…by Julie Clark Robinson

 “Strangers are friends you haven\’t met yet.”
–Peter Rosen


At the time, I thought I was doing a pretty good juggling act. Between work, marriage, our two small children, extended families, and a circle of friends that we barely had enough time to enjoy, every “ball” in the air seemed to be rotating nicely without too much fear of veering out of control. So one day when I was casually introduced to a woman named Denise, it didn\’t strike me as a terribly momentous occasion. I\’m sure I said, “Nice to meet you” or something equally ordinary, and that would be that.

I suppose it was because we had recently moved to Hudson (a charming New England town smack in the middle of northeast Ohio) that I actually picked up the phone and ended up across the table from her at what would become our monthly lunches together. This was big because I\’m not exactly a “Let\’s do lunch” kind of easy-going gal. I\’m more of a “How much can I possibly accomplish on my ever expanding To Do list” kind of I-need-to-take-a-chill-pill woman. But there I was, across the table in the window of a little Italian restaurant in a cleverly disguised strip mall the first Monday of every month. For two years, Denise and I would eat pasta and share all of the sordid details of our 40-something lives prior to crossing paths. Women by nature share quite easily, but to get down to “sordid” with a stranger generally requires a little help. In our case, it was Chardonnay.

Our lunches would often last precariously close to dinner time. Eventually, Denise enlisted the help of her teenage son to help with my little ones so that we could continue with our babbling, laughter-burst form of communication without limiting ourselves to the confines of the almighty clock. Somewhere along the line we brought my husband and her new beau and his son into our fold and that was when the true magic of our new friendship began. Lunches have been replaced with family-style gatherings that often lead to sleepovers because none of us can bear to let something as boring as sleep end the fun. Denise\’s mother, Grandma Doris, often joins us as we prepare themed dinners, play LOUD games and even karaoke into the night.

I can\’t imagine a holiday going by without spending time with these people who only a handful of years ago we didn\’t even know. Our odd new family shares no bloodlines, but knows no boundaries. We span three generations but share one priority – enjoying good food, good old-fashioned fun and yes, still more than our fair share of chardonnay and chocolate milk.

Action Exercise: The next time someone seems interesting to you, pretend you live in a new city and have no one to hang out with. Give up a little of your time to see if this person can add something wonderful to your already busy life.