Lately, I have had some visitors to my own farm!
Last week, young (23) Austin Ashcraft was blowing through town to interview for teaching positions in Orange County. He bravely made the trip north to L.A. in rush hour, appearing at my door in time for a cup of strong coffee. We made our way to 7 p.m. Mass at Holy Trinity, to Indochine for Vietnamese noodles, and then to the Casbah Cafe where Austin enjoyed a carrot cupcake and I observed (it was close to 10), "You young folks surely have lots of energy!"
He is off to Africa with a friend, poised to light the world on fire, and I got a huge kick out of getting to spend time with him.
Then Monday afternoon I was returning from jury duty in downtown L.A. when I rec'd an email:
You don't know me, and we've never met. But my family is passing through LA today (we are from the north country of Portland,Oregon) and after seeing your blog post about you walk through the neighborhood near St. Francis of Assisi Catholic church after your morning Mass, we decided to pull of the highway and see the neighborhood.
"Hello Jesus!" I just said to the kids (I have 5). We are parked outside of the church you wrote about and can hear the children playing in their schoolyard. It is a peaceful, welcome turnoff from the highway.
If this email happens to go to your phone, and you'd like to have a cup of coffee, or stand on the sidewalk in the sunshine to shake hands, shoot me a text. Number below. :)."
Part of me thought, Oh for the love of heaven, I need to catch up on some work. And the other part thought, You're going to go home and make a giant cup of coffee: why not invite these folks over? So I emailed back, and ten minutes later a van pulled up and out spilled, Sia (long i, who is pregnant), her husband Justin, and their four kids: Aidan, 7; Eli, 6; Micah, 4; and Hazel, 2.
We settled in at the big long white table on the veranda. Sia told me a bit about her background, which included being raised on a farm among the Alleghenies, several siblings, and a love for Appalachian music.
So I said, "Oh yes, I have spent some time in Appalachia. Why just a couple of months ago I was in Pittsburgh, and this lovely woman picked me up and brought me to her farm outside Steubenville. In fact you look a lot like her. Her name was Dru Hoyt."
Whereupon Sia and Justin looked at each other really hard, and Sia said--"Dru Hoyt is my mother." And we all shrieked "Oh my God!" "No!" "How weird is that?" for about five straight minutes.
Anyhoo, we had a grand old chat. This is just how I enjoy children: in hour-long stretches, with their parents present. Every so often, I'd feel a butterfly-like fluttering on my side or wrist, and would look down to see a little hand and a small face bestowing the MOST beatific smile. The kids speared fountain algae with sticks, inquired as to the difference between goldfish and koi, and drew. We grownups talked about money, vocation, and the fact that Catholicism is all about enjoying good food, good beer, good coffee, good sunglasses, and in Justin's case, the music of Ryan Adams.
Thank you, visitors to the farm!