Old Friends

by Barb, who is packing to go north, and sighing a lot

FoggedInnfrontcoveryellowIt’s release day for the fourth Maine Clambake Mystery, Fogged Inn! It’s the first of three books that take us through the off season in Busman’s Harbor, when the Snowden Family Clambake is closed and the tourists have gone home. Busman’s Harbor is a quieter, cozier place. Having made the (braver) decision at the end of Musseled Out to stay in town rather than return to her life in New York, Julia Snowden and her boyfriend Chris Durand are trying to make a go of running a dinner restaurant, sharing space with her friend and landlord Gus who serves up breakfast and lunch.

“Jule-YA! There’s a dead guy in the walk-in.”

The story begins when Gus finds the body of a stranger in his walk-in refrigerator. But who is the dead man? Is he connected to any of the diners who were in the restaurant the night before? Or to the car accident that trapped them there for hours?

When I wrote the first draft of Fogged Inn, I thought it was about coming home, since each of the retirees in the restaurant on that fateful night had returned to Maine to live. But, as so often happens to me, as I got to the end of the first draft, I discovered it wasn’t about that at all. It was about Old Friends.

Once I figured that out, I remembered the commencement address given by actor and writer Mike O’Malley at my daughter’s graduation from the University of New Hampshire in 2006. I admit I went into the event rolling my eyes. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush had already been announced as the joint speakers for 2007, and it didn’t help that my daughter explained who O’Malley was by referencing his show on Nickelodeon. (Of course, now that I know who he is, he’s everywhere.)

It turned out, as it so often does, that my low expectations were dramatically wrongheaded. O’Malley’s speech was heartfelt, wise, and resonated all the more because he had sat where those graduates were sitting. The relevant portion of the speech is this:

“Try as often as you can to give tribute to your friends, to stay in contact, to be at their momentous occasions. Drive across the country and go into debt to go to their weddings, fly across the country and be with them when their parents pass away. You cannot make any new old friends.”

(The whole address is worth a read at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:IanManka/Mike_O%27Malley

Then, this fall, long after the book had been turned in, my husband and I lost two old friends in a matter of months and the theme of the book became even more personal and meaningful. At their wakes, I saw people I have known and cared about for years, but whom I rarely see. My generation is not like my children’s. We didn’t have social media to keep us up on what was going on in each others’ lives. We didn’t have e-mail, and long distance calls were expensive and reserved for emergencies. We lost touch more than we should have.

At the second wake, an old friend said, “Why haven’t we seen each other in forty years?” The truth is we had kids, we got more responsibility in our careers, some of us moved to the suburbs, our lives were busy and crazy and satisfying. But there is absolutely nothing like those old friendships, where you can pick up where you left off as if no time has gone by.

At the end of the book I name some of those old friends of my youth. But as the months have gone along since I turned it in, I’ve realized there were even more who should have been listed.

I hope you enjoy Fogged Inn.

34 Thoughts

  1. Thank you Barb! Once again, inspiration comes from the Wickeds. I haven’t done the acknowledgements yet for book 4–Murder Go Round (wherin five characters from Book 1 and a couple from Book 2 come back into Lee’s life) I’ve kept in touch with many old friends, but also used memories of others in the Witch City series, and they don’t even know it! High time I thanked them–and I will!

  2. “You cannot make any new old friends.” What a wonderful line! As it happens, my husband and I were talking about our high school and college friends just the other night. I’m still in touch with one of my best high school friends, and several of my college friends (including my freshman roommate, who I visited a couple of years ago). We may not see each other often, and our communications may be limited to holiday cards (if that), but whenever we are together, we seem to pick up right where we left off. That shared history is priceless and should be treasured.

    Looking forward to Fogged Inn!

  3. I’m delighted to have your book on the top of my stack, Barb. You’ve been getting some pretty amazing reviews, too. I’m also in touch, sporadically with some old old friends. Among them I count several first cousins. It feels so important to know people who you knew way back when: when you were kids, in high school, in college.

  4. I can’t wait to read the final version of Fogged Inn! It’s a great story. I’m lucky to have stayed in touch with many old friends and have been to lots of reunions with sorority sisters. Moving a lot as a military wife has given us lots of friends in different places. And as much as we shake our heads over social media, it’s helped me to find lots of people.

    1. I’ve often admired how good military families are at making friends–and keeping them. It’s a real, learned skill. Thank you for all your help with Fogged Inn, which felt at times like The Beast That Would Not Be Tamed.

  5. Barbara, again, a great blog. Thanks for leading me to the graduation speech – some excellent thoughts there. I can’t wait to read the book (it better be delivered by the time I get home)! And a special thanks for reminding us all of the tremendous value of keeping in touch.

  6. What a poignant post, Barb. It really hit home for me. I just lost my college roommate to breast cancer. We had not been in touch for about 6 years, and at the last reunion, she confided to me that she had beaten breast cancer, just like I did. I did not know about the recurrence because I didn’t reach out to see how she was doing. I guess this reply also is to Edith’s post yesterday. I regret my lack of action so much.
    On a much happier note, I just finished Fogged Inn and — no big surprise — absolutely loved it. It’s a sure winnah! Congratulations!!

    1. Susan, my sympathy on the loss of your friend. I know that loss must have been particularly poignant for you.

      I am so glad you loved Fogged Inn! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  7. Barb, what a special post. You’re making me want to pick up the phone and call some people who I’ve been meaning to call and just never gotten around to it. Can’t wait to read Fogged Inn!

  8. Can’t wait, your book series is fun and engages the reader from the first page to the last. I find myself trying to figure out the puzzle every step of the way and being challenged to solve it. Looking forward to this new book.

  9. Happy release day, Barb.
    This is not old-old, but I think about the Seascape conference several of us attended, just a few years ago. Many of us met there and have stayed in touch. Sometimes a single experience is so significant, it bonds you forever.
    A couple of weeks ago, the father of my best friend in junior high school passed away. I had such good memories of this man, but I have lost touch with his daughter. Maybe I should fix that.
    Thank you.

    1. I agree, Ramona. Intense experiences can be so bonding. I often think about the so many things in my life that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Seascape–including being here!

  10. The theme was wonderful and added a great touch to this book. I loved it!

    I have lost touch with many of my old friends outside of Facebook, sadly. There rarely seems to be time to try to see them when I am up visiting my parents. However, over Thanksgiving, I did get together with my best friend from K through 3rd. We hadn’t seen each other in years, and it was great to catch up.

    And how’s this for great timing. I finished the book after hiking three miles up a mountain (one way) to go to a friend’s wedding.

    1. Three miles! That is what I call loyalty and determination.

      I, too, moved away from my hometown after high school, and though I often was back to visit family, I let those friendships slip away.

  11. Thanks for this post today, Barb! I’ve had calling an old friend on my to-do list since last week. I’ve moved it to the front of the line thanks to you.

  12. Thanks for sharing. How true that real friends stay in our hearts no matter how many years have passed since we last spoke. I recently reconnected through FB with a dear childhood friend who broke my heart when her family moved to Phoenix when we were in the fourth grade! We instant messaged for 30 minutes and exchanged phone numbers. It made me so happy, I wept!

  13. Top of my TBR pile.Maine has been on my bucket list for years so reading about it makes me happy. I’m 81 and my bestie is 93 and the keeper of all my secrets A couple of weeks ago she drove over from the next town to cheer me up. I know this new book will warm my heart.

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