Friday, April 27, 2012


I wrote the other day about Edna.  I met another Edna type person today at a Panera's in Hoboken.  Hoboken reminds me of Brooklyn.  I guess any place with sidewalks and stores reminds me of my home.  I love being able to walk places and see people.  Like Brooklyn, Hoboken is becoming one of the best places to live in the area.

As we ordered at Panera's, this older woman was walking alongside of a stroller.  I thought she was with the people.  She grabbed my coat briefly to steady herself.  I smiled.  We picked our seats and soon we found that this delightful woman had sat beside us. She welcomed me to come and sit with my family... How nice of her!

It didn't take long to realize she had dementia.  She told us her mother had worked at Panera's and that her mother died a few years ago at age 27. I asked if she had children.  She told us that she did but wasn't too clear about the details.

She finally decided to order. The young man at the counter reminded her that she had already had coffee and should have saved her cup for refills.  He smiled and gave her another one.  She paid for her soup and bread.  He filled her coffee again.  He was so gentle with her.  Even though they were busy, everyone treated her well and with respect.  All this, in the Northeast!  Hmmmm -

That was the vibe I experienced the whole time I've been in the NY/NJ.  People aren't smiling and making big fuss over us in that southern polite friendliness but a genuine friendliness.  I don't know how to describe it but I've had more friendly conversation with people I don't know since I've been here than I ever do in Nashville.

Okay, I know.  You're going to say: isn't this woman ever happy?  She moaned and groaned for Nashville when she lived in South Dakota - now she's complaining about Nashville.  I guess it seems like that.  But it's not that... I like Nashville overall and am thrilled that I live there and not in South Dakota.

It's just that every time I come home, I feel better.  I enjoy random conversations with guys who sell me hot dogs in Manhattan, and the Edna's.  Sometimes I wonder, what if?  What if we never moved away from Brooklyn?  I've lived long enough now to know that what seems like a crisis when you are a teenager is just a short passing bubble - it will burst and life will sort itself out.  Almost everyone grows up and figures life out.

But we did move and leave Brooklyn.  I guess you can never really go home, but I sure wish I could - I wish I could call the Northeast home again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Yesterday we did the mini-Brooklyn nostalgia tour.  I so love returning home.  I think anyone who is disconnected from their roots and home can understand the feeling one has when you return "home."  I suppose it is also understandable that those with me don't feel the same warmth and exhilaration when they see the streets, shops, trees, churches, and diverse people of Brooklyn.

As we toured, I told my 17 year old granddaughter that she had visited Puerto Rico, China, Israel, and the Arab Middle East in that afternoon alone.  There was a quick trip into a Norwegian shop a remnant of a large Norwegian community that was replaced by the Chinese.  As we left, we munched on Kransekake and Krumkake.  YUM.  In my hand was a block of precious gold - N√łkkelost cheese.  I will savor every bite of it later.  Those with me could never appreciate its flavor or delight in its taste as I will.

The last stop was Hinsch's. I don't recall when was the last time I was there.  It was likely around the time I was sitting in Mrs. Cedar's class in the fourth grade at PS94.  A frequent ritual was to accompany my bff Barbara and her grandmother Rose to this delightful old-fashioned soda fountain/ice cream parlor.

The 33 block walk each way was hard on the little legs. The walk was worth the feast of a hamburger and crinkle cut fries.  Barbara and I would share the fries.  She liked ketchup; I didn't.  My pleas to put the ketchup on the side were unheeded.  I would hunt for fries not smothered in ketchup.  I'd give anything to share fries with Barbara and her grandmother again.

My family has a difficult time appreciating my walks down memory lane.  It's not their memory.  I ordered egg creams for them.  I savored two sips of a vanilla egg cream as my lactose intolerance prohibited more.  I twirled a little on the stool at the counter.  I looked longingly at the booths and pictured a little girl with her bff and Rose - Rose always wore a hat.  I could see her.

The server became an instant friend of my granddaughter Maria.  Here is their picture:

As we lingered a bit longer, Edna came in.  Edna was greeted by Lisa, the server.  Edna ordered some vanilla ice cream to take home.  Edna got a big hug from Maria.  It was like an instant family!  Once a Brooklynite, always a Brooklynite.  Edna, probably in her 70's, had lived in Brooklyn all her life.  She told me that she had loved once but the day before her wedding to her love, he died.  He died in a scaffolding accident.  Their apartment lovingly furnished for a life together was never lived in - she gave their furniture away to the Salvation Army.  She told me she'd never found love again.

It was like I knew her all my life.  It's like that with people from Brooklyn.  As she left, she said, "I'll see you tomorrow."  I said, "no" with a frown.  I wish I could see Edna today.  She told me I was good looking - then she exclaimed:  "But you work here."  I said, "no, I'm just visiting - I don't live in Brooklyn anymore."  She told me to talk to the boss, a typical Brooklyn guy sitting reading the newspaper on the first stool.  She was sure he'd give me a job.

Sometimes I fantasize about moving back to Brooklyn.  Yesterday, I knew I could.  I knew I could find Edna's and Lisa's and even the guy on the stool who'd welcome me back to my home.  I'm homesick.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hospitality - A Holy Week Discipline

I heard an interesting sermon on Monday.  No I wasn't at church when I heard it.  It wasn't from a preacher either.  It was from this very blond, very white, very young, FFA (Future Farmers of America) leader.  If you know me, or have read my blogs, in particular Storehouses of Snow, you know that I am usually not too excited when I have to go to FFA, 4-H, Fairs, Achievement Days, Farm Bureau Events, and the like.  As we pulled up to see the sea of blue jackets, I remembered when I first saw those jackets at Hickman High School.  When I was a kid, there were no FFA Chapters in Brooklyn that I was aware of - this was new.  I would laugh at the Aggies.

Later my husband would teach Vo-Ag.  Those blue jackets took his time and attention. He'd leave me for long trips to the State Fair, State Conventions, and the Annual National Convention that always fell on my birthday.  I don't have a long love affair with FFA. FFA, 4-H and the like have always interfered with my life and happiness even though it has been our bread and butter.  As a good wife, I go with him when I can.  This event on Monday had no cows or smelly barns.  My husband was to be given an award.  I am proud of him.  As hard as it is for a girl from Brooklyn, imagine coming from a different country and culture and teaching Aggies.

This blond in blue spoke to her peers and those assembled about practicing your values.  She told a story of bullying and name calling.  She didn't participate but she didn't defend.  Her core value was challenged in elementary school as she realized because she didn't defend and speak up, she too was guilty.  As she spoke, I tossed the message aside.  Oh she was right - but I also thought how young and idealistic she was.  I thought "wait until life beats you up."  It beats up everyone.

Today I am thinking again about her message.  I realize that her sermon was for me.  I am preparing for a visit.  My brother-in-law is coming to visit with us for a few days or weeks.  I like my husband's family.  They may not realize it because I often succumb to resentment.  Everything in my life changes when someone comes.  We will eat different.  While I scrounge around for some American leftovers, I'll fix curried dishes until my house smells like an Indian restaurant.  I'll dress differently.  I will be careful concerning my attire and be unable to come in my PJ's to drink coffee in the morning lest my brother-in-law see me.  I'll wonder whether it is more rude for me to sit and stare at the wall as Saraiki is spoken or leave and watch TV alone in my room.  Yes, everything will change.

And it's Holy Week!  What bad timing is that? Or is it?  I talk a lot about love of God, love of neighbor.  I say my core values include love those that are different - loving the other.  I believe that hospitality is a Christian virtue.  I'm feeling challenged to be like Jesus during Holy Week.  I'm feeling challenged to put my values into practice.

As I prayed this morning, I could sense the Holy Spirit nudging me.  I was reminded of practicing your values.  I was reminded that Jesus' life was one of loving the "other."  As I thought of the coming Passover season, I thought of the passage at the heart of the Holiness Code:
Leviticus 19:33-34
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
All this is easier said that done.  I've tried to be hospitable for my husband before.  I've tried because it is the right thing to do before.  I've failed every time.  Today, I'm offering this up to Jesus.  I'm going to do it because of and for Jesus. I am going to do it because Jesus asks me to live my faith in actions - 

James 2:20-24
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ?  Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.  You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone. 
So when I'm feeling that I want to run into the bathroom in frustration and cry my eyes out, I pray God will give me the grace I need.  I will, with God's grace, offer hospitality as part of my spiritual worship during this Holiest of Weeks.  My sacrifice is nothing compared to that of my Lord who offers me the hospitality of life, grace, hope, and salvation as I commune and partake of Him at His Table.