“You will receive a pleasant surprise from a long-time friend.”
That’s what was printed on the little piece of paper I had extracted from my fortune cookie. And I had to laugh... because it was the most dead-on accurate fortune I have ever yanked out of one of those cookies.
I was at a Thai restaurant, one that happens to be a particular favorite of the Mistress of Sarcasm. (Why a Thai restaurant offers up fortune cookies as a postprandial snicky-snack is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it’s in the Secret Operating Manual for Asian Restaurant Owners, right after the chapters about carving carrots into the shape of roses and how to fold those take-out cartons so the food stays in ’em and the grease leaks out. I never saw a single fortune cookie in Thailand... or China, for that matter.) And I was there having dinner with a long time friend.
The friend, in this case, was visiting Atlanta on business in her role as Dean of Admissions of a prominent Southern law school. Hardly the career any of our other friends would have envisioned for Susan, back when I first met her... in our third-grade class. That was in the fall of 1960.
My third grade class. Susan is in the back row, fifth from the left. See if you can spot me. [Click to embiggen.]
Our surnames being very close together alphabetically, Susan and I went through our middle school and high school years in the same homeroom - and many of the same classes. And our yearbook photos are adjacent to one another. We’ve seen each other a few times since those days, including one time we bumped into one another at the airport in Jacksonville, Florida some 25 years ago. Pure coincidence.
That first year, though... third grade... I remember three things from that year. That was the year our teacher got married over winter break: She left for vacation with one name and came back with another. (Alas for us, it was longer and harder to spell.) That spring, we all sat in the gymnasium and listened to the radio as Alan Shepard became the first American in space, riding Freedom Seven on its 16-minute suborbital flight. And that was when Susan’s family went to Disneyland, a trip that, thanks to the near-constant pimpage of the Mickey Mouse Club and Walt Disney Presents (later rechristened Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color), made everyone else in the class insane with envy.
I guess when you’ve known someone for fifty years, he or she qualifies as a Long-Time Friend. It certainly sounds better than Old Friend, with its implication of advancing senility. Me, I prefer the term Friend of Long Standing. But why quibble about nomenclature... especially when you’ve just polished off a plate of Rainbow Duck Curry while reminiscing about elementary school, college search trips with the kids, and visits to Disneyland?
Susan’s father, sadly, no longer walks the planet with us - but her mother is still alive and well. And we have independent verification... because she now lives in the selfsame neighborhood as does Eli, hizzownself.
And the pleasant surprise? Well, Susan’s visit was no surprise, it having been arranged well in advance... but my being treated to dinner by her employer, the prominent Southern law school, was.
Maybe I’d better start taking those Fortune Cookies more seriously...