Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Good Food, Good Friends, Good Family

First published in the January 11 issue of The Oxford Journal, by Sara Mattinson

Whether you are a come-from-away or know someone who has gone-far-away, the worst part about living separate lives is giving up the long-time activities you would do together. While the absence of familiar rituals hits particularly hard at obvious times like Christmas, birthdays, and anniversaries, sometimes the simple pleasures you pursued together are the ones you miss the most. Take heart: There are creative ways to defeat the distance. 
My friend Elaine phoned on Saturday.
“Can you and Dwayne come for supper tomorrow night? Freeman and the girls are cooking supper and we need you to judge the dish.”
I anticipated a full house but it was explained to me that none of the girls - Freeman’s grown daughters - would be there. They used to have family cooking contests and guests would get to choose the best meal but now the girls are spread far and wide: Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Missing the ritual of the monthly cooking competition, they decided to try it long distance. 
It’s not as silly, or difficult, as it sounds. When I was living at home helping to take care of my father who had Alzheimer disease, my mother and I played Scrabble every night. When I went away to Georgia to house-sit for my sister, I simply called up my mother and we played over the phone. We tweaked the ritual in order to keep doing what we loved to do together (and the phone made it easier for her to cheat).
It’s not easy keeping friends and family members close and involved in one’s life when there is such distance between. A running joke: I call up someone, say my friend in Vancouver, and announce, “We’re having lobster for supper. Can you be here by six?”
Always, the friend replies, “Yes!”
 It’s part of the joke but it’s also our way of saying, “I miss you. Wish we were together.” 
Back to Freeman’s part of the long-distance supper challenge. Did he win?
“Ten out of ten,” my husband declared with his mouth full. 
“But the potatoes aren’t quite done,” Freeman lamented.
That didn’t matter to us. As the grateful judges of this cooking competition, our score reflected our delight in the tasty meal, the scintillating conversation, and the heartfelt attempt to keep families knitted together, doing what they love to do, no matter how many miles are between the main course and dessert.

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