Monday, July 12, 2010

Ripe But Not Rotten

I’ve been reading The Season’s on Henry’s Farm by Terra Brockman. Terra is the sister of Henry Brockman, who supplies me with the majority of my vegetables, and Teresa who supplies me with the majority of my fruits. The Brockman’s have an organic, sustainable farm twenty miles from my home. Each week throughout the summer and fall, they come into town and supply lots of families with shares of beautiful produce. I love the format of Terra’s book because she chose to write each chapter as a chronological week on the farm. The first chapter is a week in November when the garlic crop is planted. When I realized her format, I decided to read a chapter a week, so each time I read a chapter I learn about a process on the farm that is happening right now.

This week’s chapter is entitled Ripe and Rotten. It’s about the fruits and vegetables that aren’t beautiful enough to be sold to the public. Because their produce isn’t genetically modified or treated with chemicals they have a fair amount that are split, bruised, too small or too large. Terra goes into detailed description about an imperfect peach that has a few moldy spots and wormholes. Yet she simply cleans off those spots, splits it in half with her fingers to make sure there aren’t any worms inside and then “I bring it to my nose and read its spicy-sweet promise…the juice runs down my chin as I slurp away, wanting to bury my whole face in the utter bliss of it.” She then goes on to talk about our intolerance for imperfections. We don’t choose our friends by the way they look, she says. We choose them for their personality, intelligence, wit, etc.

I smiled when I read this. I had just had this conversation with a dear friend of mine when we were driving home from a visitation of an old friend of ours. We knew Mark and his brother, Keith, back in high school. Their family had lived in that area for a long time. Like most people in the small community, they were farmers and everyone knew them. Mark and Keith were stars on the winning basketball and football teams. They were not typically ‘model’ good-looking, but as soon as you met them, you got a sense of who they were and immediately loved them. They were funny, open, friendly and genuinely kind to everyone and, well, they were a little bit wild, so very fun to be around.

Going back for the visitation of Mark and his son, while extremely sad because of the tragic circumstances, was therapeutic because we were able to visit with the people we grew up with. After thirty years, some had changed dramatically, but most had physically changed very little. Maybe we had grown a bit wider with wrinkles or sunspots to give us character. I actually love looking for those ‘imperfections’ in people as they age. I find them much more interesting and beautiful than the faces that have been surgically altered to appear youthful. Perhaps it’s because by the time we’re in our 40s and 50s, we have (hopefully) become comfortable in our own skin and can fully reveal what is inside.

At the start of the visitation line was Keith, and although he was deeply mourning the loss of his big brother and nephew, he gave us a wide smile and a huge hug. He spoke eloquently about his feelings about the accident and what this outpouring of community meant to him. He was still as beautiful and warm as I remembered. Our bruised and wrinkled exteriors didn’t matter. We were there to comfort each other in friendship and love.

When I approached the open caskets of Mark and his young son, I chose not to look. I knew the accident had not been gentle to their bodies. Their shells were empty and I wanted to remember their lively smiles and their fragrant, juicy souls instead.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Birthday Week

Birthday Week

This week is very special to me. And it's not for the reason you think. Yes, it's my birthday. But it's also the birthday week for the women in this picture with me:

I've known three out of four of these women since 1968. That was the year we entered Kindergarten together.

The fourth moved into town later-fifth grade, I think. Michele (2nd from right) is the one who remembers everything so she should really be the one writing this. When we're all together and telling stories, Michele remembers the name of every random friend and teacher and neighbor. Diane and I look at each other and shake our heads. We never remember anything. Michele is The Archaeologist. Her skills are put to good use when it comes time for the reunions. She is always first in line to volunteer her time and energy. Her birthday is July 16.

Karen1 is The Badass (far left). She knows how to have a good time and she doesn't pull any punches. Karen1 is one tough broad with a sexy raspy voice to go with it. But she knows how to party AND be responsible. She is the sole provider for a pair of feisty twins and you'd better know she is one protective Mama. Karen1's birthday is also July 16.

Diane (2nd from left) was actually born in December, but we gave her an honorary birthday in July just because we could. Diane is Chief Administrator of Fun. I've never seen someone with so many balls in the air, juggling them like an expert circus performer. She's always got something big in the works: a new business idea, a new vacation plan, a new women's support group. When something doesn't work out the way she planned, she just changes her plans and keeps going, all the while making us laugh out loud with the latest trendy drink in hand. Diane's honorary birthday is July 15.

Karen2 (far left) is The Calm One. Until you get her drunk. Then you can't shut her up. Karen2 rarely gets flustered. She seems to always take things in stride, listening intently to our stories, our dramas until we decide the focus needs to be on her (which she hates). When she starts revealing what's going on in that pretty head of hers, though….still waters run deep. Karen2's birthday is July 18.

And then there's me. My birthday is July 17.

The five of us used to get together for a marathon sleep-over-birthday-party every year. I'll never forget when we were in sixth grade and BOYS showed up! We snuck out into my backyard and *gasp* held hands! We were one boy short, so Karen2 and I even shared a boy.

Between the five of us we have:

8 marriages plus 1 pending.
5 ex-husbands.
9 children.

We don't always share the same viewpoint on everything but we share something very important: History. Out of that history comes respect, connection and love. I know that we will be there for each other if we ever need it and that their love is unconditional.

A few years ago, Michele sent us all the download for a song from the 70's. I hadn't heard it in forever. This corny verse caught my ear.

And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of gray
Have no fear, even though it's hard to hear
I will stand real close and say,
Thank you for being a friend

I laughed. And then I cried. Among other things, they would call me The Softy.

Happy Birthday Week, Friends.