From Brazil and France to Ontario — a reunion of old friends

There’s a wonderful reunion taking place at my home right now (hence my long delay in posts). Two old friends from university days have traveled from different continents to reunite at my home after more than four years apart. Of course, both have full schedules that span Ontario and New York state for a few weeks, but these few days together on the shores of Lake Huron are what interest me the most.

Both are dear friends for a number of reasons. Geraldine is from the south of France but now lives in Paris. She and I first met when we were waitresses at an Italian restaurant in Toronto. She was the mysterious French girl that everyone mentioned but I didn’t meet her for awhile because she was away on vacation. When she returned, she showed up at the restaurant with a plate of fabulous cheeses and tapenade-like spreads that we enjoyed on the patio after-hours with glasses of complimentary wine. (It was a close-knit group of employees, as you can tell.) I knew I liked her immediately. We soon decided to move in together, as we were both looking for a roommate, and there was a cute little two-bedroom apartment nearby with a romantic spiral staircase that we rented. We lived together for a year, shaping our little corner of the city into a home, complete with a huge vegetable garden, gigantic sunflowers, spectacular dinner parties, and infamous themed dance parties. When she returned to France after a year, I moved into a different apartment and we didn’t see each other until two days ago.

Geraldine and Katherine in 2007, serving roast chicken at a Brazilian party
Geraldine and Katherine in 2007, serving roast chicken at a Brazilian party

I met Patricio in Recife, Brazil, when I got a temporary job working as an assistant in his accounting office at Cáritas, an NGO. We hit it off immediately, as he regaled me with funny stories and introduced me to the fabulous music of Brazilian MPB singers such as Ana Carolina and Marisa Monte. When I returned to Brazil the following year, I rented a room in his house and we became even closer, visiting the famous beach at Porto de Galinhas and drinking caipirinhas together. He decided to come to Toronto for a year to study English and that’s how he became friends also with Geraldine. Patricio is a great cook, and besides satisfying my cravings for the classic black beans and rice that are ubiquitous in Brazil, he developed a love for Canadian food, such as bagels, blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, and muffins. He left just when I found out I was pregnant with my first son, so much has changed since we last saw each other.

Photo: Geraldine Avignon
Patricio & Katherine visiting (Photo: Geraldine Avignon)

I picked them up at the bus station in Owen Sound on a snowy night and we’ve spent the last day catching up, eating well, enjoying wine, and playing rowdy games of Dutch Blitz. Last night, thanks to Geraldine’s brilliant idea, we had a multi-linguistic dinner party that was both hilarious and fun: she spoke French, Patricio spoke Portuguese, I spoke Italian, and my husband Jason spoke Croatian. No English was allowed unless absolutely necessary. Somehow, we managed to hobble through the dinner of Indian food (how much more multicultural can you get than that?!), except for poor Jason, whose Slavic language bears no relation whatsoever to the other three Latin-based ones. At least his basic understanding of Italian allowed me to translate a bit. Mostly, we burst into laughter at the randomness of the situation.

Dinner with four languages -- an interesting affair (Photo: Geraldine Avignon)
Dinner with four languages — an interesting affair (Photo: Geraldine Avignon)
Out for a snowy, blowy walk along the lake
Out for a snowy, blowy walk along the lake

We have one more day together before I take them back to the city. By the end of next week, we’ll all be far away and who knows how much time will go by before we’re together again. But what I’m loving most of all is the feeling that nothing has changed, that the initial spark that drew us together and attracted our friendships, is permanent and has not lessened despite our different situations. As Geraldine put it, there are relatively few people in the world with whom you really connect in life, and though circumstances may change, that connection remains constant.

I’ll end with a quote from that oft-quoted man Shakespeare: “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” Here’s to friendship!


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