I love coupons! In the recesses of my brain I understand that there is a great deal of marketing that goes into that little slip of paper that "invites" me to try something new or "reminds" me to revisit something that I may not have used for a while. That small advertisement, with fine print unfriendly to older eyes, has the ability to entice me every time…in short, all their extensive planning has been successful! And so it is that a little coupon brought me once again to Einstein Bros.
Tom drove to Seminary this morning – we have a month until he takes his driving test, so my presence is still required. With the little coupon in my pocket, I decided to zip over to Einstein's. I noticed Monique in her car, waiting for her son as well, so I invited her to join me for a bagel. At 6:00 am, there isn't anything else open in the little strip mall across the parking lot from Target, but as I opened the door, the aroma of the freshly baked goods will be enough to remind me to come back.
Then I saw it, in all it's pumpkiny, nutty, sweet cinnamony yumminess: a Pumpkin Crunch bagel! (Yes, I know I am taking a lot of liberty with my spelling/made-up words!)
I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a Pumpkin Crunch Bagel until I walked in the door. I wondered if these have been part of the fall menu line-up for years and somehow I had just missed knowing of their existence. My choice was easily made and after it was toasted and a Shmear of Honey Almond cream cheese was added…oh my goodness, it was absolutely divine! If you were to tell me that these Pumpkin Crunch Bagels, with a Shmear of Honey Almond cream cheese were served in heaven, I would not doubt you! I am seriously contemplating going there every morning during Seminary until they don't have them anymore, as I am sure that anything with pumpkin in it is for "a limited time only". Which made me wonder why I hadn't been to Einstein's for a really long time…over a year! And then I remembered: because of Lauren.
When we first moved to San Diego, we rented a house next door to my mother-in-law. It had been a rental for years and while we knew that the owners planned on selling it someday, we had no idea that they would list it just 4 months after we moved in. I was expecting my #4 child and had 3 children under the age of 6. It was difficult to keep the house "agent" ready, but with a request of 24 hours notice of showing the home, we managed. We hoped that it would take some time to sell the house, but unfortunately, it sold quickly. Fortunately for us, the new owners requested a long escrow specifically so that the very pregnant tenant (me), who was due mid-February, would have time to have the baby before needing to move. Little did I know that this act of kindness would so greatly affect my life.
Both my doctor and I miscalculated the due date – we were seriously off! I didn't actually deliver until April 3rd, and when I left the hospital, I went straight to my mother-in-law's with the new baby, and there we stayed until we could find a new home. Although Lauren and Randy worked on their house for a time, remodeling and sprucing it up, we were still next door when they moved in. Their two children were close in age to ours, and we developed a close friendship. Even after we were no longer next door, Lauren, Camerin and Brandon would come and spend the night with us or visit on the weekend. It was then that we became such good friends. When our plans of moving to Utah were announced, she would lament "What ever will I do without you?" So through our family's moves, back and forth from California to Utah and back to California again, we remained good friends.
Our ritual of lunch at Einstein's didn't start until much later, when both of my youngest were in school and her two had graduated from high school. We would either go together or meet there. She always ordered a turkey on a sesame or poppy seed bagel, double-toasted, with lettuce, tomato and mustard…she liked the edges of the bagel blackened and would call it raw if they weren't. I preferred either a turkey on a potato bagel with lettuce, tomato, onions and a shmear of cream cheese, or occasionally I'd deviate to chicken salad on a challah roll. Top off the meal with kettle potato chips and a Diet Coke and we were set for a long lunch chat. There was always discussion about how delicious the chips were…Lauren liked food crisp – if I burned a batch of cookies, I would take them to Lauren's where they would be appreciated as much as the under-cooked ones that my family prefers. We'd catch up on what the kids were doing; what had happened since the last time we spoke and of course, if we had anything interesting coming up in the near future. Every once in a while we would have something truly exciting to report but most of the time, it was pretty routine - but then again, so was life. Occasionally someone else would join us, but usually it was just Lauren and me – it was our lunch spot.
I found out last week that my best friend, Lauren, has gone to a facility that deals with adults with dementia or Alzheimer's. It has been coming on for quite a while, years in fact, and was not a surprise. When she couldn't remember what day we were meeting for lunch, that was explained away by our being so busy. When certain words became difficult for her to pronounce or I started filling in the words she couldn't grab, it was always shrugged off by both of us as "senior moments", and we would laugh. When it was little things, we would brush them off. When she called me from the Square and couldn't find her keys, and I had to go find them in her purse for her, when she called me because she couldn't find her way home from her storage unit…then it was determined to be more serious. I became the designated driver for our lunch date and I patiently listened to the same story as if hearing it for the first time. When Lauren's daughter gave birth to her first grandchild, a little girl, I was both joyful and sad…joyful because she finally had the grandchild she had so longed for and sad because she would never be able to do all the fun things that a Grandma might do with grandchildren: bake, shop, have sleep-overs – all the fun things a grandma can do. Lauren's husband retired early because she would be lonely and distraught when he was gone all day at work. But it soon got to the point when he couldn't leave her alone…at all.
The last time we went to Einstein Bros. was about a year ago. I was trying to help Lauren get to know a caregiver that would come into her home and be able to keep her company so her husband could run errands. We chatted like we used to, although the conversation replayed about every 3 minutes. It was a struggle for her and I decided that future visits would be better at home.
It was good to go to Einstein's again this morning. I appreciate Monique's patience with me as I talked about my friend Lauren – our history and where she is today. I will go visit her in her new home and realize that this too will pass. I know that someday, when we are both past this earthly existence, we will meet again. Her thoughts will be clear and we will fondly remember our children when they were small, the good memories we made in our lifelong friendship. I will tell her how thankful I am that she was so kind and thoughtful to a stranger. I know that there are no coincidences in life. I also know that a loving Heavenly Father guided a Jewish mother to befriend a Mormon mother and how her mitzvah made such a difference in my life. We will embrace and be thankful, knowing we were blessed to be led to each other because you don't have that many bestfriends in one lifetime. And maybe, just maybe, we will sit and visit over one of those heavenly Pumpkin Crunch bagels – no coupon needed - and catch up on what we've been up to since last we met…BFF, and I really mean, best friends forever.