August 26, 2022

Dear Madelyn,

I am on my way home after spending the week away from you. I was working in north eastern Pennsylvania supporting the rollout of a new product initiative. All of those words mean nothing to you, but I think you are starting to understand that I can leave, so to you, I am gone and you don’t care what I’m doing just that I am not with you. I wonder where you think I am, if you worry I won’t come back, if these thoughts are more of an uncomfortable feeling you can’t quite understand. Like you know something is different without me there but you aren’t fully reacting to this underlying emotion.

Don’t worry, I am on my way home right now. Flying as fast as this plane will go to get me back to you to celebrate your 11 months earth side tomorrow. I hear you were extra hungry today. Asking for more food every hour and a half. I think this is a sign you are feeling better which makes me so happy to know. All the little sniffles you get from daycare have been effecting me too. I don’t like to see you sick and while I’m still healthy I feel like I get sympathy sniffles with you.

I know someday you are going to roll your eyes at this but we hit some rough turbulence mid-flight and all I wanted to do was look at pictures of your face to calm me down. I wonder if the same would work for you right now, looking at pictures of me to remind you I still exist? Would it make you more calm or anxious that I’m not actually there? Daddy sent me a snap of you falling forward on the coffee table and bumping your lip. You’re pretty clumsy these days as you practice walking. He said you were upset for quite a bit after that, but I know he is always taking the best care of you.

While I was gone I not only worked but got to invest in some of the good friendships i have in Pennsylvania. Brian took me to see his hometown and brought me to the Pizza Capital of the World in Old Forge, PA. There was this white broccoli pizza that was phenomenal with a double crust and the perfect balance of broccoli to garlic and a special cheese you can’t get back home in Kansas. All of the food was so rich, flavorful, and you could tell made with so much love. They sent us home with 2 cannolis because I said it was my first time there and after we stopped at an ice cream parlor where I had two scoops of cherry ice cream. I could barely walk up to my hotel room after that night it was such good eats.

Pizza Capitol of the World – Old Forge,PA

Then today as I made the journey back down to Philly for my flight back home and I made plans to meet up with a few friends along the way. First was John, we worked together in Cape Girardeau and he moved to Mehoopany a few years back. He made me breakfast with homemade potatoes and a brioch bagel breakfast sandwhich that was phenomenal with the sweetest strawberries and 2 cups of coffee that were sorely needed as I was running on only 4 hours of sleep after getting off nightshift. I was so tired I spilled coffee all over my white shirt and somehow dropped a strawberrry just right it also stained the top part of my shirt. We are good enough friends he forgave my clumsiness…(humm now I’m hoping your current clumsiness is only temporary and that you hopefully didn’t inherit lifelong clumsiness from me..time will tell).

After wrapping up breakfast I changed my stained shirt then checked out of my hotel and headed down to Allentown, PA where I made plans to meet up with a friend I made at a writing retreat last summer. Laura was the first to get a publishing deal from the group which is super exciting! She is working on the final chapters of the book which should come out next November and it was such a lovely conversation just catching up and getting to learn a little more about eachother. We were sitting out on her deck and I got to soak in some sun rays that were much needed after not seeing the sun for a few days. We took a selfie to document the visit and said our good byes so I could head to see one last friend in Pennsylvania.

My good friend, Mama Sue , invited me into her gorgeous home in her small town neighborhood. Her and her daughter, Elle, were heading to a birthday party for a classmate soon after my visit so our time was limited but packed full of joy. As I walked in the door Elle had a menagerie of craft supplies laying on the floor. I asked Sue if I could store my milk in her freezer while we visited so it wouldn’t thaw. She walked me back to the the kitchen and made just the right amount of Tetris space needed to fit my milk loot I kept making during my week away from you. By the time we got back to the front room Elle had her paper folded up into what I thought was a wand, sword, or light saber. After asking her if it was any of these things and getting “no” for a response she explained how she was making a mask for her friend as a birthday gift and the folded paper I thought was a wand was actually the headband the mask would be attached to. I had never seen something so crafty yet functional assembled in 5 minutes or less. I was so impressed with the creativity and wondered if I would have thought of something like this as a child (most likely not).

We had planned on having lunch together and I remembered Sue’s husband owns a local resturant I really wanted to try. I did think after the fact they probably go there often they could be tired of it but she was so kind and took me there anyway. Pinocchio’s Pizza is just off the main strip of the town they lived in. We parked in a metered lot $1/hour pay by license plate then we walked a block to the restaurant. The outside had a tent in what I think used to be parking and a covered deck both of which were relatively empty because it was still kind of early for a Friday, but as soon as you walked inside the place it was buzzing with a lunch crowd.

I walked in first and the hostess asked me how many, before I could answer Sue walked in and the hostess gave her a warm welcome. We were then quickly seated at a booth. As we were walking in Sue kept saying hi to everyone there and even excused herself to go talk to someone outside while Elle and I hung out together.

Elle had brought along another craft she had made that looked like a tower made of a cardboard toilet paper roll with a green car shaped crayola taped to the side and a Panera card also secured by tape to the top acting like a platform. She had handed it to me before we walked in so I set it on the table and then she opened up her green backpack and started pulling out felt animals she said she had just gotten on her trip to the Crayloa Factory the day before (also where she made the car shaped crayon). There was an alligator, narwhal, horse, a dragon and at least 5 other animals I can’t remember at the moment. I stacked the dragon on top of the Panera toilet paper roll tower and called him king of the land, mostly because dragons are your dads favorite. Sue came back and we ordered our drinks and I told her just to get the best thing on the menu her and Elle would eat. It was the hummus platter and a plain cheese pizza, the best pizza to sample when you’re having the good stuff.

The hummus platter came out absolutely gorgeous like a Mediterranean charcuterie board. Hummus, pita, olives, roasted bell pepper, cucumbers, and squares of deliciously salty feta cheese. I saw Elle assemble a mini pizza out of these ingredients with the hummus as the sauce base on a pita triangle and the feta cheese as the topping. The perfect appetizer to the cheese pizza we had just ordered and was on its way to our table soon.

I had seen a photo of a tiramisu cake on the side of the napkin holder and I was sure to I let the waitress know I would definitely want a slice at the end, but to-go so Elle wouldn’t be late for the birthday party.

5 star pizza in my books. Not to dethrone the Pizza Captial of the World from their standings I had earlier in the week. Both were amazing in their own way.

The pizza came out just marvelously. The crust with some of those big bubbles just slightly charred from the oven and the cheese layered on a simple sauce. *chefs kiss*

Sue’s husband came out from the back to visit with us and one of his friends near our table as we ate. I got to meet his sister and got into a conversation with his friend about dropping his daughter off at her first semester of college down in Florida this past weekend. Everyone there was so friendly and kind. They didn’t let me pay for the meal even though I was still on my corporate card for work travel. Our waitress did not forget to wrap up my tiramisu slice so I could take it to go. She took good care of us.

I’ve spent the most time sharing about this visit with Sue because I feel like this type of community I got to witness was eye opening to me. It’s a life I’ve never seen, the dynamics of it seemed to flow together like a chaotic yet choreographed dance where the resturant is the stage for everyone to come, eat, talk, and just be.

I know running a restaurant must be long hours which I can see be very challenging however being there in the resturant with them was such a vibe I feel like I could sit and be fully present in and watch the community they serve (literally) each and every day.

Getting to visit all of these friends in one day has made me really feel grounded. I am filled with joy and content having been welcomed into each of their homes and each of them had a story to tell even John, Brian, and Laura that I didn’t go into much detail with. I feel like chasing days like today and relationships like these is something worth pausing and reflecting on.

I feel what I experienced today wasn’t a result of me chasing achievements or ego, I wasn’t after anything materialistic like more money, a bigger car, or even the coolest new outfit. I didn’t win any awards or gain recognition for something I did. But each of these people made me feel honored they would share their time with me and it has filled me with the most peace and contentment. Today was beautiful, I had energy even though I was tired and I pray I was able to give each of my friends positive uplifting energy right back to carry them through the next days, weeks, and months because even though our lives are hundreds of miles apart, there is still this thread of energy that keeps us united. I pray you understand and find this too for yourself baby girl it is truly priceless.



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