Category Archives: Musings

Bad guys and Good Friday

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Good Friday is grim.  It’s horrifying and violent and brutal, this day where a man was tortured and nailed to a cross and left hanging there for hours until he died.

This is why I’ve said very little about it to my kids.

Every parent knows that the innocence of  children is something precious and fragile. The first chapter of Random MOMents of Grace is all about this, about how I instinctively want to shield my young kids from the inevitable realization that bad stuff happens.  Why force them to confront the awful brutality of one human being to another?  Though they go to Mass every week and are no stranger to a crucifix (in their room they have one that belonged to Scott as a kid), we rarely talk about the death of Jesus.

If I had my way they’d never have to know that there is such a thing as deliberate cruelty.  Is it wrong to want to skip over  the crown of thorns and the nails and proceed directly to Easter Sunday, to the sunrise and the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ and the bunnies and lilies?

But perhaps — just perhaps — they’re more ready for the cross than I think they are.

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As I work around the house, I listen to the boys play with Legos, with action figures, with toy cars.  Increasingly, it’s about bad guys versus good guys.  ”These are the bad guys!”  one of the boys will say,  showing me some smiling yellow Lego people.  “And these are the good guys!” they’ll say, showing me some more smiling yellow Lego people.  If it’s not Lego figures,  it’s Batman or Spiderman and the Green Goblin.  Whatever they’re playing with, their toy universe is divided: good versus evil.  (It’s a divide that doesn’t leave much room for redemption, for bad people becoming good, but they’ll get to that someday.)

What their play shows me is that somewhere along the way, they’ve picked up the concept of evil. They know there are bad people who do bad things, like chase Spiderman or attempt to catch the good Lego folk.  I’m profoundly grateful that their image of bad  behavior is still, on the one hand, abstract, that evil has not directly touched their lives in a horrifyingly personal way.  And yet I have to admit that as much as I have tried to protect them, the jig is up.

Just the other day, Luke was looking at a picture book called The Week That Led to Easter.  There was a picture of the Crucifixion (minimally disturbing; no blood or gore).  He pointed to the Roman centurions in the foreground. “Those are the bad guys,” he said, and it hit me: They get it.  They get it more than I thought they did.  Bad people exist.  Bad things happen.

Good Friday happened.  And I can’t pretend that my boys’ tiny little loss of innocence has not happened, either.

Maybe, then, it’s no longer about keeping them from knowing about the horror.  Maybe it’s about helping them look beyond the horror, learning how to integrate it into a larger spiritual framework.  It’s about showing them that there is something big and beautiful beyond the evil, whatever that evil is.

Recently I was re-reading Margaret Silf’s wonderful book The Other Side of Chaos.  She speaks about the Gospel story of the death of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead.  She points out that this story is not about a God who says Do this and I will keep bad things from happening to you.  It’s something very different:

Lazarus, through the ministry of Jesus, transcends the power of death, but not before he has actually gone through it.  Whatever the facts may be surrounding this incident, the message is clear: “If you follow me, the angel of death will not pass over you and save you from what you fear, but you and I together will pass through the worst that you fear, and by doing so we will transcend it.” (The Other Side of Chaos, pages 133-134)


I need this kind of faith : a tough faith, one that accepts the existence of pain while helping me see that pain is not the end of the story.  I need the God who says, yes, I will walk with you through this dark valley and it will be dark and terrifying, but there will be light on the other side, and I will help you get there.  I say that knowing that in those moments of crisis,  it may take me a long long time to get to the light, and that my faith may be — no, surely
will  be — rocked.  But I trust in  the light, because I know it’s there.

So maybe I don’t need to hide Good Friday  from my boys, nor do I need to take the other extreme and harp on the blood and gore.  Maybe it’s about acknowledging the cross, the loss, the death and darkness of the day, while always reminding them that on the third day, all of that is transcended.  Those days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday are the Christian faith in miniature, really: a tough and unflinching acceptance of the awfulness of pain, and yet a promise that it will not stay that way.

If I gave them Good Friday without Easter, it would be awful indeed.  The good news is that I don’t have to.   I can acknowledge the death and pain in the context of a broader and beautiful truth, one that the boys already seem to know intuitively, one that shows up in all their Lego and action figure play:  In the end, goodness wins.

Summer of the Socks

Artistic rendering

Artistic rendering

So in five and a half years of blogging, I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m guest-blogging on a fashion blog.   It’s called Do I Look Typical?, and it’s a blast.

Here’s the start of my post, called “Ginny’s Summer of the Socks”:

Fashion trendsetting is not my thing.  I’m basically your wear-black-pants-at-least-three-days-a-week kind of gal, occasionally rummaging in my closet for a scarf when I want to get really edgy.

But there was a summer in my life when I was on the cutting edge of fashion.  I was ten, and I can safely say that no one else was wearing what I was wearing.  At least, that’s what my older sister Amy used to tell me, but she didn’t say it like it was a good thing.

You can read the rest over at  Do I Look Typical?    Have a happy weekend!

Rain, rain, don’t go away

 

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Rain is a morning full of slick highways and traffic snarls.  It’s leaving five minutes earlier for work and still arriving five minutes late.

And yet rain is also the blissful feeling of being warm and dry inside.  It’s an invitation to get cozy with a cup of tea and a good book, a book that is somehow even better  when read to the sound of drops drumming on the roof.

Rain is small boys in fireman slickers and boots.  It’s a chance to marvel at the fact that puddles and boys seem to have a magnetic attraction to each other.  It’s learning that — boots notwithstanding —  those boys will get their jeans soaked,  and that a change of clothes is a small price to pay for a half-hour’s joyful slosh through the sidewalk gutters.

Rain is the promise of color. It  turns the hills of drought-stricken California from an eerie moonscape gray-brown  into a beautifully vivid green.  It makes the commute look like a drive through England, inviting memories of long-ago travels and dreams of future itineraries.

Rain is hope for the future.  It waters the thirsty crops in the Central Valley and the flowers in my front-yard beds.  It makes California water experts breathe a little more easily.

Most of all, rain is a teacher.  It reminds us that there are many things in nature that we can’t control.  It tells us to slow down and scale back our to-do lists while inviting us to channel the puddle-jumping spirit of childhood.  It teaches us patience, and gratitude.   And I’m very, very glad it’s here.

What do you love about the rain?

Why women love period dramas

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We’re a week away from the season finale of Downton Abbey,  which is the perfect time to reflect upon a fascinating topic: Period dramas and the women who love them.  

Downton Abbey  is fabulous, true, but for most of us it’s just the latest entry in a long list of engrossing costume dramas.   Many of us can  trace our love of these films  back to the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, or to the Merchant Ivory films of the late ’80s.  These films taught us to  associate big English country houses with pure, unadulterated viewing happiness.

And why is that, exactly?  Why do we females tend to prefer films about aristocrats with hyphenated last names over films where a rogue CIA agent has to stop a madman from blowing up a large office building?

I have my theories.

1) The clothes.  I’m not a girly-girl, but I have to say, I would looooooove to wear the gowns that show up in these dramas.  Deep inside of me is some very little girl who still likes to play dress-up, and these films are like catnip for her.  (Related thought: I think one reason women dream of their wedding day is because it’s the one time in their lives when they get to dress like a  woman from another century.)

2) The houses.  My own home is a postwar tract house, the West Coast version of Levittown.  It is not without charm, and I am happy here, but the sight of Downton Abbey or Pemberley or Romola Garai’s house in the 2009 adaptation of Emma always makes me think, Ooh, what would it be like to live in a place with so much history and so much land and so much closet space?

And have you noticed that these houses never have Legos and Playmobil parts scattered about the floor?

Photo credit: Rob Bendall

Photo credit: Rob Bendall

3) The men.  Yes, some of the male characters in these dramas are real rotters, but I’m not talking about them.  I’m talking about the fact that most of the men in these films are gentlemen.  They stand up when women enter the room and are gracious and treat ladies with  respect and unforced courtesy.  That said, if I go too deeply into this line of thought I am forced to admit that these same  guys probably thought that women shouldn’t have the vote, which is definitely no bueno.  But there is still something very seductive about a world where it is always ladies first.  (One of my parenting goals, incidentally,  is to raise my boys to be both chivalrous and to believe that women can be president.  Check back in ten years and I’ll let you know how it’s going.)

4) These period dramas  are literary.  Most of them are based upon great books of the past, and as such, they come from a place of strong characterization and good storytelling.  Even those that aren’t based on classic novels feel as if they are.   Good stuff.

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George Eliot wrote the novel. (Yes, that’s Lord Grantham on the right.)

5) We women grew up reading books like The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables.  When you have fond childhood memories of these novels, you automatically have a warm feeling toward any story involving moors, large estates, or shoes that button up.  Think of these kids’ books as the gateway drug to Austen and Brontë.  (Isn’t it nice to be addicted?)

6) The insults.  When people in these films want to put someone else down, they usually do so very elegantly, with Austen’s surgically precise wit or with Maggie Smith’s perfect one-line zingers.  No one resorts to the f-bomb.  That makes a nice change from today’s lazy insults.

7) Romance that makes you wait.  It usually builds at a slow boil (think Elizabeth/Darcy) and often  culminates in a dreamy scene like the one in the train station at the end of Elizabeth Gaskell’s  North and South  (if you’ve never seen it, correct that as soon as possible).   The dance scene between Emma and Knightley in the aforementioned Emma is also a great example of how sexy a meaningful glance can be.   Overall, these period dramas prove that a kiss is most exciting when it takes a while for that kiss to happen.

8)  These dramas make me appreciate my own era in a new way.   This theory is a rapid departure from all the others, but it’s true that even when I am wrapped up in the pretty pastel world of tea parties and long gloves, there is usually something in the storyline that makes me oh-so-glad that I live when I do. It might be someone dying of the flu, or a woman stuck in a marriage with a truly terrible man (see Daniel Deronda for the textbook example of this).   Any scene of childbirth in these films makes me count my lucky stars that I was born in the nineteen seventies, because having experienced both an ectopic pregnancy and a breech baby, I’m well aware that either of those could have killed me a century ago.  So even though these adaptations make me oh-so wistful for a bygone time, they also make me glad — when I really, really stop to think about it — that I live when I do.

So that’s my list.  Are you a period drama addict, too?  Why do you love them?  And while we’re at it, what’s your favorite?  (if there’s one I haven’t seen, I want to know!).

Love at the edge of our vision

The back of a bench on a busy street is not exactly where you expect to find a message of love.  But I spotted this last December, as I was walking through Boulder, Colorado.

Love bench

 

There’s a story here, I’m sure, and I have no idea what it is.  All the same, this bench made me happy.   It was an affirmation of love right there in the middle of town, the kind of thing you might pass right by and miss if you don’t happen to be looking in the right direction at just the right moment.

Valentine’s Day is a day for big, unmissable gestures of love.  The roses, the champagne, the romantic evening at an Italian restaurant: it’s a day where you lead with love, where you put it right out there so your special someone can’t miss it.  I like all that, but I don’t want to forget that most of the time, love is expressed in quiet, unostentatious ways, ways that seem so much a part of the landscape of life that we hardly give them another glance.

Love is my husband getting up early to make coffee for me, or rubbing my neck as we watch TV.  It’s my son bringing me a blanket from his room when I’m lying exhausted on the sofa, covering me as if I were a huge doll.   It’s my parents calling to see how that doctor’s appointment went, or my friend and coworker sharing a passage that she read in a spiritual book, one that she knew would make me smile.

It’s easy to walk right by these things and not see them as the statements of love that they are.   Like that bench, they’re just part of the landscape around us.  We move through that landscape daily, our gaze trained ahead on where we need to go, while beautiful signs of love sit right at the edges of our vision.

They’ll be there whether we consciously notice them or not. But isn’t life better when we do?

Think of your day.  Is there a quiet statement of love that you missed today?  

When doing less is more

I need to embrace the hammock, not the to-do list.

I need to embrace the hammock, not the to-do list.

 

This coming Friday — due to some insanely propitious alignment of stars or something —  I have the day off and my kids don’t.

Any parent reading this will understand that I am almost incoherent with giddiness.  I’m simultaneously popping the mental champagne cork and praying that no one suddenly gets sick (knock on the largest tree I can find).  In the middle of all that, though, I’m also faced with a dilemma: how to spend my precious free time?

I’ll just run through the choices here:

1) Go off to a café and work on my latest writing project

2) Hole up with tea and a really good book

3) Dive into a home project that never gets any attention in a normal week (sorting, organizing, scrubbing the tub)

4) Shop/run errands

5) Do “me maintenance” (schedule that long-delayed appointment, etc.)

6) Exercise (if I even remember what that is?)

7) Grade my inevitable stack of papers (sad, but necessary)

Obviously, I have no lack of options here, and I know these options well.  This same difficult choice presents itself pretty much anytime I have a few hours to myself.   So my instinct is usually to do this: Cram in as many things on the list as I possibly can.

Problem is, that do-it-all strategy never quite ends up working out for me.  Even when I lop off the grading and the housecleaning in favor of the enjoyable things, doing too many of them has a cost.  When I’m at the café writing, I’m conscious of the fact that if I want to fit in that trip to Macy’s, I’d better hurry up (a thought that is not necessarily conducive to creative output).   When I’m on that long walk, I’m checking my watch to make sure I’ll still have time to get to the library before picking up the kids.  I end up trying to do so much in a short period of time that I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I could.

Somewhere along the way, we women have trained ourselves to prize efficiency. And I’m not going to knock it; being able to plan and stay on top of the tasks that need doing is essential in making life run more or less smoothly.  But hyper-efficiency has a cost, I’ve found, particularly on a rare day off.  If I spend my me-time trying to tick off every entry on my mental “must-do” list, I end up distracted and tense on what should be a rare period of rejuvenation and rest.

Years ago, I came across this quotation from Thomas Merton in O Magazine.  I tore out the page and have kept it for all this time.

Some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual …There are times, then, when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing.  And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all.  The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform. 

Merton was a pretty smart guy, I think.

It is hard to fight against my natural desire to want to be as efficient as possible, to cram as many things — even good, enjoyable things — into a single period of unstructured me-time.  But I’m finding that less is actually more.

I don’t think I can take this Friday and do nothing with it; that’s too tall an order.  But perhaps I can try to do less than I normally would … and enjoy that less all the more?

It’s worth a try.

Be love

 

This is Mary.

Mary Be Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might know her from various things I’ve written, including this post.  I keep on writing about her because I want everyone who didn’t know her in life to know her anyway.  She was that kind of person.

Mary died two years ago today.  There’s nothing good in that sentence; it’s awful that she died, and it’s awful that it has already been two years, because I don’t want time to dull my memories of her.  Maybe that’s another reason why I keep writing about her: it’s my own way of keeping her alive, or trying to.

Earlier this year, Mary’s sister sent me the picture above.  It was taken just a few months before Mary’s death, and I loved it instantly.  See that sweatshirt?  If it’s hard to read, here’s what it says:

WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?

BE LOVE.

If you had to sum up Mary in two sentences, you can’t do better than these.  Mary never tried to hide her gratitude for the people in her life.  It was right out there, in her huge hugs and her enthusiastic greetings and her love of spending time with friends in any setting.  She always let you know how much you meant to her.   I think her cancer made that even more of a priority.

And if you had to choose any symbol for Mary, it would be a big huge heart, probably one with an open door in it.  Mary’s strength was not just that she loved, but that she loved enough to share others’ pain.  In tough times, she was always the person who would “get it,” even if it was an “it” (like my ectopic pregnancy) that she’d never experienced herself.  I think it’s a gift, that kind of compassion.  It may be a double-edged sword for the person who has it, because it makes them vulnerable, too … but oh, I was blessed so much over the years by Mary’s presence in hard times.

So I guess if I had to say one thing about her today, two years after the day we all lost her, I would take that message on her sweatshirt and think about all the ways that Mary would want us to be love:

Be love to children.  Be love to the poor.  Be love to the elderly.  Be love to those going through hard times. Be love to the immigrants.   Be love to the marginalized.  Be love to those who are searching for belief.  Be love to those suffering from infertility, addiction, depression, loneliness, cancer.  Be love to everyone.  Be love.

Her sweatshirt said it well, but her life said it best.

 

Andy Williams, the sixties, and parents who had the moves

 

It’s fair to say that most people don’t see Sex and the City as being a particularly spiritual show.  When I think back on the show all these years later, though, one episode comes to mind and still has the power to move me.  It’s an episode that  touches on themes that often find their way into my thoughts and my writing:  memory, the past, and parents and children.

If you saw the episode, you probably remember it, too: Carrie Bradshaw and her on-again, off-again boyfriend Mr. Big are standing in his empty apartment.  He’s about to move from NYC to Napa, California, and one of the only things left unpacked is an old record player and stack of albums.  He puts a record on the turntable — the music of Henry Mancini — and “Moon River,” sung by Andy Williams, fills the apartment.

Carrie dismisses the song as corny, but Big insists otherwise.  He tells her that he remembers his parents listening to that very album, getting dressed up to go out dancing for the evening.  “It was the sixties,” he says with nostalgic admiration, “and my parents had the moves.”  He and Carrie start dancing together, and — corny as the saying is — it’s a pretty magical moment.

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When Andy Williams died last year, I found myself remembering  this episode.  I thought of my own parents, too.  They were (and are) fans of his, which was evident from the record albums in their collection. Every Christmas, we brought out his holiday album, and his mellow voice singing “Some Children See Him” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s” was as much a part of the season for me as Santa and the Grinch.

The green album had been bought long before my birth; I used to marvel at the price sticker still on the record cover, so much less than I spent on my own albums.  Sometimes in the eighties, my parents went to a concert of his at the long-gone Circle Star Theatre (remember that, Bay Area natives?).  I remember them coming back afterwards, raving about it.

My mom, in her twenties, had even seen Andy Williams in person,  at a golf tournament in Pebble Beach.  “He was much shorter than I expected him to be,” said my tall mother.  I didn’t hear that story until recently, and it got my mind spinning: imagining my mom, with a sixties bouffant hairdo and a sheath dress, seeing this famous man in a crowd and savoring the experience so she could share it with friends and family — and, many years later, with her thirty-something daughter.

It’s fair to say that for me, Andy Williams is the past personified.  It’s not just the past of those childhood Christmases, but something bigger.  It’s the past I never knew, a time when my parents were single and newly-married, a time I know only from photographs and bits of stories.

This must be one of the defining moments of adulthood: that dawning realization that your parents were not always your parents.  Your parents were not always the middle-aged, stable, prosaic people who pay the bills and ask if you’ve done your physics homework yet. They had lives before you came along, lives that involved hopes and interests and goals and yes, romances, and all the things that you, as a teen or twenty-something, think are unique to you.

They were interesting people, people you might have liked to know.  You would be surprised by them, perhaps.

Recently, my mom and I  got to talking about the Kennedy assassination and about the sixties in general.  My mom graduated from high school in 1960, but she talked about feeling as though she had graduated from high school in the fifties and from college in the sixties.  The changes in society in those four years were so, so great, she said, including the dawning women’s rights movement, which was just starting to make itself felt on her college campus.  It was fascinating, that conversation.  It was like taking a time period I’d studied in school and situating my own family in it, realizing anew that my mom was once a young woman who was navigating her own way through these disorienting social changes.

What will my own boys think about  me, someday?  When will they shift from seeing me as Mom and only Mom into realizing that I’m also Ginny,  that I once lived abroad, traveled by myself, had exciting adventures and went through all the usual  phases of discovery and heartbreak and just plain living, all of which somehow turned me into the woman who drives them to school and helps them with their homework?

I’m not sure, exactly.  Maybe they’ll be like me, and it’ll happen for the first time somewhere in their twenties.  Maybe it’ll just keep happening more and more, as time passes and the awareness of that fact makes adult kids ask more direct questions, wanting to have a fuller picture of who their parents were before they were their parents.

There are some things we’ll never learn, of course.  There are probably some things about our parents’ past that we don’t particularly need to know, or want to know.  But I know enough to imagine my twenty-something parents, way back when, long before  my sister and I came along.  I picture my dad in a dark suit and slim tie and my mom with her bouffant hairdo and sheath dress,  there in a sixties-era apartment with a record player.  I like to picture them singing along to Andy Williams and dancing toward the threshold of the future, as we all do.

 

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“The Sound of Music Live” — will you be watching?

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If you watched any of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you heard about this: a live performance of “The Sound of Music” on NBC next Thursday, starring Carrie Underwood as Maria.

Will I be watching?  You bet.

Like many of us, the mere thought of the musical brings on a massive case of the warm fuzzies.  Like many of us, I know the score by heart (even the two songs sung by the Baroness in the Broadway version), and I’ve seen the film more times than I can count, and I even went on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg  in 1996 when I was living abroad, which is an experience I highly recommend if being on a large bus driving through the Austrian countryside with a bunch of singing American tourists is your idea of a good, or at least sociologically interesting, time.  Four years ago, I even wrote an article about my love of the musical, which goes into more detail than I will here.

But the more I thought about this new version, and why I’m so insanely excited about it, I realized that my excitement is a testament to the power of nostalgia, on a few different levels.

There’s the nostalgia of remembering all the times I saw it as a kid, and all the living room productions that my sister and I and the neighborhood kids tried to plan.  They never got anywhere — we had a serious lack of interested male cast members — but it was a blast to lip-synch to the records (oh boy, that dates me) and plan costumes.

There’s the nostalgia of remembering all the people who had the soundtrack: my grandparents (both sets), all my neighbors, my best friend’s mom.   And at my wedding, my dad and I waltzed to “Edelweiss” for the father-daughter dance.  More than a few people later told me how much they loved our choice of song.

There’s the nostalgia for a time when there was no DVR or DVDS or VCRS, a time when you had to wait for the network to air the show and you would stop and park yourself in front of the TV and you knew that your friends in their houses were doing the same.

There’s the nostalgia for a time I barely knew, a time when the blockbuster movies were not reliant on digitized special effects or action sequences but pulled the crowds in with the strength of a happy-making story and good songs and beautiful scenery.

And maybe there’s also some nostalgia for a movie that young kids and parents can watch together, one that everyone enjoys, one that the kids can see themselves in as well as the parents.  (We may not be fighting the Nazi menace, but aren’t we all trying to find out what we are called to do and then do it to the best of our ability, as Maria learns when her vocation takes an unexpected turn?).

So yes, all told, I’m very much looking forward to seeing the new version.   Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine Carrie Underwood as Maria, simply because she’s not Julie Andrews; likewise, it’s hard to imagine Stephen Moyer (long-lost family member of ours?) as the Captain instead of the urbane and every-so-slightly-sardonic Christopher Plummer.   But I’ve learned over the years that even if you are seeing a production that is not the 1965 movie, there is a lovely warm feeling that always accompanies The Sound of Music, a blend of nostalgia and beautiful melodies and faith that maybe life does give you happy endings after all.

What do you think?  Are you a huge “Sound of Music” fan too, and will you be watching next Thursday?

Grace on a plate

My garden is a flower-only zone, with nary a tomato or cucumber in sight.  It’s not that I dislike veggies; on the contrary, I’m a big fan of them (my boys, alas, don’t share this enthusiasm.)  But somehow, I’ve never  quite made the leap from growing things that end up in a vase to growing things that end up on a plate.

So it was such a nice surprise last Sunday afternoon , when a neighbor a few doors down the street offered me some tomatoes from her garden.  She picked me a few — vivid red, golden yellow — and I put them on a plate in the kitchen, admiring their gorgeous color.

A half-hour later, Scott set off to get the boys, who were playing at the home of a different neighbor. He came  home not just with the boys, but also with a small Ziploc baggie of fresh basil.  “Sarah gave us this, from her garden,” he said, handing it to me.

A gift of tomatoes and a gift of basil, on the very same evening?   That’s called perfect synchronicity.

So for dinner, we had fresh tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with shreds of fresh basil.    And oh, they were goooood.

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“I really need to look into growing tomatoes,” I said as I speared the last slice.  It tasted like summer, and home, and sunshine.  I think it may be worth giving up a flowerbed to experience this glorious taste more often.

But those plans are way in the future.  For now, I’m just plain grateful.  I’m grateful for the taste of ripe tomatoes.  I’m grateful for sweet tender basil.  I’m grateful  for rich golden olive oil.

Most of all, I’m grateful for kind neighbors and their spontaneous, delicious gifts.