I’m in need of a nourishing circle of comfort and conversation now. I was fired recently. Yes, for the second time in my life (the first occurred when I was eight and my mother fired me for “insubordination;” I told her I had actually quit the week before) I was unceremoniously let go for, among other things, asking too many questions. And yes, since I am self-employed, being fired by a marketing agency I hired is an unfortunate novelty for me.
While I am excited by the prospect of fields of flowers that must follow the seemingly endless deluge of rain that has fallen these last few months (both literally and figuratively), the misty blanket of dreary isolation has been hard to lift. Unable (or unmotivated) to take my daily walks that help to put my world in perspective, I’ve also found that the weather has derailed more than a few plans to get together with friends and catch up on our latest doings over a bite to eat.
As anyone who knows me well can attest, my love of good food is matched only by my delight in sharing it with friends. Somehow, no matter how simple a dish, it is transformed into something extraordinary in the presence of loved ones. For this reason, this is one of my favorite times of year. Beyond reflection on faith and history, Easter and Passover bring with them a time to revel in the presence of those with whom you are closest.
“Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi,” an Italian expression that means “Christmas with family, Easter with whomever you choose” underscores the intentional nature of the holiday that I enjoy so much. It’s a time to not only reflect, but also to actively seek out those friends whose conversation widens your perspective and challenges you.
One of my favorite Easters was spent in Florence, Italy a few years after I had studied there in college. Having returned to Venice to work with glassblowers, I traveled down to the holiday-quiet, empty streets of Florence to meet a friend’s family. Inside their second-floor apartment, the dining room was aglow with the hum of friends and family reconnecting, and the table was laden with grilled lamb, chicken, langoustines and roasted vegetables of every sort, all prepared for our mid-afternoon feast. The hours’ long conversation ranged from pleasantries to national politics and every thought in between. I still remember the passion in my friend’s uncle’s voice as he tried to convince me that the mafia was something that the U.S. had invented and exported to southern Italy as part of a larger plan. “E’ vero!” he yelled, thumping the table with his fist to underscore his point as the plates were being cleared to make room for Columba, the traditional Easter cake.
While discussions at Passover Seders shared with new friends have never reached that decibel, they too, have always provided an atmosphere of warmth and inclusion where thoughts are exchanged, curiosity is rewarded, and probing questions are encouraged.
I’m thrilled the sun has returned for good, and that the holidays are upon us! If nothing else, it gives me an opportunity to share a funny story with much missed friends over a delicious meal.