I say Beanstalk but I mean Gourdstalk. Nobody thinks of Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum when they hear the word gourdstalk – if gourdstalk is even a word. But Beanstalk – this evokes giants and bravery and treasure. I’m glad for the reference because even if I didn’t deal with a mean giant or a little boy bravely taking back stolen goods, I did find treasure recently.
The viney thing with the big green leaves growing vertically to the left of my granddaughters is a gourd. The photo does not even capture the full height of the stalk, which grew from two small seeds. A little closer up, the leaves look like this:
The leaves are beautiful and the height is remarkable – even if it doesn’t reach up to a land high in the sky where a giant’s castle stands. But the plant is not the treasure. The treasure is whose plant it is. Last week I made new friends. Not to say I didn’t know them before. Louisa and Jake are friends of our mutual friend Millicent and I met them more than a year ago. But now they are no longer friends of a friend. Now they are simply friends. My friends. And I am theirs.
When I mentioned to Louisa that the girls and I would be passing through Charlotte, she said, “I wish you could stop in. Is there a way?”
We made a way and it was marvelous! Their kind hospitality included the best mac and cheese I have ever had, the best hot dogs I have ever had and a visit to the barn where Louisa’s horse and a pony live. The girls got to meet the pony,
and walk with him a bit in the yard. He has not yet been trained to carry small children, but not getting to ride him in no way detracted from this experience for the girls.
Back at the house, they stared up at the top of that amazing gourdstalk, ran around the yard and fished leaves out of the koi pond.
The kindness shown to all of us, our time at the barn and the giggly fun we had at their house with dogs and balls and popsicles and spinning chairs — all of it was remarkable.
Not only this, but I found in Louisa and Jake what Anne of Green Gables would have called “kindred spirits.” I felt as if I had known them for a long time, as if I could be myself, as if we were just catching up after a long absence, as if we could talk forever, which we very nearly did! I felt accepted, cared about, respected. This is what friends do! It’s so wonderful! Most amazing of all was that truly we did not know each other well at all before this visit.
I realized that this must be a bit of how my mom feels. She moved into her new home about eight months ago, not knowing anyone there before she moved in. Now she knows almost everyone in her community. She attends outings of all sorts, invites people over for dinner, says hello in the hallway to everyone she sees, works on the flower committee, reads to Evelyn (who is 101 and blind) and represents her floor in meetings that include discussion of larger issues. (And I’m sure I’m forgetting something.) In this short time, she has been asked to be in photo shoots for new marketing material and is also already on the welcoming committee, reaching out to new residents. She’s never been so happy, so involved, so engaged with the people around her.
I have dear, wonderful friends who have been in my life for decades. I count myself exceedingly blessed in this department, so much so that it could be tempting to close the door to others. Making new friends at any age can be unnerving. Opening up, taking a chance, trying something new, giving of yourself (with an uncertain outcome), going out of your way – it’s a bit risky. There’s no guarantee that you’ll connect with this person or that person. But what a treasure is found when that connection feels genuine and fun at the same time! When you smile thinking back on the time you had together. When someone who doesn’t have to care about you does anyway. When you very much look forward to next time…