I have some recently acquired friends who are old, whom I love. I have some friends whom I’ve loved for decades. You know who has been my longest friend, don’t you?

Good news or bad, that first call to an old friend is always accompanied by Maxwell House. Photo courtesy of Jody Rich

Maxwell House Instant Coffee.

Iced or hot, it has always been in my cabinet. Add milk and sugar and celebrations get happier and distress doesn’t seem so difficult.

That’s right. I’m pretty sure Mom made my first iced glass for me. During the warm weather, she’d take her cup outdoors to sit and chat with Claire, Beverly and Mary. I would drink it with Karen and my sisters. I drink it now, with Deb and Harriet, and, of course, Rosemary.

No matter how long it has been since I’ve seen a friend, once the coffee is made, it’s as if no time has elapsed.

We start with how the rest of the family is doing. Then we get current with each other. We discuss the medical challenges and nowadays, the effects of aging, both positive and irritating. There’s no hesitation about language with each other because any and all words are accepted with a deep understanding. Humor and sarcasm are not filtered or edited because we know the heart and soul of the other. We automatically give each other the benefit of the doubt.

These are the few who always have a gluten-free snack at their house – just for me. They go nicely with the coffee.

Oh sure, over the years I’ve ordered highfalutin coffees. I don’t live under a rock. The foam and the shot of super-charged elixir that leaves me shaking on the insides. But I go home to my old friend. Instant Maxwell House.

Who were my first couple of calls to, when I got the cancer diagnosis? When I got that promotion? When I had to put our cat to sleep? The list isn’t very long. It is dependable, though.

These are the people who will come to help me, care for me and get things done. Like Dad’s old flannel shirt I keep in the closet, these friends are a comfort just knowing they are there. A phone or Zoom call is all it takes to feel safe, cared about and accepted just as I am. And it’s completely reciprocal.

Warts and all. That relationship through which these friends watched and listened to me until I finally realized it was terrible? Yes, those friends. They supported me while I was in it because they wouldn’t leave me. They packed me up and moved me forward when I was ready. And they never rub my face in it or hold it against me. They’ve had their turns. No shame. Just continued love. And always, a cup of joe.

We have seen each other through it all. The good and the cruel. The fleeting and the unrelenting.

We are family by choice, sipping the tried and true.

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