Several momentous events occurred in my life in 2005, beginning with a month-long trip to Italy with my daughter, newly graduated from college. When we returned home, I moved to St. Augustine, ninety miles away, as a newly divorced fifty-year old, beginning life in a new city with a new job.
Feral cats roamed the neighborhood where I lived in St. Augustine. One of them remained aloof from the rest and began making her home on my patio. I eventually adopted her into my life and crowned her “Abby.” Abby, a long-haired black cat with green eyes, followed her own rules. She jumped on furniture, book shelves, and tables and didn’t flinch when pillows, books, and glassware went flying. When I moved to Tallahassee, I couldn’t take this still half-wild cat with me, so my friends, Joy and John, became her foster parents. Abby took over their home and Nico, their black lab. Nico lives in fear of Abby after seven years of cohabiting. I recently visited them, and noticed Nico wouldn’t go near his food dish when Abby was in the room. Today, my friend Joy discovered that Abby definitively declared herself the Queen of All Things. This photo says it all.
Another friend came into my life in 2005 as well, and she has achieved a milestone today by publishing her new cookbook, Cuban Rice Classics, on Amazon. Marisella Veiga is an accomplished author, journalist, and professor. When I moved to St. Augustine, I went to a woman’s networking luncheon. I was running late and thought all the seats were taken in the room full of one hundred women. There wasn’t an empty seat available, except next to a friendly woman with dark hair and welcoming smile.
“I’m Marisella Veiga, and I’m a writer,” the woman said.
“I’m a writer, too,” I answered. Out of all the people in the room, we were the only writers, and I’m certain something other than ourselves created that one empty chair next to Marisella that day.
I knew we’d be great friends. We were both new to St. Augustine. She’d recently married for the first time, and I’d recently divorced for the first time. We shared some of the same sarcastic, yet loving, views on life, despite our different backgrounds. She and her family left Cuba when she was very young, and they ended up in Minnesota, where the nice, but isolated people in their community thought the Veiga family were of African-American descent.
But what sealed our friendship that day was when she told me she’d just joined a group of women called, Vintage Surfers.
“But I don’t surf,” I said.
“I don’t either, but it’s a blast to watch the others try,” she answered. “I use a boogie board.”
I joined her, and we’ve “boogied” together ever since by the bonds of mutual respect and a weird sense of humor at life’s sometimes funny and sometimes bitter ironies.
So today, I celebrate the milestone of my fellow author and vintage surfer and friend. Using the traditions of her heritage, Marisella has pulled together a book filled with more than recipes. It contains the legacy and history of the Cuban people and their food, which ties together a culture torn apart by the tragedy of exile from one’s homeland.
Here’s to milestones and friends and laughter.