Holidays, when I was a child, were made extra special by my mother. Valentine’s Day meant a kitchen filled with the buttery, sweet smell of freshly baked, heart-shaped cookies. Once cooled, Mom sandwhiched a thin layer of raspberry jelly between two cookies and frosted the tops in white and pink. The platter with these decorative treats earned a place of honor on the dining room table where my family gathered for a festive dinner.
Mom always gave thoughtful gifts on every gift-giving holiday, but it was her Valentine’s Day cards I remember most. More than a red heart cut from paper, pasted on a white doily, her handmade Valentines declared her love through poems she wrote for each of us, penned in white ink in elaborate caligraphy.
Mom didn’t need to make cards to tell me how much I meant to her; I always knew she loved me through her countless kindnesses she showed me each day.
Perhaps I’ll make a card and write the words, I love you, dear.
Perhaps I’ll send a rose to indicate my love’s sincere.
Better still, I’ll stay beside you and never let us grow apart,
For you will always be the one I cherish in my heart.
Bob visits my back porch at 7:30 sharp. Like the white rabbit in the story of Alice in Wonderland, he’s prompt. When I walked into the kitchen this morning at 7:32, he peered in at me through the sliding glass door with his paws curled against his snowy chest. Seeing me, he took a few steps back and waited for the one thing he has counted on morning after morning…
The moment I slid open the glass door, he stepped back a few feet and calmly watched me sprinkle hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds into his blue, ceramic dish. Some mornings, I spoil him with small squares of bread spread with a thin layer of peanut butter…perfect to hold in his petite paws.
“Good morning, Bob,” I greeted him. “I trust you slept well?” He never answers.
The moment I closed the sliding glass door, Bob crept near and surveyed the morning’s offerings. With quick paws, he separated the crunchy almonds from the shelled seeds and settled inside the dish to nibble his breakfast. He seems to know I can’t disturb him through the glass and fills up his tummy with an occasional glance to me. I wonder if he knows how much happiness he brings.
My poem for today is a winter haiku inspired by Bob’s daily journey to my backporch.
I’ll see you here next week for Perfect Picture Book Friday.
Not that many years ago, I hung out with a group of friends in a restaurant. Someone brought up a topic that set off one of the worst, heated debates that threatened to tear us all apart. Two of my friends were on the verge of walking away and never looking back. Every group of friends seems to come with one neutral individual who refuses to take a side, remains quiet, and listens. James was that friend. He interrupted the tense moment to ask us a question.
“Does anyone know how gold is purified?”
The question had nothing to do with what we were arguing over. James had, no doubt, learned this random piece of information, found it fascinating, never knew what to do with it once he had it, but needed to unload it.
We were the chosen ones.
“Gold,” he began, “is filled with impurities. To make it pure, it must enter into a complex process.” His visible passion for this topic held our interest.
What followed sounded like an essay he might have written in college. He listed places around the world where gold is mined, what it looks like in its raw state, and, most importantly, how a refinery removes impurities to transform the raw gold into pure and beautiful metal. What none of us realized was that his topic fit our situation as flawlessly as that purified gold.
Here’s a brief explanation of the purification process he shared with us.
Gold is melted in a furnace.
Chlorine is bubbled through the liquid.
The chlorine attaches to impurities in the gold.
The impurities move toward the top.
Next, they are skimmed off,
Leaving the gold more pure.
“Cool,” someone said, “but what does that have to do with our debate.”
“EVERYTHING,” James replied.
“The purification of gold isn’t different from the journey of a friendship,” he said. “In the beginning, while we’re getting to know each other, we come up against complications that heat us like the first step taken to purify the gold.
We bring our issues into the open, much like the impurities rising to the surface of heated gold. Here, problems must be dealt with. Once we have resolved those problems, we can skim them out, making our friendship more pure and beautiful and more valuable. Work through this moment,” he said. “because friendship is always worth it.” James walked out and left us to finish our debate.
That evening four friends grew closer to each other because of their renewed understanding.
THE ALCHEMY OF FRIENDSHIP
So it begins with questions and interests, common ground, and new ground. Smooth and perfect, the path before the friends meanders around bends, runs straight, and then takes a turn. Without warning, an object lies in the path between them, daring to be touched, easier to avoid. One by one, complications ignite, and the fire consumes the impurities– burns them to ashes they sweep away. What remains is a friendship that holds stronger, and shines bright and true.
Last Monday, my poem took on the sweet smells and tastes of the season with apples and spice and everything nice. Today, instead of writing a poem about something tangible or tasty, I’ve taken on something that lives only in the heart and mind–something unthinkable to lose, but when this is yours, you’ll hold it, knowing you have something precious. Welcome to hope.
Hope blooms like petals, unfurling in spring. Hope enters gently from an act of kindness. Hope finds its birth in a wish upon a star. Hope appears in the words of a promise. Hope finds its way on a fresh path. Hope grows from, “I love you.” Hope begins with a first step. Hope finds comfort in a hug. Hope heals after “I’m sorry.” Hope listens harder. Hope waits.
by Leslie Leibhardt Goodman
I’ll see you here next Friday for another Autumn-perfect picture book review.