EXCERPT: 'The Recipe Club'

I know when we last spoke, so many moons ago, the problems between us—I mean all of us—were insurmountable (at least they seemed that way to me). Which is why I think you'll find it amazing, if not unbelievable, that at long last my father and I are becoming close. I recently moved back home to live with him. It's temporary. And though it's been good for each of us, it's also been, as you might imagine, less than easy. In fact, right now I'm taking a break at the cabin. (Yes, the family still keeps the place, complete with outhouse and no phone! Can you believe it? So, to get my e-mails I have to trek all the way to Lake Placid, almost forty-five minutes from Keene Valley, to an Internet cafe—which I thank the techno-goddesses for.)

Anyway, at your mother's funeral, you may have noticed my father is a changed man. The infamously stony Isaac Stone is much more vulnerable these days. Your mother's death hit him surprisingly hard. It's the first time I've seen him weep. It must have something to do with all the losses he's facing: a recent retirement. Failing eyes. A broken heart—he's unable to let go of my mother, who's no longer with us. Which brings me back to the real question: why didn't I just reach out to you once I heard about your mother? The truth is, I got scared. I found myself hoping, with all my heart, that you would be the brave one to break our icy silence. And I thank you for that.

I've been a coward. Maybe I just didn't know how to express the simple thing you said: I can't begin to tell you how much it would mean for us to reconnect.

I won't trouble you with the details of my life right now. In summary: deep love, despair, deeper love, deeper despair, and now…well, a sort of limbo place thanks to a lover who can't commit and my own confusion about intimacy. I'm trying to figure it all out, even though that's a bit like trying to lasso the moon.

My heart goes out to you. My thoughts are with you, and your family. Despite the sad reason for your e-mail, I am extremely happy to hear from you. (Do you remember what loyal correspondents we were when we were kids?)

Write again, if you have the time and the interest.

Much love, Lilly p.s. How is "Golden Boy"…Ben? Please send him my love.

to: lstone@dotnet.com from: vrudman@webworld.com date: april 15, 2000 subject: i forgot to tell you something...

Lilly,

I've slowly been going through all of Mom's possessions (which has been very painful, but that's another story). Anyway, among her many things I found a gorgeous flowered hat box—filled with your Recipe Club letters to me!

Remember? They date all the way back to the beginning, when we were about ten years old. They were just as I had left them—a little yellower and crunchier for age, but still organized (even in the infancy of my anal-compulsive style) in chronological order, wrapped neatly in blue and white satin ribbons. Glancing at the postmarks makes me think that a bunch may have gone awol. Perhaps they're in a box I haven't yet uncovered.

I've been reading them, laughing and crying. I realize now that they were truly my first love letters. You, dear Lilly, were the first friend I ever loved, and who loved me back, and whom I continue to love even after all this time apart.

I just had to tell you that I found them. Just like I found you. xxx V.

Part Two: 1964-1973

Dear Val, Do you want to start a real Recipe Club? We could trade recipes in every letter.

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