I had never in my life watched a lady with such expensive perfume devour chicken wings so passionately. Two hands—like a guy. She too, I’m certain, never sat across the table while some clown so struggled with lobster tails that food went flying across the restaurant.

She married young; I was more seasoned (but immature), yet between us we had 56 years in long-term marriages. But that was then.

She was a Heights girl—Boulevard Elementary, Roosevelt, then Heights High. I was South Euclid: Rowland, Greenview, and Brush. So we never met.

Parallel lives. A lot in common.

We honored our parents, belonged to Park, and each had two girls and a boy.

We were friends before we were friends. And we were destined to be friends. (I had known her brother and her aunt). Moreover, her father and husband held the highest honors: they were my Lodge Brothers.

But I barely knew her.

I did know she could cook. One Pesach in the mid-90’s I was Sederless. Tony, the entrepreneur of Coffee Creations, uber-coffeehouse of the time, had been feeding me thrice daily. He was clearly a Jewish wannabe, and delighted in urging me to join him at his friends’ home for Passover. I did. Like I say…the food was good… and the portions!

Still, I didn’t know her well.

I had seen her at lodge dances, but really didn’t study her. I do recall that even before it was a catchy line on a greeting card she was one of those people that would “dance like no one is watching.” (When I got to know her better it was clear she’d read the same card—she also sings like there is no one listening. That, I might add, is not necessarily a blessing).

Parallel lives.

A decade ago I would have said there was no circumstance that could forge our friendship. And then it did. Coincidence?

We were both rebuilding— inside and out. Two middle-aged kids playing in life’s sandbox. Divorced. Somewhat naïve. Fish out of water. Yet we bonded like Hal and I did with the Fentons our first night on Bayard in ’55.

She showed me her family; I showed her mine. We went swimming and out to eat. And into business. And we shared friendship.

The business died— but the friendship thrived.

And we learned from each other. She taught me how to make a garden. Never change a business appointment. What a camisole is. And that I’m OK. I taught her that Jews don’t eat white bread. And that life goes on. And that she was OK.

She kicked me in the ass if I didn’t call my kids enough. I admonished her for getting down on herself. When the bell rang we were honest with each other and there for each other. That’s what friends are for.

And then as often happens, we moved to new neighborhoods. Time and change….and newer friends. Never, though, even to this day, too busy for each other. Last December I danced at her baby’s wedding. This September she’ll dance at Stacy’s.

Her name is a derivative of a French word meaning “little rock.” Fact is that for many years she was the big rock at the foundation of her beautiful family. And in a most pivotal time in my life she was not only an anchor, but a directional signal.

She is Rochelle, and she is much more than OK.

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