This Santa Fe Christmas Chili pepper has been unwrapped from the rolls of paper towel that keep it padded in a gallon freeze lock zipper bag for more years than I can even believe.
Our beloved adopted grandparents, Florence and Eddie, gave it to us when we lived across the street from them. We moved into that house the day before John made his big burst into the world and our home on the fourth of July 1990.
The same year we moved in, Eddie retired from the company where Russ worked his whole career.
I marvel to think in the blink of an eye our firecracker turned 31 this year, Russ has now retired and our dear Flo and Eddie have gone to be with Jesus.
Again I could write a book based on stories from the love we shared with them.
And it wasn’t just them, it was their family too. Our kids were delighted anytime they saw the Texas flag flying underneath the American flag because they knew that meant a visit was coming up from the Cahan grandchildren.
The friendship between them was immediate and their eldest grandson was our Sarah’s best buddy for years. When John Edward came to town in his teens and we had moved across town, we picked him up for lunch and those two chattered away like they hadn’t missed a beat between visits.
The story goes as retold by John Edward’s dad that on one of their vacations to Decatur, he was bathing the boys when younger brother Austin declared he was going to marry Sarah when he grew up. John Edward, being first born and raised with the best of gentile southern manners looked at his dad and said, “She’d have to agree to that first; wouldn’t she, dad?”
Another year at Christmas time, some stinkers in the neighborhood stole the beautiful large evergreen wreath Eddie had hung for Florence on the front porch of their home. She was furious.
Our Sarah had made a small wreath at preschool from an inexpensive white paper plate. Green and red tissue paper squares were glued around the edges and a yarn ribbon made the bow and hangar for her creation.
Nothing but, she wanted to give that handcrafted treasure to the Cahan’s to replace the wreath that was stolen.
We took it over and she presented it to them and in short order it was hanging in the place of it’s impressive predecessor. There it stood proudly as it braved the winds of the season by day and at night was highlighted by two spotlights shining brightly on it.
Florence made sure anyone and everyone knew to drive by and look at it as she retold the story of how it came to be.
There was the popcorn that would be delivered by Eddie up our icy driveway to stir-crazy kids on snow days along with times when Florence was still in her gown and robe after the mail got picked up and “Could one of the Raiamurrrr kids (Texas drawl for Reimer) hop in my car and run it up to the drop box up at the store for me?”
There was the day when that Cadillac picked all of us up while I held the bleeding head of John who had fallen out of a tree and got us to the ER while I prayed desperately the towel would keep the blood off the leather interior.
When the FBI descended on ADM and the news was reporting the Mark Whitacre debacle, I was sitting in their family room. I had gone over there for some reason and of course was urged to sit on the leather sofa for a visit when the screen was splattered with a scroll of words that spun our heads. Russ was at work that day in the very offices where all was going down and if you are going to see news like that as young wife and mom, that was the place to see it.
We moved away from that house when Rachel was entering junior high and John was in Kindergarten. Christmas cards and stops by there kept us somewhat connected but being directly across the street made our relationship different. We lost touch with day to day things as time and distance tend to do.
When my mom passed away in 2008 and we had a memorial service for her in the Presbyterian Church she had attended while living in our town for five years, I was blown away as I scanned the filled pews that held so many of our own dear friends and the new friends mom had made.
There in the midst of all that sea of faces were Florence and Eddie. We are not the most conventional of families and there were a few raised eyebrows when all decorum broke and we squealed with delight and all made our way through a row of seated people to hug them.
Florence and Eddie eventually moved closer to that family we grew to love as health warranted and we enjoyed seeing them with their children and grandchildren in a new setting on Facebook posts.
Eddie passed first and later Florence.
The world is a sadder place without them. But the love and laughter they shared so generously has enriched our family’s story.
They showed us how to be loving neighbors, adopted parents/grandparents and how wise it is to leave your front door open for drop in’s all the time <3