Borlotti Bean Friendships (Don’t Flash the Milkman)

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As I stood at my kitchen sink this morning, listening to the incessant roar of traffic out my window, the candle on the windowsill flickering as I worked through 55,000 pods of borlotti beans, I contemplated how many things have changed about my life since moving from a rural area to the land of urban farming… not the least of which being that I actually know what a borlotti bean is now. Not the sort of insider information I ever picked up living on an apple farm.

Possibly, you have not had reason to gain this bit of knowledge either, so let’s pause in today’s ramble to bring you up to speed.

I have no idea who Jay’s Beef is. But his pictures were right.

It didn’t take long living here for me to realize that I had unconsciously developed certain personal habits during our time living in the middle of an orchard that were, shall we say, less socially acceptable if you have neighbors within rock-throwing distance (it’s an example, people, calm down. Rock throwing does not happen to be one of my bad habits). I swear I am not an exhibitionist or anything. I just got sort of relaxed about closing my windows when I got dressed. Like I said, in the orchard, the worst that could happen was a scandalized farm dog or gopher, and as we have established in other posts, the feelings of the yard rodents are not my chief priority.

But at Feodora, my bedroom window (let’s just assume for the sake of argument that I only change my clothes in the bedroom. Otherwise this gets too horrifying to post) looks out, rather brazenly, upon my front yard, and has a view of 2 different roads. Which means 2 different roads have a view of me. I became aware of this one Friday morning when I was feeling discontent with my chosen outfit and popped back into my room to change. In my mind, the cars driving by were going solidly 50 MPH (they obviously haven’t been hearing all these radio announcements about how going even 1 mile over the speed limit is tantamount to instant death) and one housewife’s boobs at that speed would hardly be noticeable.

However… I did not account for the milkman.

The fact that we have access to such a thing as a weekly delivery of dairy products to a little box on my front step is magical to me. The fact that said milkman shows up in a large white truck covered with black spots is next level magical. The further fact that our nice young man is the sort of milkman who not only receives the cheerful little notes and crafts left for him by the Quail but actually writes them back puts the magic into galactic proportions.

I tell you this so that you will understand why it was absolutely NOT my intention to scar our milkman for life, or make him barter with God for retroactive blindness. I simply forgot to close the shade and forgot he was coming. You have never seen a half naked, nearly 40 year old woman hit the ground so fast. At least… I hope you haven’t. I don’t think he actually realized how close to disaster he came, for he is a good sort of fellow who doesn’t go peering into windows and was obviously in a hurry (kindly abstain from all comments about the hurry possibly not having to do with the milk deliveries. It is low hanging fruit… aw sheesh, that sounds wrong now too…). But it was enough to teach me an important lesson about life in town:

Put a donation box outside your window if you are not going to close the shades.

Or something like that. Back to the beans.

Learning how to cook with these fresh shelling beans has been pretty fun for me, as they do not require the planning ahead that dried beans do (impulse beans equal cool), and they are such a visually striking legume! They have fascinating dark red or pink streaks and spots across a cream-colored backdrop… that is, until you cook them. It is my chief disappointment with borlotti beans — they turn a bland grayish color when cooked. Oh, they still taste great, and I love using them, but I can’t help thinking they would be infinitely more fun to eat if they kept their spots under the heat.

And then it hit me, as I stood there (fully clothed) at my kitchen window: Friendships require baring. And wisdom requires that we only bare to the beans who keep their spots when the heat is turned up.

Maybe this could use an explanation…

If there is one phrase I have heard consistently over the years, in every church we have been a part of, from women in every age and situation, married or single, kids or childless, it is “I am lonely. I don’t seem to connect with people at church.” And it has always struck me, because if all of us feel that we are on the outside of things, who is on the inside? Is there an inside? Hand in hand with this grief, for that is truly how I would characterize it, goes a frustration with the superficial small talk that we are all so prone to. How do we go any deeper? How do we know if we should be really openly and bluntly sharing when someone asks how we are doing?

I have an odd, perhaps unique, volume of experience in this regard. On the one hand, moving as much as we have necessitates finding ways to plug in to new communities ALL. THE. TIME. And to complicate the issue a bit further, we do not bring typical introductions to the table… to drop casually into conversation that you are a two feeding tube house, that all your kids have special needs, that you homeschool, that your husband is a dissociative thus giving you not one husband, but nine, and then the tattoos… it is not done easily or gracefully. Like, ever. It creates a lot of conversations that beg an exit strategy. Something like this:

“So… then I found $20 and I kept it.”

I have dabbled in both, the under and the overshare. And I have learned the hard way that following God’s guidelines for friendships are essential to still having any friends left when things turn dark… and they will. You understand that, yes? You are not building friendships only for the pie social seasons of life. You are building them for war. And thus, you cannot be baring your soul to someone simply because you are both in the same checkout line at the grocery store, or just because your kids are in the same class at the Christian school, or merely because you both discovered a love of tatting that has absolutely nothing to do with ink (it’s a thing. I’ve read about it).

The only friendships that maintain their spots when the heat gets cranked are the ones that are not based on you. If both of your eyes are on Christ, then the details can shuffle themselves out. You not only can, but you must get a bit spiritually naked in order to develop real friendships, and, as I hope is obvious, you don’t want willy-nilly thoughtless nakedness in front of just anybody. Choose wisely, give freely, and pray for God’s grace for your friendships to keep all their glorious color.

2 Responses

  1. Ellen
    | Reply

    Wow. Yes. Building friendships not only for pie socials but as dark days/war time/bunker buddies is indeed tricky business. Eyes on Christ = so profound, but so simple. Life-long tip, that. [Also = the TBFES ($20 Bill Find Exit Strategy)! :D]

    • barb
      | Reply

      It has served me well. And better, I think, than the old, “How about them Mariners?” bit, because people can be funny about their sports teams.

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