By Jessica T
Those unexpected dinnersUploaded: Jul 15, 2014
I have a friend we'll call Richard, a former colleague who first impressed me with some strategic work he did as a consultant for my business unit. Shortly thereafter he joined our management team. Richard is a business visionary, and he rose up the ranks quickly. He was selected to tackle some of our biggest business challenges. Richard is ambitious and routinely fields calls from executive recruiters. A few years ago, he took a new post in another city.
Every other month or so he comes to town for a board meeting. Sometimes he emails to see if I'm free for a last-minute dinner. He has a certain kind of spontaneity that works with my schedule. I don't often plan social dinners during the workweek, because something might come up at the office or at home that I need to attend to. Spontaneous dinners tend to work better. Richard often comes for dinner on a moment's notice - sometimes he brings a bottle or wine or a sweet for my elder daughter, and sometimes he just shows up.
For years, Richard and I ran together before work. We discussed our management challenges, stock selections, the future of technology, his dating life, and alas my very painful struggle with secondary infertility. To this day, Richard probably knows way more about the topic than he ever cared to. My husband and I love having Richard for dinner, because after the kids go to bed he shares his struggles. Richard will talk openly about what went well at work and what didn't and what his fears are. And every time Richard visits, he's grappling with something new. (Richard's propensity to change cars is only slightly less infrequent.)
These days Richard is often hiring and wants to pick my brain on who's looking and who's good. I really should get a finder's fee, but this summer I'll settle for a quick jaunt to stay with him and his family. (Hello, hot tub!)
It's refreshing to have a friend who will be so candid and who always makes the time to get in touch, even if it means another thrown-together meal among my messy children. I often hope that Richard will be among a handful of former colleagues that I get to work with again when we "get the band back together."
Another spontaneous visitor is Tommy, a friend of Coach T's from college. Tommy was his best friend, along with TP (who doesn't love a guy named TP?) After college, Tommy lived in New York, but after he saw the World Trade Towers fall outside of his apartment window, he went off the grid and disappeared from our lives for ten or so years. Then one day he called. He was in town for one night only, could he come by for dinner? The best thing about Tommy is that he never comes empty handed. He always brings wine, with a preference for expensive Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and regales us with tales like the time he drove all night from Chicago to Toronto, working his way through a case of seltzer water to stay awake. When the police pulled him over outside Detroit, the cop asked about the crushed cans in the back seat. Tommy explained that he wasn't drunk. The cans were from seltzer, not beer. "Something isn't right about you, sir," the cop said. How true. Tommy keeps us in stitches, always. He's the most unpredictable of all our friends - he may blow into town or not - he may get on that flight or not, he may be able to disentangle himself from work or not?
My daughter loves these unpredictable old friends of ours and our impromptu family dinners. She's often just as excited as we are to have some unplanned school-night company. My husband and I both have fond memories of similarly unpredictable family friends and cousins showing up unannounced to spend some time with the family. I'm infinitely grateful to ours for making her think her parents aren't so strange after all.