before guests began arriving. We weren’t exactly sure how all that was going to come together.
The day of the party, the plan kicked into high gear. But in addition to all the things on our list, there were the chores that could only be done that day. We had last-minute kitchen cleaning, hallway sweeping, bathroom decontaminating, and carpet vacuuming to remove the layers of dog hair. We also had to set up chairs and decorate tables for the masses, place the directional signs around the neighborhood, and move all our cars out onto the street. Then there were the things we forgot–like the extra pretzels we needed to finish the last batch of Chex Mix.
We were about at our wits’ end, flailing around the kitchen like chickens. Michele had not had a shower yet and guests would be arriving shortly.
That’s when the cavalry came to the rescue.
Michele has a core group of ladies that have been faithful friends for as long as I can remember. They were there for each other when children were birthed, weaned, and raised. They were there when marriages were struggling, when health was failing, when jobs were demanding. They’ve met in small groups, have read books together, prayed together, laughed together, and cried together. Sometimes they go for weeks without seeing each other, but when the chips are down and one member is suffering, the core team always seems to find ways to rise up and support the one in need.
Three days before the party, when Michele was unable to answer with certainty how many kitchen helpers would be available, one of the friends sent a group text to rally the others. The response was resounding. One core lady, who works in a professional bakery, blessed Michele by coming early, organizing the food and the serving items. So efficient was this gifted helper, she was dubbed “the kitchen magician” by Michele’s parents. Her efficiency allowed Michele time to duck away for a moment and properly attire herself. The remaining six others came shortly thereafter, promptly jumped in, and got situated. Before long, our kitchen crew was a well-organized machine, and Michele and I were able to do what we love most–interact with the beloved family and friends who came to honor our graduate.
This core group was forged when these ladies attended the same church, the more senior members meeting over 18 years ago. Since then, they’ve gone different ways, are involved in different churches, and have made new friends. They’ve all plugged in to new small groups to varying degrees, established new relationships, begun new histories. But if you were to ask my wife who she would call at 4:00AM in an emergency, it would not be the new friends, but the old, on the receiving end of that call. These are the gold ones, the dear women who have been there for my wife through thick and thin. We love them so much and are so grateful for their timeless friendship.
Here’s to you, golden ladies of the core group…your friendship means the world to us. Thank you for helping us make our open house fun!