Joi and her husband were poor. He was a sacker in a small grocery while she raised their four children in a two-bedroom house and they both worked on college degrees at the same time.
Although we were good friends, Joi was a constant source of inadequacy in me. Her scratch cooking, home canning, crocheted doilies, and hand-sewn quilts, all worked on my sense of accomplishment. She would even blend soy beans in her blender for soy milk.
And then turned it into ice cream.
How did she always fill the gaps among their possessions with cheer? How did she know all about healthful eating before the age of computers? How did she know about herbal healing before the herbal renaissance? How play piano beautifully? I would never catch up!
The day came when Joi and her husband completed their degrees and moved to the land of employment. I lost touch with her, but not exactly; I still can feel Joi’s cheer in my life.
One time, for my birthday, she brought me a huge surprise. Simple and cherishable, just like Joi, the gift brought me happiness, that day. Enveloped in kitchen linens was an enormous steaming loaf of bread. You’ve never seen one that big. I was so excited. With it was a bag of spinach from her own garden, immaculately cleaned.
What fun we had loving that sweet gift to pieces, literally! These delicious additions to my birthday supper may seem like an odd gift to you, but Joi knew what it would mean to us, and we saw the love in it.
If I had washed and washed a big bag of spinach and then given it away I’d be missing it. But Joi just smiled her cheery best. If I’d had the aromas of homemade bread floating through my house, for naught, if I’d known that bread was going to someone else’s house, I’d have handed it over very longingly, not cheerily like Joi.
In a way, you could say Joi was the gift.