Archive for April 4, 2011

Paving the Way for Welcome Surprises

My stepchildren in Texas tell me they are enjoying a summer-like 82 degrees this last week of March. Up north, the pup and I walk streets bordered with an almost sculptural, frothy meringue of slowly receding snow accumulation, and at 28 during a pre-breakfast trot, our temperature is reversed. But the natural artistry of that crystallized curb-cover enchants me. “What a welcome surprise,” I observe to my unimpressed furry companion, “wrapping up a prolonged arctic season of not-so-welcome-surprises.” 

Life is like that, too. In varying degrees, our paths may be strewn with unanticipated unpleasantries. Perhaps that’s why the joy of an unforeseen gift has such a glitter about it. In my own experience, the real tragedies have been things I brought upon myself – natural consequences of accepting the group-think mentality of the popular culture. (“PC” stands for “politically correct” in most circles; to me it stands for “practically comatose,” as in, don’t bother applying critical thinking, just float along on the stream of conventional wisdom.) 

I am perpetually thankful to have those mindless days behind me. But in the course of doing a bit of moving around and a lot of floundering as a young adult, I ended up in my late-thirties with a wonderful husband, a fresh start, and trunk loads of regret over having lost touch with important people in my life. One day about fifteen years ago, said wonderful husband – who is also patient and eminently rational – responded to my moanings on this subject with a suggestion: Maybe I could locate one of the parents of my two dearest fourth-through-ninth grade girl friends, whose friendship I desperately missed.  

A decade and a half later, I have reconnected with, corresponded with, visited and been visited by, and now communicate regularly with both – two gems from the past, unearthed and treasured. What an astonishing turn of events, to be accepted back into their lives unconditionally, after decades of separation.  As a bonus, the sibling of one of them has joined the group, making us a jolly “sistahood” of four. Precious stuff. 

Emboldened by this discovery, I reached out to others: a former mother-in-law whom I adored, which led to visits with an admired former sister-in-law as well; a long-lost cousin with whom I share bonds of common interests and faith that I would never have imagined; another like-minded cousin discovered by accident on Facebook just last year; my best friend from high school, whose brother I tracked down and took to lunch one day, the ripples of re-acquaintance spreading from there; former neighbors and high school chums.

When my father became seriously ill five years ago, I also contacted people from our shared past. In particular two very dear men, one my father’s best friend from graduate school whose memory and influence have never left me, and who kindly emailed me daily when Dad’s health crisis was at a climax. The second, one of my dad’s navy buddies, another very dear man whose delightful caretaker son – whom I last saw when he was still a mischievous tween – turns out to be a spiritual “brother” whom I now count as a trusted friend and confidante. 

Each of these “reconnectings” has been a blessing in my life. Welcome and unexpected gifts, cautiously rewoven from the remnants of important ties once eroded through neglect and self-consciousness. Little surprise packages dropped on my doorstep by a loving Heavenly Father. 

Bringing about unexpected moments of wonder is, of course, much simpler when it comes to the culinary realm. Let’s explore a few possibilities together, and then invite an old friend over for an interestingly unpredictable menu of, say, Arabic stuffed zucchini known as Kusa Mashi, a Salad of Marinated Vegetables, and Mango Coconut Bread Pudding for dessert. Non-foodies, feel free to jump to the last paragraph. (more…)

April 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

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