Awash in Generosity

Generosity of spirit. How I cherish it.

This past weekend I was awash in generous spirits.

First it was at Macy’s. Our fifteen-year-old Peruvian grandson was invited to his first bat mitzvah on Saturday morning. For some reason I’ve been on overload–I think it’s the garden, arrival from all over the country of fledgling plants I’ve sent for that must immediately go into the soil (there’s the African blue basil, the pink-striped Rosa Bianca eggplant, the Cherokee purple heritage tomato, the Bridge to Paris sweet pepper,  the split-leaf Kaffir lime, the white-streaked Kosmic kale)–and so it was Thursday afternoon before I realized with seriousness that Cameron was going to a life-altering ceremony at a synagogue and he didn’t even have a jacket to wear with his black jeans. I googled “What does a teenage boy wear to a bat mitzvah? The answer came, “A suit.” Oy.

Cameron barely was home from school when I grabbed him and we headed to the Macy’s in Capitola. Thank heavens the venerable old company hasn’t closed that store. But, as they used to say before guns were anathema, you could’ve shot deer in it. Not one customer nor clerk in the men’s department. I sent off Cameron to find a sales person and he did. At a pay station her name on a big tag was Kathy. I told Kathy about the bat mitzvah and that he needed–

“Alfani Slim-Fit, 32-30, come with me…” In the past two weeks Kathy said she’d sold dozens of boys’ suits for graduation… “And I’ve been at it for thirteen years!” She had Cameron grab a Calvin Klein white dress shirt, a thin black tie (“Thin doesn’t overwhelm the shirt…”) and a beautiful black leather belt. She looked at his shoes–black leather lace-up track shoes. “I’ve seen worse. They’ll be okay…”

It all came to north of — “We can’t do this, Kathy,” I said sheepishly.

Kathy–large and of a certain age, very sweet face–said, “Oh, I forgot to mention that tomorrow everything will be on sale 50% off.”

“Wow. But I’m afraid we can’t come back tomorrow…” We were expecting out of town guests.

Kathy called Betty…then Hal…then George who arrived with a gizmo that read the price tag then with the flick of a button the price after reduction. Kathy added up the pieces then said to me, “Since you can’t be here tomorrow, just pay tomorrow’s prices today.”

“Oh thank you so much! Please give me the name of someone I can write about you.” Kathy gave me the name of Macy’s store manager. Writing the letter today.

Friday two dear friends drove down from Mill Valley for a long-anticipated visit. Talk about generosity of spirit. Randy and Mark are passionate gardeners and brought a magnificent ruffly pink azalea in an elegant Chinese pot…and a Sun Gold tomato plant… Randy is a bibliophile and brought two of his publications–AND he searched for and found a photocopy he’d made in a previous visit of a valuable letter I’d since lost…so kind.

I must tell you, though, that in my haze-these-days I’d made a vegetable soup for them, put it together on Wednesday to serve for lunch on Friday…so it would ripen, be tastier (as soups are supposed to be).

It was AWFUL. I’d begun with a Parisian recipe, it did seem strange at the time to add white wine to a vegetable soup (I’ve done red, never white, hmmm)…and I spent the next two days trying to retrieve it. By Friday noon the amalgam of pink beans, French green lentils, and half-a-dozen vegetables was terrible. Even my angel husband who loves my cooking said it was no good (reading this to him, Bill hooted–“Don’t say that!” “What shall I say?” “Say it didn’t meet expectations…”). Our guests have dined superbly all over the world and I was mortified. Ah, but their generosity of spirit had them renaming my “soup” a “chili”–said that took the curse off it. It didn’t but somehow made it less awful. I kept shaking my head, wondering what had happened… where had my palate, my art, got to?

Then when we took our friends to dinner at VIM, our favorite restaurant, the gentlemen grabbed the check away from Bill, which upset him, but the generous deed was done. Two of the best…

The next afternoon when Cameron was brought home from the synagogue I couldn’t wait to ask, “How’d you like the ceremony?”

“I liked it.”

“What did you like especially?”

“The chanting.” That did the heart of this old mother of two bar mitzvah boys great good.

“Yes, remember I told you how long she’d studied, how beautiful the chanting was?” A thought: “Oh, and Cameron, did you go up to your friend’s parents and thank them for inviting you?”

“I did.”


The next generosity of spirit came through the door with Cameron’s friend’s father… In a moment of recklessness (last week I told Bill I wasn’t ever going to entertain again) I thought to invite Oscar and his younger sister, Stella, with their father, Roger, to  that night’s spaghetti dinner.  No biggie, says I to myself. And you know, it was OK. I made a tomato sauce with a zillion vegetables, the children chose linguine instead of curlicued cavatappi, Stella and I plucked salad greens from our new raised bed in the back–thrilling–and the generosity of spirit came when Roger arrived with pints of ice cream and sorbet and a fresh marionberry pie. Lovely.

Sunday we were off to the Sixth Birthday Party of our great-grandson Zyl. Now the generosity of spirit on this occasion began with my daughter and son-in-law offering to drive us up to the party a couple of hours north–that was generous but the moreso because their aged dog, Lucy, had to stay home alone (we took Lucy’s place in their car). A kindness indeed.

Driving home Bill said, “That was the best children’s birthday party I’ve ever been to–” Bill was talking ninety-three years of parties.

Why so great? For starters, grandson Stuart and granddaughter-in-law Gaia rented a monster plastic whatchamacallit they blew up to make a twenty-foot-high bumpity dual-slide “obstacle course”…robust young mothers and fathers threw themselves down the chutes after their little kids…boxes upon boxes of cheese and pepperoni pizzas (Bill and I enjoyed brown rice sushi)…a magical bubble machine…Gaia’s vanilla-frosted carrot cupcakes…the Stuart-designed and built rolling wooden track for the kids’ jeep…a huge sandbox…hut with fat red chickens…thirty-foot-long rope swing from a tree… Stuart is a mechanical engineer and Gaia a true earth mother…beautiful rich imaginative generosity of spirit every whichaway…

In their kitchen I was surprised to see an impressive induction range–Gaia showed me it had two ovens. I’ve been hearing about how eight decades of cooking beside a gas stove has been harmful. Maybe that’s why my soup for the gents was off…gas has messed up my brain, my senses…

Don’t laugh, Sylvia.

Then yesterday telling Bill about the stove, my husband said he’d like to give me an induction range for my birthday. “Really?” “Really.” Imagine. So I spent the day researching–came to the conclusion that if mechanical engineer Stuart chose it and baker/cook Gaia has loved it for a year, it’s the one for me.

Ordered it. Two ovens!

Talk about generosity of spirit.

This old girl is showered with it.

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