So do you have your shopping done? Getting the gifts wrapped and the cookies baked? I've not even started baking yet. That's because I have been a little tied up, in a good way. I had an early Christmas gift that came in the form of a visit from friends.
Maria and Bob are passionate about Italy, so when they said they wanted to come and see Le Marche we were thrilled. Such good friends who love eating, exploring, wine-tasting, and gazing upon gorgeous scenery are a treasure, and we enjoyed toting them around to some of our favorite spots. We spent time cooking and talking together in their vacation villa. We caught up on the news from New Mexico. We laughed a lot and ate a lot and just had a wonderful time together.
But I'll let Maria describe their visit. She put it eloquently in an email to her friends back home:
From our perch in the country there is a visual feast: a perfect patchwork quilt of rolling farmland, all in fall colors - a square of soft gold, a triangle of dusty orange, big patches of earthy corderoy that are tilled fields awaiting the next plantings of greens and grains, staples of the local diet. Small towns and villages drip off the hillsides. Their names roll off our tongues - Ripatransone, Offida, Aquaviva Picena. We've ventured up into the narrow stone streets to get a closer look. We watched an old lace-maker woman blissfully at work in the old tradition which will likely end when she does. I promise you we've left no food uneaten, no coffee unsipped, no wine untasted. Today I will complete a 40 year circle. I will reconnect with my cousin Elia (Elijah) after 40 years of not having seen or spoken with him.
Maria's father came from nearby Abruzzo and she spent many summers there as a child. She chummed around with her cousin, Elia, during some of those teenager times, then lost contact with him for many, many years. We witnessed Maria and Elia's family reunion, which had me choking back tears. Forty years later, to see them talking like no time had passed. What an experience. What a gift...for them, and for us. It was beautiful to behold.
As for us, we last saw Maria and Bob two Christmases ago in Assisi. Don't you just love the friendships that don't allow time and distance to interfere? Where you can go a few years without seeing them but then pick right back up as if you'd just seen them last week?
So, my Christmas gift came early. Friendships. We are so grateful for each and every one of them in our lives. We need no other presents...we have the presence of friends. And that is one of life's most precious gifts, don't you think?