My oldest daughter wrote her own blog on a now defunct site back all those years ago and she and another blogger became friends (sound familiar?). My daughter lives here in the United States; the other young lady lives across the world.
Over the years they transitioned from their blogs to becoming Facebook friends and kept up with each other’s lives through photos and comments. And a very special friendship flourished.
Fast forward to 2014. One of those lovely young women planned an adventure with her handsome boyfriend to visit the United States on a long holiday from their home in Australia. And that’s when something took flight besides their lengthy trip via airplane. The two toured several interesting cities here in the Northeast from New York City to Boston to Philadelphia to Washington, DC with a little side trip to Amish country in Lancaster, PA.
But they planned another special trip to a city many wouldn’t consider a tourist spot – Pittsburgh. The reason? To finally meet my daughter in person. Months before, messages flew back and forth through the internet to make plans for the meeting. Daughter and son-in-law would travel north from their home to spend an entire day with her friend and beau in our nearby city.
They hit it off famously. The two gentlemen had much in common, including a wacky sense of humor, and became instant friends. The two young women cemented their friendship by conversing in person instead of via computer.
They relished an American breakfast at Pamela’s and a Pittsburgh style lunch at Primanti Brothers. After a day-long sightseeing excursion, the four of them left the city lights behind and traveled to our country home. Daughter wanted her new (yet old) friends to experience an evening in a typical American home and enjoy a home-cooked meal with us.
Papa and I are always happy to welcome new friends and we wanted to give the two travelers a taste of life outside of our country’s big cities and tourist spots. Just an evening in an average American home with average everyday people like us.
Since this gathering took place the first weekend of December, we scurried to get the house Christmas ready with decorations and the tree dressed in its finery. I planned a hearty American-style dinner with chicken and stuffing casserole, fresh green beans, baked yams with cinnamon butter, dinner rolls with a choice of our homemade strawberry or blueberry jam, and of course, apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to top it off.
From the minute the two Aussies stepped inside our house, we loved them! Their warmth and sweet personalities won us over immediately and we thoroughly enjoyed sharing our hospitality with these delightful young adults. We swapped stories and relished hearing about their homeland, their lives, their work, and their customs.
They taught us some Australian words we hadn’t heard before and we even taught our new young friends some ‘Pittsburghese’ (words like yinz and redd up and slippy that many folks in our neck of the woods use).
They graciously brought us a basket of goodies from their homeland (including Tasmania where the young lady hails from) and later when we sampled all of the lollies (candy) they were oh, so tasty. While they were here we put on our brave faces and tried the vegemite (a staple in Australia which is a dark brown food paste made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spices).
As we spread it on crackers, they couldn’t wait to see our reactions when we tasted it. Some of us thought it was horrible. I actually didn’t think it was that bad. Papa thought it was too salty and tasted like soy sauce. We had lots of fun later when we introduced the vegemite to the rest of our family during our early Christmas. The faces were priceless.
We introduced Hershey’s peppermint kisses – they were a big hit – and Ghirardelli chocolates to our new friends and gave them a jar of my homemade strawberry jam.
Our time seemed short even though we stayed up to 2 a.m. enjoying our company. When our guests departed to drive back to the city for the night, I snapped the photo above as the two girls hugged goodbye. I suspect there will be a trip to Australia planned in the future for oldest daughter and son-in-law.
It was an evening we’ll never forget filled with the things that make sweet memories and that heartwarming feeling of sharing time and our home with new friends.
There’s a new ornament hanging on our Christmas tree gifted to us from our Australian friends. It’s a carved wooden, three-dimensional tree made of Tasmanian Huon Pine, a creamy yellow wood with a very distinct aroma – to me it smells like wood smoke.
And each time I look at the Christmas tree or catch a whiff of that scent, I will remember Susannah and Mat and our time together and my heart will be full.
“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” ~Washington Irving