Recently, a long-time client reached out to me about the possibility of preparing two meals each week for her elderly parents, both nonagenarians who still live in the same house as they have for the past 45 years. Her father, a dear man I met briefly a couple years ago but whom I remember clearly because of the dapper seersucker suit he was wearing in the middle of a warm September afternoon, can no longer cook every day- ya think? Tom suggested I consider this might add to the already-overloaded pile of to-dos onto which I've signed, but I just keep thinking of my Nanny and how if I lived in Lake Charles, I'd make time to do this very same thing for her. And really, I usually cook more dinner than we need so twice a week, to prepare with them in mind, seems easy as pie.
So I said yes, inquired about taste preferences, dietary limitations and the like, and got to it. This afternoon I brought over plates of roasted potatoes and thick slices of turkey meatloaf, a bowl of cantaloupe and a plate of lemon poundcake. I served it all on our own china, as I would have for my Nanny. It made my day to see these folks. They'd taken a drive to see the cherry blossoms but the neighborhood they visited was bare, the blossoms scattered asunder by recent winds and rain. We talked about this and that, I told them what awaited them and how to reheat. I thought again about Nanny and how grateful I am anytime someone brings her a good, home-cooked meal dosed with a real shake of love. I thought about how much love and support and kindness I've been lucky to receive and how much of a true pleasure it is to give some back, even if it's not my Nanny I'm cooking for.
There are different ways of giving of yourself, you know? Not infrequently I encounter folks who are rather like dementors (for you Harry Potter fans). They just take and take, sucking on and bending your ear in every which way but as soon as you seek some reciprocal interaction...well, you've never seen such quick exits. As if you inadvertently threw out your best expecto patronum: BAM! They're gone.
But in giving to others whose gratitude or sense of giving back are equally as strong as is yours, you are replenished, made bigger, restored in the best of ways. And that is how I felt when I became reacquainted with this wonderful couple earlier today. I know how much their kids love them, I can sense what very fine people they are. And so, although I don't receive anything directly from them, I do. I feel the warmth of sharing love and caring through good, thoughtfully-prepared food. I look at them as role models, of how to age gracefully and happily. I look at their marriage and think, wow, to grow old with someone for more than five decades is really amazing. I thought about how glad I am that I'm going to get to see these folks twice a week. I thought of my Nanny and how she, as I'm sure have they, has put so much love and goodness out into the world during her life. And perhaps if I can give to them as I would to her, I'll help keep the karmic cycle of paying it forward, paying it around, circulating.
This sense of interconnectedness is one reason I love tending my garden. If I take care of it, it returns, year after year, offering itself as a beautiful gift. No matter the weather, most of the time, the strength of each little plant pushes it towards warmth and light every spring. This time of year I go outside on a daily basis to check the progress. Sometimes I worry- did this one or that one just not make it? But more often than not, they're just moving at their own pace: "I'll emerge from the earth when I'm ready, thank you very much." A reminder that with tending must often and also come patience. A wait-and-see relinquishing of control. A recognition that not everything can be had immediately.
As a garden takes nurture, so too do relationships and community. And though Tom often says I'll make friends with a wall if it's in line with me, I still think that extending the hand of connection is worth it. Remaining open to people and experiences is what keeps minds young, things fresh. Some Em-i-lis food for thought tonight, dear readers.