One day late last month, the weather was mild, which inspired Nicky to suggest that our friends group hold court at Johnson Park. He wanted to have an impromptu pot luck picnic. It wasn’t going to be fancy or difficult. We could make something from scratch at home or buy a pre-cooked dish from the supermarket. The idea was just to hang out at the Norfolk, Nebraska park and have lunch around a picnic table.
Everyone agreed that we should do this and wanted to show up. I bought a couple of packages of sushi from the HyVee deli and arrived at the park a few minutes early. The autumn air was free of humidity and the temperature was ideal for my favorite way to dress–jeans and a hoodie. I set the cooler that contained the sushi and a pitcher of ice tea on one of the picnic tables under a grouping of trees. Then I strolled over to one of the park’s flower beds to ponder the blooms that remained from summer.
After several minutes, the rest of the friends group began arriving so I returned to the picnic table to chat and help set up for our meal. Someone brought one of those tie-down table cloths with a red, gingham print design. When the table was covered, Nicky and I set the table with some old, scratched-up, Fiesta Ware dinner plates and drinking mugs. Tony finished with a mixed assortment of old flatware that he had accumulated over the years. All six of us placed our food contributions at the middle of the table. To our eyes, the picnic table had been transformed into the setting for an old-fashioned family reunion.
Absent of any formalities, we were seated then helped ourselves to the food and drinks. Somebody asked if it was gauche to eat Cheetos with sushi. We all responded with mock horror then laughed. The rest of the meal continued in a similar vein–with friendly banter and gossip among everyone. Ed had purchased some chocolate sheet cake for dessert. Even though I normally avoid sugary foods, I indulged in a small slice of it anyway as a way to continue to share in our friendly communion.
After rinsing the plates and putting away the perishables we lingered at the picnic table for another hour or so until most of us left for prior commitments or appointments. Ed and I remained to finish cleaning up the area. We agreed that Nicky’s idea for a picnic was a winner.
As I sit at my laptop this morning, the memories of that simple gathering bring a smile to the face and joy to my heart. That homey get-together was an expression of joi de vivre–the keen enjoyment of life.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the author Richard Bach. “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”