Monday, June 18

Full Plate

In a past life, there was just Don and I. No kids. Not an Ian, nor an Emma, and not yet a bonus-package Andrew.

Just the two of us, young and unencumbered and full of hopes and plans and dreams. Our path was clearly marked and in those early years of our marriage we moved several times. Each of those moves was an education related journey leading us from Utah, for a short stop in Nevada to finish undergraduate work, then ultimately to Arizona where we would settle and make our home for many years.

Until we started all over again, but that is another story.

Our first home in Tucson was a studio apartment for married students at The University of Arizona. The sprawling apartment community was a series of dilapidated single story structures painted an odd trendy southwest-seafoam-green. House sizes ranged from the single room studio apartment like we rented, to dwellings in the 1, 2 or 3 bedroom range. For the larger families there was the genius arrangement of two larger apartments, adjacent either side by side, or front to back. A shared wall removed made it a comfortable home for the whole clan.

The people of this apartment community--Christopher City--were as varied as you can imagine. There were many like us, transplants to Arizona from various places in the USA, studying for advanced degrees under the hot desert sky. Also, returning students (imagine such a thing!) who were finishing degrees long ago begun, or embarking on new studies leading to new careers. Students of all ages, all walks of life, all stages of maturity and from all over the globe. It was my first experience living in a fully integrated international community. That in itself was a fascinating experience for me, a young girl born and raised in Utah, to share in and learn about the cultural diversity which surrounded us there. Living there in that community was a valuable education for me. I witnessed much, gathered important information and opened my heart and mind to the new and unknown. It was grand.

In Christopher City I learned about the Muslim custom of never returning an empty plate. My friend, Cynthia, a tall, fair, blue-eyed blond American woman taught me about the custom by sharing with me her mistakes after meeting and marrying Shudri, a tall, brown-eyed, ebony topped, handsome Jordanian man. It was kind of her to share her knowledge. I immediately employed the information with my neighbors and friends. Though I could never match the exquisite tastes presented to us by our devoted and loving Libyan neighbors, I knew that my effort of "filling the plate" would be recognized and appreciated. I did my best to return plate for plate, and when the Cuscus bil-Bosla arrived I returned potato salad. Fragrant Sharba Libiya? A pot of homemade Chicken Soup. Then tit for tat, a mouthwatering plate of Basboosa was answered with a mountain of Chocolate Chip cookies.
That habit quickly became ingrained in me, and even after moving away from Christopher City and its strong international influence, I continued the practice. Now it is actually difficult for me to return an empty dish to someone who has generously shared time and treats with me.

Which brings me to this.
Last week we were again the recipients of kindness and goodness and generosity. As the postal carrier buzzed the front bell last Saturday morning, I got a little giddy as I spotted through the front window that in his hands he held a box. I knew that in that box were books. Sent from Anno who lives in the states. Anno came by to read my whining blog one day and between her comments on the page and the ensuing email exchange afterward we discovered a kinship. Or at least I feel that with her. I have been a devoted reader of her blog ever since, and I believe she frequents this little spot on the web as well. If you are not yet a reader of Anno's Place, I highly recommend you step over and get acquainted. I could wax poetic for ages on all that Anno is, but I will sum it up with this, she is an inspiration. Go read, you will see I mean.
So, if you don't mind, I am going to use this venue here to give my heartfelt thanks to this generous blogging friend.

Dear Anno,
I am grateful beyond words for your kindness and generosity. It has been a real treat to sit and read your delicious picks for me. I don't know how to say just how grateful I am. And I thought you should simply see what it means to my daughter that you took the time to correspond with me, package the books and ship these choices to us:
You could say she is eating it up. I am eating it up. We appreciate you and we thank you heartily and profusely.

And, because I can't return an empty plate. A trip down memory lane for Anno. These are shots I took of her childhood home here in my neck of the woods.
Hey! Anno, if you lived here, you'd be home now!

It may seem obvious, but I will say it anyway. Once again, my plate heart is full. My belly mind content. My soul is fed.


  1. This is amazing, Jenn -- thanks so very much! It looks exactly as I remember it, except its current residents look to be far more talented gardeners.

    How could I not feel a connection to an American woman living near the neighborhood where I grew up, who sees the swans I remember, whose children are attending the school I attended, who misses BOOKS? You have a gift for writing about your life in a way that connects your experience with others... to the benefit of us lucky readers! What a treat to have discovered your blog!

  2. What a wonderful thing meeting a kindred spirit is. I also adore anno, and you, too. I'll be right around the corner from Utah soon- maybe you're pining for something...

  3. Beautiful post! I love the idea of never returning the plate empty.

    And now, I'm off to go check out Anno's site. How could I not, after such praise?

  4. We should never return plates empty.

  5. Jenn,

    Growing up in a rural farming community, there was a similar ethic to gifts of food. After my parents divorced and I went to live with my mom, one of the neighbor moms would send over a tupperware container full of her "special" cookies. I always returned the tub full of my best cookies - Snickerdoodles.

    It wasn't until my older sister pointed out a couple years later that the neighbor was actually trying to "take care" of that poor child of a single mom that I understood how odd it must have been to her to get that box back full! And, as my sister noted, my cookies were always better than my neighbors, too!!

    Great post, Jenn! Ken

  6. anno-
    I appreciate your thoughts. Sorry it took me a few days to get the "thank you" made public, but I just HAD to get those shots for you!

    It is incredible to meet like this. The feeling is mutual.

    Enjoy the read!

    Exactly, especially when our plates are so full!

    Love it! And, uh... I LOVE snickerdoodles. They are my all time favorite. :)

  7. I never knew this was a muslim custom...I thought it was a "Christina" custom because I have just always done that. Filled up the plate to return it!

    Beautiful post!

  8. What a sweet post Jenn.
    I am so amazed at the connection that I feel with other bloggers, like you. Even though we haven't physically met I feel like many of my blogger friends know me very deeply.
    Enjoy the books!

  9. I always thought it was a "Miss Manners" type custom. Not that I ever think to do it, but I really should. It's very nice.

  10. What a great post!

  11. I think returning a full plate is a wonderful custom. It's important to give back.

    I also think it's amazing - the connections that can be made through your blog. Wonderful post!

  12. agreeing with everyone else - returning the plat full is a lovely idea!