“The Lord moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to behold.”
I am waiting for the delivery of my new refrigerator, by Sears. My first new appliance was a Kenmore, and I hope this will not be my last purchase from Sears; nevertheless, the delivery men should be here any moment.
We had not planned on buying a new refrigerator this week; but the puddle of mango juice, in the freezer, forced us to take a look at this unassuming appliance that has served us well for almost twenty years.
The little Maytag was in the house, when we bought it; Mel, the man who previously lived in our home, had purchased the refrigerator a few months before he sold us the house, and though there is a romantic notion about replacing appliances when you buy a home, there is also a real dollar issue that impacts those choices. Thus, the terribly sad, avocado green stove, with electric coils, did not make it past week one, nor did the equally worn dishwasher, but the refrigerator stayed, until now.
As Kate and I assessed the freezer, lamenting its demise, I did point out that the old fellow had served us well, and had kindly hung out until a time, in our life, when we could afford to replace him, which was rather kind.
Recently, I returned to this house, the spiral notebook, which I started, when we took possession of what would become our home. I had written down measurements, made a master to do list, and took note of things, like which kind and color of paint went where; feeling very responsible and excited. I do not now remember who, I think it was Tessie, Kate’s grandmother, who first introduced me to the notion of keeping track of such housekeeping matters; I believe she noted not only the date’s appliances and the such were purchased, but recorded the history of their maintenance, as well.
When the men arrived with the new refrigerator, they offer to take away the old one; I was not prepared for it to leave yet, it is still filled with food. I had taken a picture of it, silly I know; but one of my pre-digital photography regrets is that I do not have pictures of what this house looked like when we moved in that first day or even first week.
The new refrigerator is better in every way, from actually working to being bigger; nevertheless, I am having a bittersweet moment this morning. I will forever have an issue between hello and goodbye; even it seems with old appliances, which drip quite a lot of water, on the floor, as being taken away.
Shahnaz had advised me, that Lia was coming to Florida, for a conference. Florida is a big state, with many options for such events, but I think none more popular than the Orlando area; I asked where Lia would be, Shahnaz did not know. In due course Lia pointed out that she would be attending and speaking at a conference at NOVA, Kate’s alma mater, which is literally up the street from our house in Florida.
As it became clear that we would be able to spend some time with Lia, in Florida, Kate and I looked at each other, and said “that house is going to need some work”, Marcial would agree. It had been a long time since we had had a house guest in Florida; in fact the guest room, or what we still call “Mother’s Room”, was not ready to receive company.
Our first efforts were toward addressing the garden; perhaps a bit of avoidance was involved in that decision. We had not had an extended house guest, in Florida, since Mother left us. Initially, we took stock of her room, trying to figure out exactly what it would need to make Lia feel welcomed and comfortable; in the end we rearranged furniture and put Lia in another room entirely. I am not sure why we made that choice, it seemed best; however, I cannot help but wonder if we were not quite ready to share Mother’s room. It is odd how when she only spent part of the year here, we had no issue with having other guest use her room, but now things really are different.
Lia said she was comfortable with her accommodations, and after having not spent time with her in five years, it was nice to share a bit of my Florida with her; also nice that she completely understood and experienced, for herself, why we love this place.
Our first morning together, we took our coffee and breakfast on the front porch; observing Lia sitting where Mother so often sat, enjoying the sunshine and view of the little garden, brought warmth to my soul. It had been too long since this moment had been shared with someone else; it was good to reminisce not only about our almost forty year friendship, but also about what our neighborhood had once been and how we too had experienced drinking our morning coffee in Greece, in her neighborhood, on the front porch.
It was good to spend time with Lia, and quite a treat to watch my California friend, who is from Greece, meet my Floridian friends, who are from Cuba – they of course got along perfectly well, and why not.
When I returned to the house, from taking Lia to the airport, I saw Kolie trimming the palms between my house and what used to be Phil’s home. He had taken more than four bags of clippings out to the front, and I was most grateful to have the path cleared. I went back to thank him, he was gracious, and then asked if I wanted to deal with the furniture; I said yes.
A while back, he mentioned that the family was letting go of a few of Phil’s things, and asked if Kate and I wanted anything. I did. Phil had what I call half china cabinets; I have not done any research, but as I know other New York transplants that have these smaller cabinets, I have concluded that their size is impacted by the dimensions of New York apartments. But Phil’s were the first I had seen, and I always found them intriguing.
God bless Kolie, he single handedly moved these very heavy cases; I literally carried the shelves. It did not take me long to be begin to clean the cabinets and put the shelves back in them; I was certain that I wanted to put the menorah that Phil gave me, on at least one shelf, I will have to retrieve it from Maine. The rest is open to endless possibilities, though Tessie’s tea service has already claimed two shelves; but for me, these two pieces of furniture are not about having extra storage or display space, rather they are about having a piece of Phil, in the house!
Every time we pull into the driveway or step out the front door, we are greeted by Joan Hayden’s (must use last name when speaking of the Joan’s) table and benches. Joan Hayden loved to order things in the mail; she had found this set in a catalogue and was quite excited. I remember her describing them before they arrived, calling us over to see them when they came, and helping her fill them with sand – yes, sand.
These plastic version of the cement table and benches so popular in Florida, were supposed to be more versatile and easier to handle, until you filled them with sand to make them stable. Each piece had a very small hole, that we spent a decent amount of time, filling with sand; when Joan decided to go west, she asked me to come pick up the table and benches, as they were not going to make the trip with her, and she did not feel Jose and Maria, who bought her house, would appreciate them. Well, I do not usually care too much for plastic, but I loved Joan and I am so happy to see this piece of her living at the house, in front of the full grown Hong Kong Orchid tree, that grew from the seeds she bought for us to plant.
Oh so many deep breaths required in my bitter sweet house. As I showed Lia the avocado tree my Mother planted, also from a seed, and shared with her my coconuts, that I planted from a one gallon coconut, and even the fig tree that I planted because of beauty I saw in her grandfather’s orchard, I repeatedly find myself flooded with memories of both joy and sorrow.
Last month, another Phil passed away. Though I had seen him in his home in Albuquerque in between, the last time he had been in this home was when my aunt, his mother-in-law had passed away, and we had gathered to share a meal. We had all sat at the dining room table, which now lives in Maine, and watched as Nour’s coconut tree had caught fire, on that stormy day. So many of the people who with whom I have shared this house are now gone, and it breaks my heart; but I keep thinking about Lia sitting where Mother sat, and truly enjoying and appreciating all of it, as much as Mother did, and it gives me hope.
Life is truly so bitter sweet, and so much of the bitter is needless, pointless, and either self-inflicted or a gift from our loved ones; but it is also sweet and that sweetness is so often surprising and truly perfect . . . like Adriana and Marcial saying, wait a minute, yes we want to have dinner with you and meet Lia, but we are thinking you might have your hands full and instead of cooking, let us take you to the perfect Cuban restaurant, with a floor show! (It was not The Versailles, but the food was honestly better and Lia got to dance.) More importantly to me, I really was tired, and I so appreciated the invitation, as well as the perfect suggestion when the Cuban Museum of the Diaspora, that we were all supposed to go to the next day, was closed, yet again, and Marcial brought up Fairchild Gardens; a wonderful destination!
One of the many things, which I appreciate about Lia, is the value she places on material objects; she truly understands that pictures, and dishes, and jewelry, and every sort of odds and ins, matter because they take us back and allow us to recall the giver or the circumstances that brought that thing into our life, and how things are always about life and the people we share this life with. Thus I welcome the new refrigerator that has already been used to feed Lia, who by the way, was our first house guest in Maine, and it will soon be used to feed Adriana and Marcial, and I hope many others; though it will not hold Mother’s milk, for her coffee. I also welcome Phil’s cabinets and the treasures they will hold, all reminding me of the people in my life, which I love. That is all for now!