Drink 24: Margarita

The Date: October 12

The Friend: Amy (Welch) Nelson

The Place: Agave Mexican Bistro, Portsmouth, NH

The Drink: Margarita (for Paco)

Amy WelchThe Story: I grew up with Amy in a ballet studio. I think we met when I was 8 and she was 6, but maybe we were 9 and 7. Regardless, it was a l-o-n-g time ago. She’s one of very few people I have known most of my life that I am still friends with.

Amy and I are the same height. We have always pretty much had the same body, too. We’re bookends. We were either paired up, in the center of the line or on either end of some formation in every single recital, every single year.

Though we were always friendly in the ballet studio, when we were kids, we weren’t that close. We went to different high schools and, in our non-ballet lives, she was a popular cheerleader and I was a newspaper editor. We lost touch when I graduated high school and went off to college.

Flash forward a few years. I was 24 and sitting in The Wild Rover with my high school best friend, Jeff, and he was telling me all about this girl he had just started dating. He was crazy about her. It was Amy this and Amy that and Amy, Amy, Amy and he couldn’t wait for me to meet Amy. Then, he looked up and said “here she comes.”

I looked up, saw “my” Amy walking our way, turned back to him and said “that’s NOT your Amy, is it?” His face completely dropped and he said “why?” as if I knew something horrible about her. He was crushed.

Then she saw me and I launched out of my chair and the two of us started hugging and squealing and laughing and saying “oh my God, it’s YOU” while Jeff stood there completely confused about what was going on. When we finally calmed down enough to tell him that we had known each other since we were little kids, he was blown away. Then delighted. See, Jeff’s best friend is Jason and our little foursome came together easily and organically. Before you knew it, the four of us were inseparable. Like I’ve said before, we had more fun than we had any right to.

Despite how much fun we had, Amy and Jeff ultimately split up, as did Jay and I. Amy and I didn’t, though. Our friendship stayed strong for years, She’d come down to Boston and play with me and my group of friends and I’d go to Portsmouth and play with her and her group of friends. For a while, I dated a nice Irish guy in Portsmouth so I’d spend even more time up there. And, Amy spent a lot of years hanging out with me and my friends in the Amoskeag rugby crowd. There are so many stories, antics and shenanigans. As I think of them, all I can do is literally just shake my head. A common denominator: laughter. Anytime I picture one of our adventures, I just see the two of us laughing and laughing.

I have literally danced on a bar with Amy. It was St. Patrick’s Day eve at The Wild Rover. We knew most of the staff, drank there often enough to be family and were granted an extension on closing time with a small group that night. At some point, at about a million o’clock (and shortly before we got busted by one of the owners coming in to start the corned beef and cabbage), Amy and I climbed up on the bar and started dancing – just because the situation called for it. I am quite sure there are pictures. I won’t go digging them up – for both our sakes.

There are other pictures, too. There are pictures of us at rugby proms in ridiculous dresses. There are pictures of us at recitals in all manner of costumes. There are pictures of us dressed to the nines for nights on the town.

There is, however, one picture I am going to try to dig up. It’s an iconic picture of Amy and I from one night in 1998 or 1999 in Boston. We were walking home with a group of people from a fantastic night at one of my favorite bars and our route took us by The Four Seasons Hotel. There just happened to be a luggage cart sitting unattended out front. We both hopped on it and someone snapped the picture: Steph and Amy as luggage. We were laughing in it, too, of course. It is perfect.

A few years later, though, our paths wandered away from each other and I haven’t seen much of Amy for the past seven or eight years. Nothing happened; we just drifted apart. I always knew where to find her and she always knew where to find me (her brother lives just a few doors down the street from me) but we moved in different directions.

When I started this project, I knew Amy had to be among the 40 so I reached out to her and she was happy to be asked so we made a date to meet in Portsmouth. An amazing and wonderful thing happened that night. We realized how great it was to see each other and just how many memories and stories and fun times we shared. And we remembered how much we liked each other.

A few days after our dinner, I got an email from Amy with a heartfelt note asking me if I would come to her wedding, which was just a few weeks away. I was thrilled to be asked and, of course, said yes immediately.

The next time I saw her, she told me that she had such a fantastic time at dinner that she went home and told Brian, her then fiancée, now husband, how special our relationship was. Brian, who I am getting to know a little now, told her that if it was that important to her, then she needed to invite me. I was really touched by the invitation because I knew that it was a small wedding. A tiny wedding, actually – only about 60 people. At that size, you know that each one of the guests is special to the couple in some way.

I know this story is about Amy but I can’t help but talk about Brian a little, mostly because he brings the absolute best out of Amy. Spending time with her now, I can see that she has become, without a doubt, the very best version of herself and I’ve told her so. Brian is also tall, handsome, charming and has a great smile. That Amy is one lucky gal.

I was sitting at their wedding, just before Christmas, in a beautiful, colonial-era chapel on the seacoast. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was streaming in the 100-year-old windows, giving the entire setting a dappled golden hue. During the ceremony, I was struck most by the way that Brian looked at Amy. I’ve been to a lot of weddings in my time but, at this one, I was struck by how he looked at her. I felt it, literally, in my core. He looked like he was the luckiest man alive, like he was so in love and like he was in awe of his own good fortune to be marrying this wonderful woman.

I told them each that night that that is what I am looking for and that, someday, I hope to find the man who will look at me the way Brian looked at Amy on their wedding day.

Margaritas For PacoThe Drink: Back in the Jeff and Jay days, one fall afternoon the four of us went apple picking. Amidst our usual antics, Jeff wandered off a row or two from the rest of us and, out of nowhere, Jay started calling for him – sort of. He called into the orchard, “Paco? Paco, where are you? Paco?” And then, from a row of trees away we hear, “coming Papa!”

Nobody had any idea where it came from but those two were always horsing around and most of it was pretty hysterical. We ended up in fits of laughter over it and called for Paco many times throughout the years.

When Amy and I were trying to figure out what to drink to commemorate our many years of friendship and shared history, she said, “we have to have a Margarita. For Paco.” And so we did.

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