Chris and Cheri 1980
Monte Cristo Day is a relatively new addition to the National Day Calendar, proclaimed by the Registrar just last year. But as soon as I saw it, my mind immediately raced to my memory of the first Monte Cristo sandwich I ever tasted.
My high school friend Chris introduced me to the Monte Cristo sandwich. He took me to the country club where his family are members. When we sat down to order, without hesitation he heartily recommended the Monte Cristo to me. I’d never heard of it, but I trusted him and ordered it. And it was a delectable lunch experience! The powdered sugar sprinkled over the fried egg coating makes my mouth water now to remember it. I’ve tried the sandwich in other places, searching for its equal, and have even attempted to make it myself, hoping to recapture that culinary experience. But I have yet to match that memory.
Chris’s whole family has played a huge role in our lives as my kids have grown up. They have helped raise my children. They are a part of our “village.” We’ve had many fun, memorable times with them, from Chris teaching us how to use our espresso maker, making steamed milk chocolate lattes for everyone, to his parents John and Lori keeping the kids many, many times with amazing adventures. They were on our tag team, being “it” and taking the kids so that Jason and I could have a break and stay sane, and they’ve supported the kids from when they were tiny babies to this new season when they’ve started to leave the nest.
When the kids were first home from the hospital, Lori was among the people who brought over food so Jason and I could eat something palatable in the midst of the zombie existence we lived caring for our four premie newborns. I remember unwrapping the beautiful, pristine Romaine lettuce leaves Lori had delivered for our salad and being amazed at how perfect they were. I had no time to prepare salads myself, let alone pristine, fresh, crisp Romaine lettuce leaves. Left up to me, we’d have only forgotten dead lettuce in the back of the fridge and another can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew quickly zapped in the microwave. The lettuce for me represents still how Lori stepped into our chaos and brought order.
And Lori knows order. Every time the kids went to stay with them, she had every single detail covered. As a retired teacher, she knew how to make lesson plans! She had every day, every hour mapped out for them beautifully, from their first activity to their craft project to their snacks (which usually included a fun activity that assembled and prepared them) to more activities all the way through to pick up or bed time. John gave them rides in his golf cart around the golf course, adventures we were just talking about again the other day. They took them on educational outings, to see plays, to visit the Fine Arts Center, and on hikes in Garden of the Gods. Each summer when their grandson Michael came for a visit, they collected our kids and they all went to the country club to swim for the day, a treat that was like none other they ever had. John and Lori took the kids to the zoo to see the electric safari, the extravaganza when the zoo is lit up in a multitude of lights at night.
Lori helped me with their homeschooling (“helped” doesn’t do justice to what she did) and even taught them incredibly detailed units on Colorado history and on Native American tribes and culture, complete with cooking segments, diorama building, cartography (for us simple folk that’s map drawing) including molding 3D models of Colorado and the Continental Divide, and art projects including painting and clay work. They gave us costumes to add to our dress up bin for all the imagined adventures the kids created. Chris came to our house to help us carve pumpkins and we went to their house on Halloween to exhibit our costumes. Every Christmas, they gave us collector tree ornaments based on our Halloween theme that year. The kids played their string quartet several times at Lori’s mom’s senior living center. We’ve celebrated together the milestones that have come and gone, and we’ve even been together to remember lost loved ones when I had the privilege of playing my violin for Lori’s mom’s memorial service.
It’s great that today is National Monte Cristo Day, because it gives me a chance to reflect on how this very special family has been woven into the fabric of our lives. It’s heartwarming to ponder. I’m grateful for them!
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