Potluck


“Mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get”. - Forrest Gump

Several years ago and in my mid-thirties, I decided it was time to pack up my little Ford Escort and head west. I’d lived in Iowa for many more years than I had ever planned, and I had decided it was time to make something special of my life. So, I packed up some boxes of my stuff and moved to the biggest city I’d never been to before: Portland, Oregon.

Portland was a big, huge city to me at the time. Lots of fast moving cars, busy roads and super busy people always checking their blackberries and talking on their cell phones. I knew I had moved to an important city and I felt important just to be there witnessing it all.

It took me a while to make friends in Portland. I hadn’t really appreciated the long-standing friends I had in Iowa, so it was a bit of a shock to realize that I had absolutely nothing to do on the weekends. No friends to go for walks with. No mom to watch TV with. No Grandma who needed an errand run. There wasn’t even an Applebee’s or Burger King nearby. Just one not-so-busy Dairy Queen. On a Sunday afternoons and as a special treat to myself, I’d go through the DQ drive-thru and order a hot fudge Sundae with whipped cream and nuts on top. I’d pull over to the parking lot and eat the hot fudge Sundae in my car before I’d drive home. It really took me a while to fit in.

After living there for about nine months with just about 10 boxes of all of my stuff, my mom who lives in Iowa, called to tell me that she’d met a possible friend for me. My mom is a realtor and she was showing houses to a woman in Iowa who had a daughter-in-law living in PORTLAND OREGON!!! What luck.

Here was a woman with connections to my hometown who was living in my new town and just possibly open to a new friend.

I was so excited.

Within days, my possible-new-friend had called to invite me to a potluck at her home. I was elated driving over to her house. A just-out-of-the-oven TaterTot casserole sitting in the passenger seat beside me, I realized that I hadn’t been to a potluck since living in Iowa.

I love potlucks. Everyone brings one of their favorite dishes. Some people bring a fun snack like cream cheese with raspberry jam on top, served up with Wheat Thins. Someone always brings green bean casserole, though everyone’s got their own unique twist to that dish. And, there’s usually some kind of chocolate dessert with lots of chocolate goo inside. You never know what everyone’s going to bring, so it’s always a surprise and there’s lots of recipe-sharing after the evening is over.

After arriving at my new friend’s house, it didn’t take me more than 3 minutes to recognize that the TaterTot casserole was not a sophisticated west coast dish. People had brought things like spreadable roasted garlic cloves and grilled salmon with capers. TatorTot casserole in hand, I was embarrassed to take the tin foil cover off the top to reveal what I had brought to the fancy party.

But, the hostess, my new friend, was gracious and smiled as she slipped my casserole into the oven to be warmed up.

While I was waiting for my dish to be warmed up and served to the guests, I tried to make small talk with my new Portland party friends and noticed that they started to disappear. Soon, there was only one person left in the living room. I asked my new conversation companion where everyone went and he nodded to gesture that I follow him. So, I did. And, in I walked into a smoke-filled second bedroom where all of the guests were inhaling from pipes that bubbled water. It suddenly dawned on me that this was not the potluck I thought I was going to get!

Not wanting to be rude, I went back to the kitchen to take my casserole out of the oven, and served up huge helpings of my TaterTot casserole to my new red-eyed friends. I should have looked at my watch, because they ate my casserole in record time; and, I went home that evening with an empty casserole dish. A good sign at most potlucks.

Disappointed that the new friendship didn’t work out, I went in to work on Monday and told my new co-workers about the potluck. They all roared with laughter, except one of them, the one who I thought was the ‘coolest girl in school’ and who surely would never be my friend. Yet, within a couple of weeks, that cool-girl invited me to a party at her house-- a party without the potluck.

That simple invitation began a long and dear friendship between me and that cool-girl. Since her party-without-the-potluck, she and I have each moved to different cities, not once but a couple of times. And, in spite of the distance, our friendship has grown stronger through career changes, lay-offs, new jobs, boyfriends and break-ups.

Yep, sometimes you don’t get exactly what you think you’re going to get, but if you are lucky, you will get something even better.

© 2010 Lisa Ann Edwards





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