Preparing for the storm

I love snowstorms…as long as I get to stay in a warm house with fresh food and maybe even a fire in the fireplace. I especially love the change in routine and the change in the air.

The changes begin a few days before and include stockpiling food. I needed to as well: Not only did we need snowstorm supplies like milk for hot chocolate and snacks for cozy movie times, I had just finished a chemo week so our supply of fresh food was low to non-existent. There was no way to avoid the packed parking lot and crowded shopping conditions.

I mentally prepared to circle the parking lot but, on my first pass, I was thrilled to score rock star parking close to the door.

Entering the store, I found – no carts. Hmmm. Well, this time I actually remembered to bring my reusable bags, so I decided that, given my close parking space, I could shop by filling my bags with what I could carry, paying for those items, dropping those bags off in my nearby car, and then returning to the store to repeat the process until I got everything I needed.

I had one bag filled and was working on bag #2 when I came across an empty cart with no apparent owner! I happily snagged that and slowly navigated the crowded aisles to finish the rest of my shopping.

My last stop was the deli counter. They didn’t have an number system, so I made a mental note of everyone who arrived ahead of me so that I didn’t miss my turn. Then, while I waited, I eyed the prepared foods. A nearby man was placing his order for slices of cooked beef.

“Not too rare,” he cheerily told the person behind the counter.

Normally, the conversation would end there, but he continued.

“My grandmother cooked it well-done, so I like it that way.” Clearly, he was not from around here. People generally aren’t chatty and even less likely to share personal information with strangers. It reminded me of Pittsburgh.

“It’s my midwestern roots,” he added.

He’s got to be from Pittsburgh, I thought. It is the only place I know where people talk with everyone about anything. But then, there could be other places…

The Pittsburgher in me couldn’t resist, so in my most friendly Pittsburgh-tone-of-voice I asked, “Where in the Midwest are you from?”

Smiling and slightly apologetic, he responded, “Well, not really the Midwest.”

I got excited – I knew it was coming.

“I’m from Pittsburgh.”

I almost jumped on him. “Nuh uh! I’m from Pittsburgh too!”

So as I waited for my turn and then placed my order, we shared stories of growing up in Pittsburgh and laughed about adjusting to New England culture. We remembered knowing and talking with everyone in our neighborhood. We thought nothing of dropping unannounced into friends’ homes and them into ours. Eventually, we hugged and went our separate ways.

Later, as I stood in the slow, long line to check out, I heard a voice behind me say, “I’m going to get in line behind my new friend!”

Happy to see him, I noticed that his cart held far fewer items than mine. So I pointed that out and said, “Do you want to go ahead of me?”

He brightened even more. “Really? That is such a Pittsburgh thing to do! If you are serious, I would love it, because I have a concert to go to and I don’t want to be late.”

“I’m singing in it,” he added.

Again I noticed the “more information than usual” but it was cool to have context. I realized that I wanted to ask a million questions, like “Really?” and “What kind of music do you sing?” and “Where is the concert?” I’m sure he would have been unfazed but my social radar causes me to automatically censor myself so as not to annoy everyone around me.

He moved ahead of me in line and we finished our chat as he finished paying. I was thrilled to meet someone from Pittsburgh and get to connect to my own culture for a bit. Totally made my day. I love snowstorms.

I hope that, if you are facing a storm, you are able to see the resources around you. Even if they aren’t ideal, I hope that they can work for you in a way that enables you to get what you need. I hope that you can find a friendly face along the way and feel amazingly uplifted. And when the storm does arrive, I hope that you are able to settle in a warm and cozy place filled with good food and love.

Blessings always,
Marie

Stranger-friends from another perspective

Guest blogger today! “Grace” is sharing her version of Stranger-friends. Just like we all share different stories about the same traffic accident, we have different stories about the same life event. I will admit that hers does jog my memory a bit more.

“Sylvia” remains, as always, beloved Switzerland.

Here is Grace:

Marie walks in with a stranger, and says “I ran into <Stranger X>, and so he gave me a ride home.”  Sylvia and I say (thinking that he is an old friend of Marie’s), “Great, come join us for dinner and an episode of LA Law (or whatever the popular show was).”  Marie runs up to her room to change, and Sylvia/I start peppering him with questions, like “How do you know Marie?”  Our Asian eyes start to get big and round, and we start to chomp on our dinner quietly.  Stranger X then has to go to the bathroom, and we start asking Marie “Did you know this guy????  Why did you let him come in?” Stranger X returns from the bathroom and we all watch TV silently, afraid to move, looking for a self defense object (in case we need it). Stranger X realizes that it is very uncomfortable, and he makes a quick exit.  I have still not recovered from this episode.

Marie again: Since this is my blog, I get the final word. tee hee. From the outside, Grace has apparently recovered enough to marry a wonderful man and raise two very bright children who do not accept rides from strangers. This helps to alleviate my guilt.

Stranger-friends

When I first moved to Boston, right out of college, I shared a house with two roommates I will call Grace and Sylvia, who were also right out of college. They attended college together and included me in their a wonderful group of college friends for dinners, bridge, skiing, social parties and generally hanging out. Our house was open, welcoming and always full of much-loved friends.

I worked a few miles away from our house and one winter day, driving home in a huge snowstorm, I had almost every electrical item running in my little Honda Accord: the headlights, the windshield wipers, the front and rear defrosters, and, of course, the radio.

In the standstill traffic, I spent more time singing along with the radio than stepping on the gas pedal, so my battery eventually died. I wasn’t alone – many cars were abandoned along the side of the road. I figured that I should get my car out of the way as well.

While I stood outside my car to assess the situation, two guys jumped out of the pickup truck behind me and helped to push my car into a nearby parking lot. When they generously offered to drive me home, I accepted.

We spent a long time together, chatting in the car in that slow-moving traffic and, after dropping off one of the guys (because his stop was on the way), the driver and I arrived at our house. Grace and Sylvia were already home and dinner was cooking. Without thinking twice, I invited him to join us for dinner.

Because we always had friends around, Grace and Sylvia welcomed him as a friend of mine and, after he left, were shocked to learn that I had just met him on the street. Slight culture clash:  They assumed that I wouldn’t invite a stranger into our home and I didn’t think to tell them that we had just met.

Twenty-five years later, we still laugh about that.

When I read this article, I realized that my invitation to this gentleman came from something that got planted deep inside me, growing up in PIttsburgh. It helped me to realized that this is was just what we do.

The article, by a Pittsburgher who now lives in LA, is short, but I excerpted part of it here so that those of you who don’t like to click through will still get the idea:

My dad died last month. This has nothing to do with that.

What I have to tell you is how I pulled up in front of my childhood home the day of the funeral and the woman who lives there now stepped outside, looked at me and said, “Are you OK?”

I said, “No, my dad died.”

She tilted her head. “You used to live here?”

“Yes.”

“Do you wanna come in? I’m just going down to the market, but no rush, come on in.”

And she proceeded to let me walk around her home, asking if I needed anything, asking who had lived in what rooms, what doors to the porch we had used, and was my mother the one who planted the perennials, and how has it changed? All the time smiling and encouraging me to stop when I needed to, cry if I had to, she said,

“Please. Go upstairs. Which room was yours?”

To read the rest of that article: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/morning-file/local-dispatch-its-hardly-polite-to-be-outside-pittsburgh-294839/#ixzz2Ptpbi1IG

We recognize our connections as humans. We take in stranger-friends. We shift our plans to make room for them. We feed them. We try to figure out what it is they need. And hopefully, take care of them in some small way.

And while you may not be in Pittsburgh, I feel like I found that in you. You take me into your heart (and sometimes, your homes), you shift your plans to help us out, you feed us, and you try to figure out what we need, and you take care of us. Thank you.