In the old days (before Christmas), if I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich, I just sliced the Tillamook, slapped it between two pieces of bread in a nonstick frying pan and held it down with a spatula or the back of a ruler, whichever I found first. Worked fine.
But now I am the proud owner of a panini maker, a most unexpected gift. I can create exquisite sandwiches which come out perfectly grilled with clever little lines across them. Straight lines. I’ve been grilling everything I can think of. All the food in the house has straight lines crossing the surface. Perfectly spaced. After testing the chrome gadget at a luncheon which served a liberal sprinkling of laughter and strategically placed jalapeno pepper slices shared with son and granddaughter, it now seems to me that a panini press was the one item that has been missing from my life. The biggest gift is always the time spent with people you care about.
My favorite part of these days has to be the surprises. I’ve always loved searching for just the perfect gift, but this year I gave a couple of gift cards, too. I chose the kind that can be redeemed in several stores, so that the young giftee, a recent college grad, could get something a little extra – food or gas for the car. “Or he could buy food that gives him gas,” one of my sons observed brightly. Hard to believe I miss him now that everybody’s gone back to their real lives, and that wonderful gift of their presence is gone.
I love this time of the year for its gift of new beginnings. Tomorrow is my birthday and I’ll be– well, a year older than I was last year at this time. Birthdays don’t scare me the way that they used to, but I am a little worried about the fact that I seem to be shrinking and gradually becoming invisible. With this birthday, came the necessity for renewing my driver’s license. I now possess the worst license picture in the history of the western world. This photo will certainly serve as a reminder that while beauty may only be skin deep, the part that shows can be really depressing. At least this photograph will encourage me to be militantly law-abiding since I certainly don’t want to have to show this thing to anybody.
At the licensing office I was a little worried about the vision test because I’d had a little trouble reading the label on the toys I was shopping for this year. I had one horrid moment. When I thought the label on a Barbie doll said “Call Girl Barbie” and I had to sit down. But actually, it’s “Cali Girl Barbie” and I need new glasses.
Now that everybody’s gone and the house is quiet, it’s time to think of what to do next. I’ve got all of these years of experience and wisdom bubbling around inside of me just dying to get out. Wisdom and experience are a little like those Christmas gifts. It’s hard to know what to do with them. A lot of us are creating new careers. Reuters online edition writes about “Social Entrepreneurs – creative, inventive, enterprising individuals who bring their talent and passion to solving the problems of our day – and they are all over the age of 55. Instead of slowing down, they’re just starting up.”
Like these folks, many of the people I know are creating their own niche and seemingly getting younger every day. Local author Val Dumond, 81, has written a firestorm of books in her career and her newest, “The Anarchist’s Guide To Grammar,” will be released in February. One friend in his 70s is considering pursuing the religious vocation that was interrupted many years ago. US News-Money says “8.4 million Americans between 44 and 70 have already launched second careers.” For the first time, we have the time and opportunity to make use of our own gifts.
I’m happy to report that the sky really is the limit. The old mold is broken – we’re free to go in any direction we choose and build what we want, with the gifts we all carry. With or without panini.