We've been trying to get together since late August--Luisa and I; two busy friends, juggling appointments and schedules. We hadn't seen one another for some time and there was so much catching up to be done!
After a false start or two, I planted a figurative flag on September 27. Nothing, I promised, would encroach on this day; it was sacred to this particular friendship!
We arranged to meet at 9.30 for breakfast at the Cora’s at Dufferin and Steeles and I began to look forward to it more and more as the day approached.
I had not been to that particular Cora's before and so I printed off the directions. The travel time was supposed to be 40 minutes, so I planned to leave at 8.30, leaving time for a leisurely drive to the restaurant.
I had the day off from work and felt so peaceful driving down towards the city with no agenda but God's for our time together. I didn't even turn on my car radio as I drove, or listen to my latest audio book from the library. Those sounds would have intruded on the day somehow.
Such was my reverie that I drove right past my turnoff on highway 7! I was very glad that I had enough margin time that I could get off at Finch, the next exit, go east to Dufferin; up to Steeles, and still be on time.
Ha! That would have been the case had I just turned around and gone back up the highway, but Finch was moving at a snail's pace due to construction at Keele Street. I didn't know that of course, and patiently inched my way along, glancing periodically at my watch with increasing alarm! I realized that I was going to be late. Then it was just a matter of revising exactly how late I was going to be every few minutes.
I imagined Luisa sitting in Cora's waiting. We had both anticipated this day so happily that at least she wouldn't think I'd forgotten. At last, after an excruciatingly slow crawl along Finch Street, I arrived at Dufferin and was on my way back north.
I got to the small restaurant in a strip mall at 9.45 and hurried inside. "I'm looking for someone who might be waiting for someone else to arrive," I said to the waitress. She waved her arm around the restaurant, "Take a look, it's not very big." I scrutinized the tables carefully; Luisa wasn't there.
"Did you notice anyone leaving because they gave up waiting?" I asked.
"No, no one did that," said the waitress, showing me to a table, "Do you want to wait?"
I said yes, settled into a seat and ordered coffee. It was unlike Luisa to be late. I had not checked email that morning and wondered if she had left me a message; perhaps something had come up--some last minute emergency. I chided myself for not exchanging cell phone numbers.
Then I realized that there was nothing at all I could do but relax and enjoy the gift that God had given me. It wasn't the gift I was planning on; breakfast with Luisa, but I was in Cora's with a cup of coffee and I decided to order breakfast. I have never eaten alone in a restaurant before and always wondered what that was like. I happened to have a book with me in which I had one final appendix to read.
I checked the menu and found to my joy that "Ode to Oatmeal," was back on it. I love oatmeal and Cora's oatmeal has English cream on the side; strawberries around the edge; a sprinkling of blueberries in the centre, and maple syrup.
Between sips of coffee and spoons of delicious oatmeal; I finished the book. I decided that there was a certain kind of pleasure in this eating alone thing. I had just put the book away when someone came through the door in a hurry. It was Luisa, looking abjectly apologetic and harried!
What glad hugs we exchanged. She had slept in and woken up in a panic when she realized what day it was. If I had arrived on time, I probably wouldn't have been there any more when Luisa arrived. God saw to it that we didn't miss each other by slowing me down, and he gave me the gift of finishing a book I'd been wanting to finish as well.
How is it possible to talk for four hours and still have things to say next time? But we did. That is one of the gifts of friendship.
One little snippet from our conversation: Luisa, a musician, has just finished 5 years at the University of Toronto. We were talking about music lessons and my abject failure a few years ago when I took them. My teacher told me that if I just practiced for 10 minutes a day, that was all I needed to do but each week I felt guilty because I couldn't seem to manage it. Truthfully, I chose not to. I had a fantasy of playing the piano, but wasn't willing to do the necessary work. I was amazed though, that only ten minutes a day would have been enough.
Luisa nodded and said that a PhD student at university had told her about research that shows that it isn't how long you practice but how often. She said that there is something about "presenting yourself to the instrument." Her fellow student said that going to the instrument ten times a day is better than spending 10 hours practicing.
I had given Luisa a copy of The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers, explaining that it is a wonderful "prompt to prayer," and so small that you can keep it with you always and open it for many interludes of prayer and devotion during the day.
When Luisa talked about going to the instrument, both of us instantaneously looked towards the book.
I reached out, gently touched it and said with a laugh, "Go to the instrument." :)