Aug 31, 2009

Challenge # 24: Rekindle an Old Friendship

Stephen King wrote in his book, "The Body," that "friends come and go like busboys in a restaurant." The fact is, not all friends are lifelong friends. You can always cherish the friendship, but a lifelong friendship takes a lot more work from both parties. Time and distance are factors which could also greatly affect the longevity of a friendship. But, the best of friendships will always last a lifetime. The latter is the story of my friendship with Suzanne Imholz-Heiniger.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Suzanne and I were colleagues at the Mayfair Regent Hotel in Chicago from 1988 to 1990. She was fulfilling her 18-month hotel internship from Switzerland. I was a future hotelier working the early shift curling butter at the hotel French restaurant. She attended one of the best hotel schools in the world. She also spoke five languages fluently. She was definitely on her way to a very successful hotel career. I had no idea what I wanted to do. But our common interests in food, wine and travel, sealed our friendship from day one.

Tuesday night was our night. For one year, we discovered every facet of the Chicago dining scene -from the hottest dive joints to the most coveted seats in fine dining. Friends would join us occasionally, but for most part, it was our night. Tuesday with each other took precedent over boyfriends and girlfriends. Despite our closeness, we were never an item. I don't know how this whole thing evolved, but it did.

We were usually one of the last tables in a restaurant. We also frequented The Third Coast coffee shop near the hotel for cappuccino's and their famous nicoise salad. I taught Suzanne how to shoot pool like a shark and drink shots to "Great Balls of Fire." By the time she went back to Switzerland, she was as American as American can be.

Despite our valiant efforts to stay in touch, the distance between Chicago and Zurich was just hard to overcome. She went on to start her own marketing firm after years in the hotel industry. I got married, had kids and flourished in my career.

But as fate would have it, our paths would cross again after seven years apart. My job would take me to Zurich, and without any hesitation, I called Suzanne and made arrangements to get together. I waited outside my hotel for Suzanne to pick me up. Nervous as hell, perhaps from the idea of being disappointed that the once old friendship may have faded, I sweated in anticipation. A swanky girl in a neatly pressed white shirt pulled up in a BMW convertible, and after exchanging glances, we both just laughed, knowing that the bond was definitely still there. I snapped the picture above after giving Suzanne a hard time for her sexy car - which happens to be my dream car, too. She took me to a very hip restaurant and then to a very cool dance club. The red wines and smokes were flowing. We were definitely back in Chicago.

We stayed in close contact after that rendezvous. My wife and I made her our youngest daughter's godmother. She visited us in Paris twice when we were visiting my Mom. We attended her wedding in Spain. She and her husband, Urs, met up with us in Chicago. A year or so after their wedding, Suzanne gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Laura Carlotta. Health complications afflicted Laura Carlotta's early years, and as expected, we somehow lost touch for a couple of years. I could have tried harder to stay in touch during this difficult period for my friend, but I didn't.

So soon after I posted my first "Month of Living Challenge" post on "Finishing a Half Read Book," I received a note from my dear friend, Suzanne. And just like that, we're back on track again. Laura Carlotta is doing very well. They recently moved in into their new home outside of Zurich. The family is doing just fine.

And yes, our friendship is as good as friendships can be. This time, though, the busboy is wondering if we are ever going to leave.

Suzanne in Chicago

Suzanne, Urs and Laura Carlotta

Elena and Suzanne in Spain

I took this photo of Suzanne on our last Tuesday Night Dinner in Chicago in 1990.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Geo, my dearest friend - I nearly had to cry reading your "Challenge 24". I often tell this story to friends here in Switzerland and let me tell you that when I picked you up in front of Hotel Rigihof in Zurich in 1999 (after many years of "no contact") I was as nervous as hell too... even more nervous than I was before dates ;-)

I guess there will always be periods in our lifes that we won't see or hear eachother very often but I am convinced that our friendship will last forever.
By the way, when do you plan your next trip to Europe? We are all looking forward to welcome you and your lovely family in our new home near Basel.

I am looking forward to your new blog and wish you a wonderful sunny day. Let's stay in touch!

Love, Suzie Q.