Sunday, March 22, 2015

Shirt-tail relatives

As a child I had many shirt-tail relatives--people who were connected not by blood but by love and shared experiences and mutual affection. Today, as an adult, I am still blessed with several such relationships. People have told me they don't understand or have never heard the term, but to me it makes perfect sense.
Jacob is also blessed with several such relationships--many of his parents friends adore him but a few stand out as special. One is Elizabeth, who has been my friend for well over twenty years and who lived in my garage apartment for a year. Jacob's first question every day coming home from school that year was, "Can I go see Elizabeth?"
A year and a half ago she moved to Pennsylvania to be with the man she loves, and we all grieved. But last night Elizabeth was back for a visit, and we had a party. I fixed dinner for neighbors she'd been close to, and Jordan and Christian came by on their way to a fancy party. We had a joyful dinner, but for Jacob the best part was when everyone else went home, and he and Elizabeth had a lively conversation--I was strictly an outsider. But they chattered and giggled and had a wonderful time. At one time they tried to Facetime Brian, Elizabeth's love, but I don't think they were successful. When Jacob left the room briefly, she said, "I wish I could just put him in my pocket and take him home with me." And as he drifted off to sleep last night Jacob said, "Tonight was really fun."
Elizabeth came into my life twenty-some years ago when as a non-traditional student she applied for
a work-study job in my office at TCU Press. It wasn't instantaneous bonding but almost that quick. Over the years I've watched her transform herself from an overweight, maybe a but insecure person into a svelte yoga instructor, highly skilled and certified, and a confident person who enjoys life. If beyond my own children, I have a success story, she's it, and I couldn't be more proud of who and what she has become.
Oh, dinner! Elizabeth is gluten- and dairy-free--not a diet I fully understand or am sure I agree with but it works for her, and I am glad to follow her rules. Except it makes menu planning difficult. I was more into it when she lived here. But last night I served corned beef and cabbage (my belated tribute to St. Patrick's Day) only with a twist--it was a cold salad--cubed corned beef, blanched haricort vert, cubed potatoes (I cheated and put a bit of salad dressing on them), and sliced raw cabbage, all with a mustard vinaigrette. To our amazement, Jacob loved it and asked for seconds. I wish I'd learn to take pictures of food before I serve it, because it really made a pretty platter.
This morning the sermon was on joy, and I'm not sure I agree that happiness is transitory and joy is permanent, because for me--and I think for Jacob and Elizabeth--last night was one of those moments of joy, a memory to treasure, in the midst of lives of happiness.
Photos by Jay Mitiguy.

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