I spent this weekend on a "play date" with my seven-year-old nephew Edward. He was so excited about my coming to visit that he was talking about it for days. When I arrived, he was beside himself with excitement. Edward has such enthusiasm for everything he does and learns he doesn't know the meaning of the word "boredom."
My first job as uncle was to help Edward to put up a tent in his backyard. It was his first real tent and he loved every thing about it. He had a concern about rats and other critters (something he picked up from his mother), so I reassured him that he need not worry. Even bears won't bother you if you don't bother them. This is what uncles have been telling their nephews since Cro-Magnon times.
Once the tent was put up, I unpacked my camping equipment and we boiled water on my primus stove and made some mint tea and pretended we were camping out in the wilderness.
In the evening I sat around with Edward and his mom in the tent and told the funny scary campfire stories that are old, yet eternally new. We also ate some-mores, a childhood favorite with a modern twist. Being certifiably liberal, we used free traded, organic chocolate and gluten-free rice imitation graham crackers. But the marshmellows were the traditional kind.... how can you improve upon this perfect junkfood?
We also went to a birthday party for Edward's friend Rustam. The party took place in a park and had Indian food (samosas) along with pizza, chicken wings, and cake. Rustam's family is Zoroastrian, from India. They were rather impressed that I know a lot about Persian culture and Zoroaster. There are only a few thousand Zoroastrians in Northern California and they have a temple near Palo Alto. I had an interesting conversation with a Zoroastrian engineer and learned how this ancient religion is practiced today. Few people realize how much Christianity and Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism.
I also learned that the mother of the boy who is having a birthday has breast cancer and is undergoing chemo. She is a young woman in her thirties and seems to be doing amazingly well.
Cancer has become epidemic. Marianne Sabelman, the wife of the Friend I am staying with, also had cancer. Hers was ovarian and she underwent treatment last year at about the same time as Kathleen. Thanks be to God, Marianne is doing fine and seems very healthy and upbeat.
I have thoroughly enjoyed having conversations with Marianne and Eric, who are delightful and thoughtful people as well as gracious hosts. Eric is a biomedical engineer who designs and fixes the complex machinery used for high tech operations. Marianne is an active Episcopalian with a zest for life. (She grew up on a farm in Denmark.)
I plan to go to Quaker meeting this morning and look forward to seeing old (and not-so-old) Friends. I am also looking forward to spending one more afternoon with Edward before heading up to San Francisco to visit with Stephen Matchett, the clerk of the Western Friend board, and then on to Pacific Yearly Meeting's annual session.
Thank you, God, for the gift of family and friends! What a blessing!