The eastern sky is a solid wall of pinkish-orange, verging on that only-at-sunrise red, and the clouds make a fish scale sort of herringbone pattern. If I was a sailor, I’d be taking warning.
Rabbits are fed and watered (including our free-range skipper, Oscar, who gambols about the back yard, pushing snow aside to get at the tough grass below), last night’s dinner dishes are drying in the drainer, and my mug of green tea is warm but not too hot, safe now to drink without scalding my mouth. A fresh ball of no-knead artisan bread dough is tucked into an old yellow Pyrex mixing bowl on top of the fridge to rise all day, and I’ve just scraped the last spoonful of plain yogurt mixed with dark chocolate cinnamon granola out of the little ceramic bee bowl I bought from Gina at White Swan Studios—a favorite artist I met a few years back at a Country Living Fair. All in all, a glorious start to the day.
We’re going to visit with friends later this morning for brunch, and it’s impossible not to bring gifts (we’ve tried). The common ground between us is rich and beloved—Patrick worked with both of them in medical supplies sales, and shortly after their first daughter was born, we began gathering around food. Our first dinner together was Mexican-themed. Jen is an incredibly skilled cook and baker (ask me sometime about the macaroons she makes); no one went hungry that night. They have two daughters now, and that’s where the gifts come into play. They’re adorable (the girls, not the gifts), and I’m a sucker for their squeals of delight when they reach into the paper bag and pull out something with their names on it. We’ve checked in with their parents on all this, and continue to receive a gracious green light. The older daughter shares my affinity for anything Hello Kitty, the younger one is all social and loves Elsa from Frozen. Patrick and Russell share mechanical interests. There’s always lots to talk about, and today will be no different. We’re bringing everything we need to make panini, some macaroni and cheese for the girls, and a paper bag filled with joy.
When we moved out here, coming up on twenty years ago, we stretched the bonds of friendships that were more city-based and nurtured, not realizing that, over time, the visits and phone calls would wane and move into months, then years without much contact. No deliberate event tinged with anger or offense, just everyone getting on with the lives that were immediately in front of us. I suspect that if we all found ourselves in the same room again, we’d bridge the gap with smiles and curiosity, make good on promises to get together with food between us, and keep the storytelling up for hours. When a friendship can do that, it’s pure gift.
That’s not to say we don’t need to work at these long-distance relationships. I’d not be so casual and cavalier to expect that I bear no responsibility for the essential maintenance that all healthy human bonds require. But the rules of engagement must be elastic, and mutually agreed-upon. Then all parties involved can get on with it and collect the memories that good friends cherish as sacred currency in the economy of love. My purse, so far, has never been empty.
So we drive to Columbus or Delaware or Rochester, NY, or they come out here (wearing boots and jeans most times, because long walks are on the agenda), we eat like food was just invented, and talk about the important things. There is always laughter, sometimes tears, and a decent helping of philosophy with a few guaranteed ‘this would fix the world” strategies tossed in (followed by a sighing of “if only we were in charge”…). It’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, giving us all something to look back on when we’re slogging through an especially slow Wednesday.
Not bad for a bag full of Hello Kitty and Frozen, and a hot panini press on the counter.