The Very People We Need Along the Way

Archived | July 21, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Mr. Sundberg was in Chicago doing a talk on Ways to Make Yourself Happy in Three Minutes or Less and the kids were busy sorting through their things deciding what they did/didn’t want to take to camp. No stuffed animals, I’d told them, and you really ought to bring a book. You never know.
I was in the kitchen, sharing a bottle of wine and some beans and rice with my friends Mike and Jane who live over on Leland Avenue and have for some years now. Mike and Jane met at a square dance, at Ohio State University, in the late 1960s. He was wearing an FFA jacket, and she was dressed tastefully in a black A-line dress with belt detail across the front. They saw each other, and liked each other, and that was that. Now he’s a coffee nerd who wears green socks with Velcro-strapped sandals and she’s still tasteful and still wears black and smiles sweetly at him when he sings, or does his Tai Chi out in the back yard in the rain.
It’s funny that we met because they prefer to relax on Saturdays after their stressful work week, where I like to get things done. But we did meet, at an afternoon birthday party for the son of a mutual friend. They were interesting and friendly like most good people are, but what made us friends was his flamboyance and her patience: if he were a bird, he’d be a peacock, and the “Happy Birthday Song” would be his feathered tail. When he sings it, he sings it with gusto, and holds on to the person’s name for so long that everyone else stops singing. This particular party was for a young man named “Warren.” Mike held on to the “-EN” for nearly two minutes in his booming baritone, his arms outstretched, fingers trembling. When he stopped, he gestured and everyone joined in, “Happy Birthday, to you!” We were all a bit bewildered, all but Jane, who smiled at Mike and took his arm in hers as if nothing even remotely unusual had taken place.
Strange how life brings us — out of the blue, at square dances and birthday parties — the very people we need along the way. Let us not question, but rather smile sweetly, take the blessed hand in ours and walk on toward the next thing. It’s all far too fleeting. Remember this.
Tuna Layered Salad
I’ve never been a real fan of raw tomatoes ever since my mother ate them like apples out on the porch when I was a child, but I’m working on it. You can take ’em or leave ’em in this fine salad perfect for a birthday party or a light lunch on a summer afternoon.
4 cups shredded lettuce
1 1/2 cups (4 oz.) medium shell macaroni, cooked and drained
2 cups chopped cucumber
2 cups chopped tomatoes (optional if you’re not a tomato person)
2 can (6 1/2 oz. each) tuna, drained and flaked
1 pkg. (10 oz.) Birds Eye green peas, thawed and drained
1 cup (4 oz.) Kraft natural shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cup Miracle Whip salad dressing
Layer lettuce, shells, cucumber, tomatoes, tuna, peas and cheese in three-quart serving bowl. Spread Miracle Whip salad dressing over salad, sealing to edge of bowl. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Toss to serve. Makes about 8 servings.