Feast for the Fight took place last night, and so it came to pass that this Torontonian braved high winds and rain in the name of fundraising.
In high school, I met a very brave and beautiful friend of mine through mutual friends. The way I remember it, we were introduced because she was friends with someone I had a ridiculous crush on, and while the crush went nowhere -- thankfully, as I had some interesting taste back in the day -- she and I became friends. She was the one who got me drunk at our prom party off apricot brandy. She was the one who helped me study for history and classical civilization exams in university and made sure I had my information down pat. When she was living in Toronto she brought me back a load of gluten-free products from Toronto to try; around my nineteenth birthday, we split a bottle of Sour Puss while at Guelph, visiting a friend of ours. I remember the night I met the man who would become her husband and thinking he seemed cool. When we both lived in Windsor, we danced together at the Loop like nobody's business, and we continued the tradition by being the last ones standing on the dance floor at the wedding of a friend of ours this past May. Whenever I've been through the ringer and I let my friends in on it, I can count on her to say, "Your house or mine?" and though she may not have always agreed with my choices, she's always been on my team.
And no, we are not alcoholics. Thanks for checking.
Several years ago, around what must've been my twenty-first birthday, I spent a lot of time at the hospital. My grandfather was wittling away, the consequences of working as a millwright during the hay days of asbestos. It is one thing to know someone is dying, but it is quite another to know they are suffering. It feels heavier. But while I'm reasonably adept at dealing with death in my own way, as much as anyone can ever be, it's another to know that girl you sat across from at the school cafeteria now sits across from you in the hospital. Because I do not take myself so seriously, I have this terrible habit of cracking jokes when people are upset. And so between bringing Tim Hortons fruit and yogurt cups to my grandfather and listening to Johnny Cash on tape, I tried to see her and make her laugh. Maybe you just had to feel it instead of trying to make sense of it.
Shortly after my grandfather died, her mother passed away from cancer.
Since then, she has participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure every year. I ran with her a couple of years. Of course, with these things, it is not just about the money, though that matters. And it's not just about the race. It's about respecting and honouring the past, certainly, but also about conjuring a vision of the future that looks better than the present. This sounds hokey and trite, but yes, it's about hope. Can you imagine a day when we can cure someone of cancer? I want to live that. Feast for the Fight is one of many fundraisers dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and the like, but I didn't agree to attend solely for that. I attended in honour of that vision. It's that vision that gets me knitting scarves for women and children living in shelters. The one that lived with me as I weeded an older woman's garden this past summer while plucking crabapples from a tree. The one I carried with me to the top of the CN Tower tonight, something I am doing because that same friend encouraged me to do it, wrote me a note to remind me I could it, and helped me to raise enough money to participate. Here's to all of that.
I am glad that I could, over a bowl of pretty good pad thai at the Queen Mother Cafe, give back in some small way. But I am also glad to keep doing what I do, which is this: to cook and to write about the way food brings these stories back to life for me. To show the people in my life that I love them again and again, whether it's through a slice of maple whisky pumpkin cake or a plate of overcooked scrambled eggs (hi Laura). This is the way I hope.
While I wait for that vision to manifest, I'm feeling fortunate tonight that I have people in my life who offer tremendous support and keep me grounded. You make the present a gift to live.