Here’s to you, My Friends

Aug 20, 2023

It’s Riverfest here in Elora this weekend.  The sun is currently shining and it’s a gorgeous and beautiful morning with stacks of opportunity sitting out in front of me for how I could spend my Saturday.  It’s rare to have a weekend where not much is taking place during these precious months, and so I need to be sure to take a few moments to sit and appreciate the time that I’ve been given.  With all that is transpiring downtown, uptown, and around town, however, there is one thing that’s on my mind more than any other right now, and I’m taking that as a sign of content for this week’s entry.  So, here’s to you, my friends.

Twenty some-odd years ago, I walked into the halls of Georgian College, not knowing anyone but keen, eager and excited to start a new chapter in my life, diving into what I was certain would be a rags to riches, famed career in the culinary industry.  My classes were lined up, I had a place to stay, and a car to my name; I was feeling good about my choice of direction in life, though I was perhaps more than a little nervous about the people I would meet and if I would/could establish new friendships with any ease.  The first few days and weeks went by just fine – there were certainly a cast of characters through my class schedule, but because I didn’t live in residence, there wasn’t really anything forcing us to hang out or get together outside of the “learning” environment.  It wasn’t until one fateful evening, when a bunch of us decided to head out to the campus pub for beers after one of our later sessions that I really got to know anyone.  We had the usual type of fun at the bar one might expect from a group of college freshmen, and once we shut the place down, I invited a smaller crew back to my apartment to carry on in acoustic jams and shots of whatever I had kicking around (I think it was Baileys’ and Sour Puss…yeah, not all choices made that evening were great ones).  The remaining details and events of that evening are really inconsequential – the thing that mattered most and stands true to this very day, is that I met one of the most important people in my life, and from that day to this, we’ve carried on adventure after adventure, without any signs of stopping.

Eventually I moved out of the apartment I was in and, alongside another of the closest people in my life, we rented a house…we rented THE house.  The three of us, through work, school and shenanigans I can’t repeat, built a home that became the central grounds for campus parties, work gatherings, endless pranks (sorry again for the beef bouillon cubes I placed in the shower head), and ground zero for countless RBI baseball home run derbies and, of course, epic ping pong battles, to which I will boldly claim the crown for – that’s right, gauntlet thrown!  We were not a belligerent crowd by any means, but I do know that we also weren’t the favourite house on the block.  Still, we created some of the finest memories within those walls, just as we crafted some of the finest meals of my life, and I’d like to take a quick moment to thank the college for providing us with a wonderful supply of expensive meats and produce throughout our tenure at your facility; I wonder if they’ve since cracked down on allowing students into the walk-ins with their school bags and knife kits in hand?

Our time in that house was unforgettable, but it was also rather tiring given the endless stream of entertaining we would do, and so we decided to move on from our humble little abode; and while one of our trio moved back closer to their roots,  two of us stayed behind and continued forging our time together as roommates, renting another apartment, crashing on couches via house-sitting ventures, and otherwise carrying about our escapades in life together.  From enjoying our morning coffee routine at Fil’s Diner, attending a slew of concert events, crashing in on out of hand figure skating parties at random hotels, to playing on stages together and wandering downtown in search of ‘whatever’, we had some of the best times together in Barrie, Ontario.  We commiserated and guided each other through some tough times and some real heartbreak, bonding regularly over Star Trek and B-Horror movie marathons and frozen fish sticks whenever we needed ‘bro-time’.  Sitting here now, trying to remember all of the things we saw and did seems like an impossibility, but I’ll remember and hold on to the core feeling that those years provided me, regarding them as some of the fondest in my life, and I’m happy that the story didn’t end there.

Eventually we all found ourselves on adventures far from that city.  We moved away, off to varying destinations and with varying goals in mind, but no matter where we were or how far away it was, we always naturally kept in touch.  Camping trips became a great way for us to triangulate our locations and find ground to meet on; beer and fishing rods in hand.  Each year went by with new stories and plenty to catch up on, and though the time between may always seem like a stretch, there is never a beat skipped when it comes to how connected we still are.  In addition to the stories we’d collected while apart, we also started to build up our families, taking turns standing next to each other on the big stage, and evolving our get togethers from a trio of college-aged miscreants, to family men, with like: real jobs!  Time flies when you’re getting older, and while we may have moved to lighter beer, an earlier bed time, and the need to carry pill containers with us, I still laugh harder than I do at any other point in the year, and I’m so proud of the people we’ve become and the traditions we carry out, and it is those traditions that has inspired all of these thoughts today.

I am proud of the people that we are, the bond that we’ve created, the ways in which we encourage one another, and how who we are is reflected in the beautiful families we’re all a part of.  One of us had to be the the first to take the parenting leap, and the way you have raised your incredible daughters has always been an inspiration to me, and a guiding light into how I navigate parenthood myself.  With history and traditions on the brain today – our regular summer trip up to Bancroft to ‘get the band back together’ has taken a hiatus this year, and for the best reasons possible.  Now, as the next member of our troupe to enter this unbelievable stage in life, I am beyond excited to meet the newest addition to your (can I say our?) family.  Every thought in my brain is with you, your amazing bride and your adorable little lady these days.  When I think of how all of our lives intersected and have since evolved over the course of 20 friggin’ years!, with our trio growing now to 11, I can’t help but think of the how this tradition will only continue to get better.  So, while we won’t see you in the usual way this weekend, I’m still taking the time to enjoy looking through pictures, and reflecting on some of the finest memories, anticipating the day soon to come when I can give a proper congratulations to you and your wife, and hug my new niece.  I love you guys.

1 Comment

  1. Cindy Collins

    I’ve always known how much you guys meant to each other since those college days. But to read your heartfelt message Phil brings tears to my eyes knowing how much! Just knowing how Derek’s friendship brought such lifelong happiness to you means everything to me. The three of you are very special sons. And your lives were meant to intertwine! Thank you for sharing your heartfelt appreciation for my son, daughter in law and granddaughter being family to you and yours! Love you always Phil! Cindy


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