Tales From A Hungry Life

March 5, 2015

The Friends You Keep

by Maria Schulz

When you’re a child, you make friends easily. Friends are like a new sweater that you try on for size just to see how they fit. Some of them are too bulky—they make you hot and uncomfortable. Some of them are itchy—and you can’t wait to get rid of them. But sometimes, you find one that is warm, luxurious, and fits you so perfectly that you forget where they begin and you end. That friend is a keeper.

There’s something about this type of friend that makes you remember who you are, where you came from, and where you’re going. Life’s trajectory may separate you, but when you meet again, everything feels just right.

Reenie, Maria and Chris at St. Robert's Reunion

Reenie, Maria and Chris at St. Robert’s Reunion

I was reminded of this recently when I saw my childhood friend, Maureen. Reenie and I were completely inseparable until we graduated from St. Robert’s. She went off to Catholic high school and I went off to the big, scary, public high school (P.S. it wasn’t scary at all…I just didn’t know it then).

Reenie was tall and gorgeous, with blonde hair, blue eyes, an easy laugh, a great sense of humor, and a big heart. She knew how to dress (thanks to two older, beautiful sisters with great fashion sense), had hair that was always perfectly cut and feathered, and an easy confidence that I always admired.

I, on the other hand, was short and fat, with a Dorothy Hamill hairstyle that I could never completely get right. I could not put together an outfit to save my life, and was often teased for being dressed badly or for having the “wrong” hairstyle. Girls that age can be pretty cruel.

Two things saved me: I had a sense of humor, and I had a savior: Reenie. I wrote about this in my post, Enemies, Frenemies, and French Cruellers.

That time in your life when you’re too old for dolls and too young for grown up activities can be challenging. Some of your friends may be way ahead of you as far as boys and parties go. I wasn’t ready for any of it yet. My “favorite things to do list” looked something like this:

  1. Watch Dallas. I even wore an “I Shot JR” tee shirt

    Still fits

    Still fits

  2. Watch Guiding Light. Would Reva marry Josh…again? Would Nola convince Floyd to sleep with her so she could trap Kelly into marrying her and believing that Floyd’s baby was his? Would Roger Thorpe come back again? These were the burning questions from my youth

    The best bad guy ever.

    The best bad guy ever.

  3. Watch The Rockford Files. Every. Friday. Night. Plus weekdays, when it went into syndication

    Greatest. Show. Ever.

    Greatest. Show. Ever.

  4. Ride my bicycle all over town. I’m so glad I grew up at a time when you could go out to explore—either on your own or with a friend—and not have an adult safeguarding your every move and policing your every thought

    I like my bicycle

    I like my bicycle

  5. Bowling. Every Wednesday, and sometimes on the weekends



  6. Go to the movies. The Quartet in Flushing, The Bayside Theater on Bell Blvd., The Bay Terrace Twin, The Fresh Meadows Twin, The RKO Keiths, and The Prospect in Flushing were some of my regular stops. I saw everything from The China Syndrome and Being There to Jaws and The Muppet Movie.

    "We're going to need a bigger boat."

    “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

  7. Baking. I could make a mean brownie, chocolate chip cookie, or crumb cake

    The crummier the better

    The crummier the better

  8. Talk on the phone, sometimes for hours. There was no call waiting and I was glad

    Go old school

    Go old school

  9. Play a mean game of Life, Battleship, Clue, and Monopoly. Was it Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlesticks? You decide.

    It's a hit!

    It’s a hit!

  10. Walk and play with our dogs, have sleepovers, and talk, talk, talk. It was a relief to have friends that I could talk to about everything from Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff (no disco was allowed in my house…my rock-n-roll loving brothers would have performed an exorcism on me) to our beloved pets, favorite books, best-loved movies and TV shows, and the always mystifying topic of boys.

    How about some Hot Stuff?

    How about some Hot Stuff?

I was lucky enough to have Reenie there by my side—at the movies, on the phone, riding bikes, walking the dogs, in front of the TV, and by the stove. We stayed friends even as new experiences took us away from each other.

When my mother died, I called Reenie because I wanted to talk to someone who knew my mother before the Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, her mother just passed away from Alzheimer’s too.

At her mother’s wake, I thought of all the times her mother drove us back and forth, took us to Church carnivals, or dropped us off at a movie theater. I remembered seeing Mrs. R. at school functions, waving and smiling at me. I smiled when I remembered Friday night Lenten meals at Mrs. R.’s house, including Spaghetti and eggs or Mac and Cheese. As I spoke to her beautiful daughters, I thought of her easy laugh and how beautiful she was too.

It made me think of all of the friends I have from that time, and how lucky I was to know each of their families. I hope my children’s friends will look back someday and remember me smiling, welcoming them, and cooking for them too.


Recipe: Mac and Cheese

My mom never made Macaroni and Cheese, but Mrs. R. made it one Friday night in Lent and I was hooked. Here’s a recipe from Alton Brown that looks easy and delicious.

So…do you have an old friend who just “fits?” What’s your favorite comfort food (if you’re not Catholic) or ’Friday night in Lent food’? (if you are)? Which friends have you “kept?” Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!



  1. Love your first 2 paragraphs!! Warm & perfect sweater – cozy – yes that’s exactly how a fabulous friend makes you feel. Thanks for being one of those friends! – PML

    Comment by Pml — March 5, 2015 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for being my “sweater” friend for all these years (although by now I may be a little moth-eaten and ratty).

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — March 5, 2015 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  2. Everything we used to eat back then was so much better! Of course we can’t eat like that anymore …. Fried chicken cutlets with rice a roni was one of my favorites. It beats baked cutlets and brown rice!

    Comment by Christine — March 5, 2015 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

  3. What a sweet, touching, and of course funny post. So true!
    The friends with whom I first navigated NYC as an independent young woman are the people who I know will always have my back. Did we have fun then?! Worked all day, did amateur theatre all evening, and then partied sometimes until dawn. We created wonderful experiences together on and off stage. They’re still there for me and I couldn’t love them more.

    Comment by bethgoehring2015 — March 5, 2015 @ 12:51 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Beth. There’s something about those friends we make who share those special times in our lives. I’m happy to have meet you at one of my favorite jobs..and to have made so any other amazing friends there too. What shows were you in? I bet you were great!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — March 8, 2015 @ 7:27 pm | Reply

  4. Some 76 years ago, when I was five years old and brand new in a neighborhood called Queensborough Hill. I got on my three wheeler and rode around the corner and up the block where I met a guy called Eugene. We hit it off right away and have remained friends to this day. We were close when we went to the same elementary school together, We drifted apart as we went to different high schools, but got back together again until we entered the Army. We drifted apart and came back together again and whenever we did we’d pick up the conversation, seemingly just where we left it off some years ago. Eugene was always known as “Babe” and I thought it was because he was a big lefty that resembled Babe Ruth but later I found out it was because he was about 10 years younger than his brothers and they called him The Babe. But he could hit like the Babe. It was great growing up finding out that there were other people in the world besides Italians and that the Irish had there own traditions, humor and food. I grew to love his mother, respect his father and be in awe of his brothers who fought in World War II. Mr. & Mrs. Colleary are no longer with us, John and Marty are gone. My Mom and Pop, brother and grandmother all gone. BUT Babe and I are still here enjoying life and remembering the good times the last Wednesday of every month when we meet for a lunch with some guys from The Hill. So I know very well what you are talking about in this very great blog.

    Comment by Bglou — March 5, 2015 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

    • Ah, the legendary Babe Colleary! He is a part of so many of your wonderful growing up stories. I think he has to be in the next collection of stories that I”m putting together–he’s just too important to leave out!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — March 8, 2015 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  5. Friends are God’s gifts reminding us that Angels are close by.

    Comment by Bglou — March 5, 2015 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

  6. That was beautiful Maria. You are truly a great friend. Love ,one of the beautiful sisters. I will let you guess which one. Lol

    Comment by Kathy Reilly-Percoco — March 5, 2015 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

    • I’m so glad you liked it, Kathy. I already know which beautiful sister this is–I would recognize you anywhere!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — March 8, 2015 @ 7:30 pm | Reply

  7. I’ve still got the “I Shot JR” mug Macy’s sold! And, btw, you’re a friend who “fits.”

    Comment by thedailypeeve — March 5, 2015 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

    • You lucky stiff! I want an I Shot JR mug! Thanks for saying I’m a friend that fits–I agree, you fit perfectly! 🙂

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — March 8, 2015 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

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