advent journal: the squash of friendship

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My birthday gift this year was Burt Burleson, my most enduring friend whom I have known for almost fifty years. As a third-culture kid who moved around most of my life, I lost track of those I knew in my childhood and adolescence. Burt and I met in the fall of 1976. I can remember calling him in the fall of 1986 to say he was the first friend I had had in my life that I had known for ten years and known where they were all ten of those years.

He and Ginger hatched a plan that gave Burt and I the better part of a week together (hence why I haven’t kept up my Advent Journal the last few nights) and the time was filled with good things. I took him to the airport in Hartford early this morning and came home to find that he had left a leather box for me–one I recognized because I left it at his house when I was there a couple of years ago. Inside was a dehydrated summer squash, a tradition we began quite by accident several decades ago.

It was the perfect parting gift. My thank you note to Burt is this poem.

the squash of friendship

if you asked for a list
of all the metaphors
that might carry the
meaning of friendship
a dried summer squash
would not rank highly
if at all, were it not

for the time I snuck
a squash into your
suitcase at the close
of a visit and then
found it tucked in mine
the next time I came
to see you; without

knowing much about
how to dry a vegetable
we kept that same one
around for a decade
until it got lost like
luggage at LaGuardia

so when I got back from
taking you to the airport
after your surprise visit
and saw the squash I left
at your house two years ago
I felt nourished and loved

the wrinkled remains of
a fairly standard squash
that dried out instead of
spoil is a strong symbol of
friendship particularly
when housed in a fancy
leather fountain pen box

mostly because friendship
is not valuable because
it produces or accomplishes
anything; it offers no
guaranteed return on
investment; it matters
more than measurement

thank you my summer squash
friend for a love for no
reason, a story without
a moral, a scavenger hunt
of hope that have kept me
alive; in a world that wants
answers we have a squash

Peace,
Milton

 

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