~ Part Three ~
April 7, 2023
This is the third installment of my friendship stories.
~ Jeri ~
I’m fortunate to have three longtime treasured friends. Two from my childhood, Elaine and Nina. And Jeri, who dates back to my early thirties. Given that I’m in my seventies now, that’s a long time too. Early thirties sounds very young to me these days!
I met Jeri through my husband’s job with Skipper’s Seafood and Chowder House restaurants. Her husband, Sam, was Mike’s boss. This was back in the day when the Northwest company was still owned by the founders, and there were a lot of Skippers in the region.
I’d see Jeri at restaurant openings, and we always enjoyed each other’s company, but because we didn’t live near each other, it didn’t go beyond restaurant events.
A few years passed, and we moved from Federal Way, Washington, to Greeley, Colorado, to open our own Skipper’s franchise. Sam and Jeri flew out from Washington to attend our grand opening. We’d picked Greeley because it was in the fastest-growing county in the nation. However, the area fell into a recession shortly after our opening, so eventually Mike accepted a job with the Skipper’s franchisee in Anchorage, Alaska.
We moved to Alaska in the early summer with our two young boys, Casey and Spencer, to a lovely home in a neighborhood full of young families, plus the occasional moose and bear. I was happy to return to my profession as a freelance commercial artist. Anchorage’s population was about 250,000, with great shopping, restaurants, friendly people, and lots of work for me. The summer days were long, never fully dark, and fun. But getting used to the long, dark winters was rough.
I grew up in the snowless San Francisco Bay Area. Even though I had already lived in Federal Way and Greeley’s occasional snow, this was a little much. After months and months of winter comes Spring. However, Spring in Alaska is a lot different from the Springs I was used to. There are no cherry blossoms, daffodils, and chirping birds. It’s the time of year when you trade your snow boots for knee-high rubber boots. The snow melts a little each day, and all the dog poop buried under several feet of it comes to the surface and thaws, perfuming the air with its stinky aroma. Then everything freezes again during the night.
So what does this have to do with my friendship with Jeri?
I’m getting there.
After our first looong Alaskan winter, I was down in the dumps (way down) and needed a vacation. My husband had got a break when he traveled to Boca Raton on business, but I stayed home with the kids. I was dreaming of laying on the hot sand and soaking up the sun in Cancún or Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. First, I asked my friend Nina if she could go, and she couldn’t because her husband (now longtime ex) didn’t like “babysitting” his kids. Next, I asked my neighbor, Carol, and she couldn’t go. And I knew Elaine couldn’t go. So that was that. Then my husband, Mike, suggested Jeri. I thought, “I really like her, but I don’t know her well, so why would she go on a trip with me?”
Mike convinced me to call her. I felt silly doing it, but to my surprise, she accepted. However, she said she didn’t want to go to Mexico but would love to go to Hawaii. Turns out that my sneaky husband had called her before I did and asked her to go with me.
I flew down to her house in Washington, and then we flew to Maui together. I’d never been to the islands and was instantly in love. Beautiful balmy days, clear warm ocean water. Jeri and I became close friends on that trip.
After living in Anchorage for about five years, our government decided that purchasing our oil from the Middle East was preferable to Alaska, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. That caused those oil-producing regions to go into recession. The banks shut down, our jobs dried up, everyone was leaving the state, and our house lost all its value, even though we still had a big mortgage.
It was hard leaving Alaska and all our friends behind, but I was very excited to be moving to where you can grow vegetables all year round! Mike flew to California ahead of me; however, I needed a longer transition and wanted to drive out of Alaska. Guess who agreed to make the journey with me and my five-year-old and eleven-year-old? Jeri!
She flew up, and we all made the 3,000+ miles trip in my little Dodge Colt Vista wagon in July, 1988. At one point, the boys were arguing in the backseat. We were on the empty Dempster (dirt) Highway somewhere in the Yukon. I stopped the car and told Casey and Spencer to tell each other five reasons why they loved each other. By the third reason, we were all laughing, and that’s when Jeri told me she had thought long and hard about being trapped with us in that little car in the middle of nowhere—and this was why she was with us.
Sam and Jeri eventually relocated to Santa Clara, CA, and worked for Fresh Choice restaurants. A few years later, they moved to Sacramento to open their own microbrew restaurants. The restaurants and beers were fabulous!
Through the years, Jeri and I have had our share of disappointments and heartache. Shortly after our oldest son, Casey, had his wedding in our backyard, Sam succumbed to cancer after a long, horrendous battle. Sam was determined to go to our oldest son’s wedding, even though he was dreadfully sick at that time. He even helped us set up. During his prolonged illness, I drove up to Sacramento to help Sam and Jeri. That experience helped me a few years later when my husband got throat cancer. Sam was a good guy, and they made a great team.
Jeri and I have had some memorable adventures through the years. We love Disneyland and are planning to go again soon. We’re like a couple of kids! If we love a ride, we dash around and do it again. On our last visit, we rode the roller coaster on the California Adventure side four times in a row!
We traveled to New Orleans when Jeri was president of her Rotary chapter. Bill Gates was the guest speaker.
Her son’s significant other was employed at Fox Studios, so she arranged for us to attend American Idol every year for many years—boy, do we have some stories to tell! We still watch the show.
We also walked the red carpet at the premiere of
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine movie at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
– right behind Hugh Jackman!
We had a private tour of Fox Studios (so interesting),
and were on Hell’s Kitchen. Here’s a photo I took when it was on TV.
BTW – the food was fabulous!
And I’m getting super excited about going to
Disneyland again with Jeri!