I love a good plan. I have always known this but it has become really clear during the pandemic. Besides toilet paper and food deliveries, there has not been enough to plan for. When you are deprived of something that brings you joy, your whole being changes. You don’t really notice it, it is a slow drain, bits of your being just go away.
My girlfriend from college called, her kids needed something to look forward to, she needed something to look forward to… we all needed something to look forward to. Anything. Since both families are very strict about masks and social distancing we decided on a gathering. Two sets of everything, seating areas, 10 feet apart, outside. Safe.
We will have chili, cornbreads, pies, and s’mores. We can build a fire pit, and make sure to have enough wool blankets…because cozy is good. We can pull out games just in case we don’t have enough to talk about…ha..that is funny.
“My” chili recipe is beyond, it came from a friend of a friend and while I make it I curse whoever this Martha (not Stewart) person is. A ridiculous amount of steps, full of specifics and absolutes. It is really bossy. Notes like, put in one QUALITY milk chocolate bar, not Hersheys, well… ok then. Chopping huge mixing bowls full of onions (three varieties) and peppers (three colors) while marinating the cubed steak in freshly squeezed lime juice and garlic (chopped, you use the minced later), insert eye roll. Cute dishes and tablecloths, check. 90s music blasting while we do, check.
Do you know how contagious walking into a room twirling and singing and dancing a la Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club is to your family… very contagious. Smiles, dance partners, barking dogs. Joy.
The joy just continued and compounded. We all needed each other. Laughter, food, and funny stories galore. A chilly gray afternoon, an even chillier evening…all made warm and delightful by good company.
Two years ago today my Jacob and I started our drive across the country to his new life. He was down in the dumps because it seems two years of experience was a prerequisite for any job he was applying for in NY. He had a job offer and a delightfully brilliant girlfriend in Los Angeles…time to go, no brainer. We would take a mother son adventure we lovingly called “our belated, never before had, maternity leave”. I was in organizational list-making bliss. What clothing, computer equipment, games, musical instruments, life items could we fit in a little Prius? What is one willing to leave behind as they start a new chapter in their lives? What music should we download? What snacks should we start out with? How long would we drive each day and where would we sleep each night? Planning.
Our first day we drove with butterflies in our bellies…was this really a good idea, this was not camp, or college…this was a trip to drop him off at a new life, across the country. Sigh. Taking turns being the DJ we discovered new music and relived theater experiences singing along to soundtracks. We recreated the “Moving Right Along” video…California here we come and we embraced having no idea what lay ahead for the next six days. Bits of goodness…like realizing New Jersey rest stops should be more appreciated, scoping out groovy drive-ins for milkshakes and burgers, learning that in Ohio you are offered ketchup or ranch with your fries…we talked, and we were silent. Exhausting, exhilarating…joy.
For the next few days, I will receive FB memory reminders…posts, pictures, videos, the whole shebang. A priceless gift I have because of a life-changing request from my Olivia…as her big brother took off for his new life, so far away, she said…Mom, just post every day, I want to read all about it. What a treasure that request was.
Somehow between planning a very casual gathering and seeing day one of our cross country adventure pop up on FB this morning…I am rejuvenated, even if just for a bit.
I am still here. I am grateful.