I’ve got this quiet cold tide of dread climbing up my torso, a pre-sorrow about leaving my friends — my community — from Singapore. Above all that I’ve listed and will yet list, they will be what I’ll miss the most from here.
Examples? More than I’d dare share here or anywhere, there are so many and they’re so personal. But to give an idea, there have been the extreme kindnesses, like the texts or emails from one friend who seems to remember every single month that it is the 19th, the day of Parker’s accident. Or the other, who digitally designed an up-to-date family photo, into which she masterfully — magically — added Parker’s 18-year-old face. And then the friend who spent months painting our boy’s portrait from a photo, one of the last ever taken of him.
There have been the subtle acknowledgements, like from the friend who has somehow noted what Parker’s favorite hymn was, and glances at me across the chapel whenever it’s sung. The woman who drops me a short email on Mother’s Day, asking, “You doing okay?” Another, who wraps her arms firmly around my daughter, loving her, including her, encouraging her. And still the other, who sweeps my boys into her oversized heart.
Tennis partners for my husband and yoga and hiking pals for me. My cherished Mandarin lesson partner, and our patient Mandarin instructor herself. Travel guides, travel comrades, girls’ camp counselors, my own personal IT specialist, my several extraordinary music partners, the lawyer gal who has given me brilliant (and free) legal advice, all these gourmet gurus, general geniuses, people with wit and savvy and simple, trustworthy, durable goodness.
Schoolteachers and friends of my children; teachers who have been friends, friends who have been teachers. The young men and young women whom I’ve taught at church and all the inspiring leaders with whom I’ve taught them.
These are delightful, diverse people who came from all over the globe to Singapore either a couple of generations or a couple of years ago, for work, for love, for escape, for a while. But I say they came — whenever it was, but luckily while we were here — just so my family could know them and claim them as lifelong friends.
There is a recent example of such friendship that lends itself well to this space, I think.
Please meet Mateo, Lindsay and Sarah.
Mateo and Sarah are a couple, and Luciana, whom you can not see in this shot because she is sound asleep in her baby seat in a corner on the floor, is their fifth (and two-week-old) child. That Sarah and Mateo just received Luciana into their family makes it that much more remarkable (and heart-melting) that they would pull off an elegantly prepared and exquisitely presented nine-course dégustation menu celebratory surprise farewell dinner for our family. They called it the “overture to the next curtain-hoist in the Bradfords’ life.”
Mateo and Sarah are invested in our move to Geneva since, of the places they have raised their young family — Singapore, Paris and Geneva, making us riveted to them in three key places – Geneva is more their home than anywhere. Sarah, who is Filipina, was raised in Geneva, that is where Mateo was a full-time missionary for our church, and they keep a home base there. Mateo and Sarah enlisted the help of our church congregation member and local rock star chef Lindsay, to create this quietly spectacular send-off.
Lindsay hails from Utah, as do Randall and I, and graduated from the same high school as did we, which makes her a Provo High Bulldog, although her graduating year lags behind ours by about three decades.
In off moments, (like while sitting in a hydrofoil on our way to Indonesia, or while sleeping on mats in a yurt in Bali), Lindsay and I have been known to break into a full-throttle rendition of the Provo High fight song, “Oh, hail Provo High/To thee our hearts will e’er be true. . .” complete with flag twirler movements. (Lindsay’s are real. Mine, knock-off.) Lindsay is terribly gifted, alarmingly creative, adorable and pure and even more authentic than the ingredients she searches out to make marvels like this dinner.
It is her profession in the highly competitive world of the culinary arts that has brought her with her husband, Ben, to Singapore. (Okay, her boss thinks it’s the little pesky job thing. But I know it’s only to become my lifelong friend.)
This is Astrid, Randall, and Jeff.
Astrid is also Filipina. Randall is mine, and Jeff is Astrid’s. Astrid and Jeff met in Boston while studying at Harvard, but Randall and I claim to have known and loved Astrid first, when she taught Russian and we taught German to missionaries in the same hallway at our church’s Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Randall and I were newly-returned missionaries ourselves back then, but in those pioneering days before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of perestroika and glasnost, there were no LDS missionaries in what was then the U.S.S.R. There were missionaries called, however, to Chicago, New York City and Seattle.
So 19-year-old, almost 5-feet-tall, scarcely 30 kilo Astrid (who had never served a mission, by the way, but had burning faith and sizzling Russian), was recruited by Randall to be the Russian-speaking missionaries’ only full-time instructor, to hold that handful of pioneers in her dainty iron fist. Jeff is equally packed with engrossing stories, believe me, but I will just say that for this particular international farewell dinner his right to be at the table was because he is a genuinely loving friend and. . .he served as a missionary in, you guessed it: Geneva.
This is our Claire with Sarah. Claire loves and has been loved by these and many other of our friends in Singapore. Claire glows. In one month she will leave to spend eight weeks in that Missionary Training Center all we adults here love so much, on her way to Italy where she’ll serve for about a year-and-a-half. We are all openly happy for and proud of Claire (and even just the slightest bit jealous), and Lindsay is already making plans for an emergency reconnaissance gastronomical excursion to Rome over the next, oh, year-and-a-half or so.
And this is how the Feast of Friends begins:
Lindsay’s choice of appetizer was inspired by the our origins — Randall’s, Lindsay’s and mine: Provo High. The school colors are green and white, (as you’ve seen above), hence the green leaf atop this petite croustillante floating on a pool of tangy lemon butter curd.
Randall and Melissa’s next phase of life, our missionary service in Germany and Austria, was foundational to our lives. It brought us together as a duo, cemented our passion for All Things German, and was revisited when we moved to Vienna as a young couple, then, two decades later, to Munich with our three youngest children. So Lindsay created his foundational dish: an organic twelve grain German pilaf with the suggestion of red cabbage, beets, braised wild mushrooms and goat cheese. Hearty, wholesome, stick-to-the-ribs-and-spirits.
Six weeks after the birth of our first child, Parker, we moved to Hong Kong, and so Lindsay’s menu continued with a dim sum dumpling with slivered Asian vegetables soaked in miso soup. Guests were instructed to pour on the boiling miso sauce quickly or it would drip off side of the glass and scald you, a nod to our stay in Hong Kong, Lindsay explained, which had been quick (five months) and intense (it was the summer of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a very hot summer in all respects.)
This dish featured Norwegian salmon, a tribute to our Norway years. Norwegian salmon is the best, Lindsay told all the guests. The cleanest, healthiest, and most expensive.
Ja. Ja. And ja.
The conventional cooking time for this baby lobster and tomato dish (lobster long, tomatoes short), Lindsay inverted to represent the unmet expectation of coming to Singapore for what was supposed to be a long time, but which ended up being much, much shorter.
Which is why Lindsay inserted this pre-dessert: two years is just too short a time, so we have to draw out the end as much as possible. The black sticky rice is dense and nutty, an Asian specialty. The gooseberry and round of mango sorbet, and the passionfruit coulis, a whim.
And oooooo. . . for the dessert-dessert, a creation symbolizing the runway between Singapore and Switzerland. At the Singapore end, (in the foreground), a small, lightly-perfumed scoop of rose and orchid ice cream. At the Swiss end, a moelleux au chocolat (warm chocolate fondant) topped with a square of Swiss Lindt chocolate, (which had been hand-carried by Mateo from Geneva for the occasion.) Lindsay wanted to underscore that although the distance between Switzerland and Singapore is over ten thousand kilometers, we’ll never be completely out of reach.
It was all, as you can tell, pretty special.
At least that’s what I’m told.
You see, like baby Luciana, I spent that evening curled up in a corner.
By late afternoon, I’d let a random headache blossom to one of the four migraines I’ve ever experienced in my life, and by evening it had swat me flat on my back. The very thought of raising a fork to my mouth made my whole world whirl.
So instead of nine course dégustation with my friends, I spent nine hours disgusted with myself.
When the sun rose the next morning, regret covered the sky. And when I saw these photos and heard the descriptions, I ached with love for these people whose friendship — like their ingenuity, like their talent, like their humor, like their hearts — is deep and true.
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.