My friend Lydia has come from Maarkedal to visit me for two days. Nearly six years ago, on a hiking trail in Alberta, Canada, Lydia told me about the children that she and her friends sponsor in Senegal. They visit the kids most Christmases.
“Would you like to come with us?”
And the rest is life turned upside down. I would be sitting in Belmont, Canada today rather than in Ghent, Belgium were it not for my friend.
Lydia and I love each other. We want each other to be supremely happy, to have outrageous adventures, to smile all the way to the end.
I met her late yesterday afternoon as she got off the train at the Gent Sint-Pieters station. I tried to hide but she was too fast for me. “Welcome to my city.” She’d always been the one welcoming me.
And then my street … the Oudburg. Up the stairs to my apartment. “Welcome to my home.”
We sat on my white couch talking about life – her kids and my new friends, the joys of really being in a new country. I’m a resident, immersed in the flow of humanity strolling the streets of Ghent centrum.
We had dinner at Petit Comité, only a three-minute walk from me but around the corner from the busy Oudburg. One of the owners welcomed us so genuinely and guided us through the menu possibilities. We had five little courses to share – small portions of eye-opening flavours.
We were nourished by warm Brie cheese, pork ribs, spicy corn-on-the-cob … as well as the tiramisu. The real sustenance, however, was in our friendship, in the gaps between the words, in the eyes.
It was quiet and slow. No phone calls. Room to breathe.
We went for a walk after dark. Meandering down the cobblestones in the oldest part of the city. After crossing a wee bridge we sat on a bench on the Lievekaai. Here is what we beheld:
Silence reigned. We said very little as night closed around us. We lingered in the stillness.
Lydia’s life is so busy: entrepreneur, mother and friend. Finally a time to rest, to fall into the slumber of the city, to sigh.
All was well within the embrace of nighttime
The embrace of friendship