A few minutes ago, I got off the phone after a long conversation with a dear old friend — the kind of wonderful chat where you catch up on anything and everything, laughing a lot along the way.
My friend had recently moved across the country to start a new job. She commented that the relocation had been great overall, but that she really missed having close friends in her new hometown. You know, the type of friends you can invite over spur-of-the-moment for a simple dinner and a little Lost or the Food Network. The type of friend whom you aren’t embarrassed to serve wine from the bottle you opened last night, or a slice from the half-eaten cake.
My experience has been the very same as my friend’s: the hardest part of moving to a new place is the search to find your people, so to speak. Julia Child described it this way, in My Life in France, when she and her husband were relocated to Oslo for his job, far from their family and good friends:
Oh, how I yearned for a passel of blood-brother friends to celebrate with. We had plenty of acquaintances in Oslo, but …we suffered months and months of nobody to really hug but ourselves. This was the thing I hated most about the itinerant diplomatic life.
So, dear friend, I am sending you a big hug, from here on the other side of the continent. You are lovely and incredible, and just being your charming self, you will find yourself with a passel of friends in no time! Promise.
Women across the nation are in the midst of a love affair with Julia Child. Julie & Julia shot Cupid’s arrow into our hearts. “I wish the whole movie had been about Julia!” we say. “Forget that nasty, childish Julie Powell.”
We find ourselves ordering The French Chef on Netflix, and staying up late at night with My Life in France. We dream up plans to visit Julia’s kitchen at the Smithsonian. We scour the booksellers for unsplattered first editions of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
We are smitten with Julia’s enthusiasm, her goofiness, even her helmet of curls. We are heartened to see that great success found someone so unconventional.
We appreciate her reminder that true achievement rarely comes quickly or easily — that, in fact, it nearly always builds slowly and follows (or even requires) years of false starts, and setbacks, and mistakes, and seemingly endless re-working.
We love to note that she did not become the Julia Child we know until she was nearly 50 years old — an encouraging fact for those of us still listening for our calling, and worrying that the hour may be too late to receive it.
I was given My Life in France as a Christmas gift this year. The first time I opened the book, it was to this account of how Julia and her husband Paul spent the last evening of 1950:
We were back in Paris by New Year’s Eve. I took a hot bath at nine-fifteen and retired to bed with a book. Paul wrote letters. At eleven-fifteen we hoisted glasses of Pouilly-Fumé, toasted the future, and went to sleep.
I had been waiting for New Year’s Eve inspiration to find me. And there it was.
So for us, December 31st will echo that one in Paris almost 60 years ago: a quiet celebration at home, with French wine, a hot bath, a good book, and a cozy bed. At midnight, Matt and I will raise our glasses to Julia and Paul, and to the future.
Speaking of Julia’s late-night performances: Here is Julia Child on David Letterman, circa 1987. I’m not at all surprised she’s so handy with a blowtorch. That woman could do anything!