I used to live near a sweet and cheery lady named Joi. She and her husband were quite poor, he being a sacker in a grocery and both of them trying hard to earn college degrees, with four children in a two-bedroom house.Joi and I were friends and she was a constant amazement to me. She made every meal from scratch and did home canning. She crocheted doilies, sewed quilts, even ran soy beans through her blender to make soy milk. And then turned it into ice cream.
Somehow she had an abundance of cheer to compensate for all she did not have. Somehow, before the age of computers, she knew all about the health truth about oleo and butter. Before the age of herbal renaissance, she knew all about herbs. She played piano beautifully, taught piano lessons, and played for her church. I always felt somehow behind when I would visit her house.
Eventually she and her husband completed their degrees and moved to where the jobs were. I regret having lost touch with her, but in a way, I still feel the touch of Joi’s cheer in my life.
When it was my birthday, she visited me with a huge surprise. Humble and sweet, just like Joi, no gift could have made me happier that day. Wrapped in a towel was a huge loaf of warm, homemade bread. I had never seen any bread so big, and later learned she actually used the dough for two loaves and placed them into one bread pan. What a gift! Along with it, she brought a large bag of her own spinach, perfectly washed and grit-free.
We loved that sweet gift to pieces, literally. Every slice of the bread was a marvel of deliciousness and the spinach made a great addition to our supper that night. You may think it was an odd gift, but she knew what it means to think before you give something, and we recognized the rarity of it and the loving care that went into it. Imagine washing and washing all that spinach and then giving it away! Imagine the aromas of homemade bread floating through your house, but the bread going to someone else’s house.
It was a gift.