In 1994, my parents gifted me a cookbook. I was 9 and deemed the official taste tester of the kitchen. For those of you that don’t know, the person that can’t be trusted to cook anything, tastes. Eventually, I also stepped into the role of dish cleaner. Do not feel sorry for me. I accepted the role willingly because it earned me praise. I was made to believe that my job was invaluable. I took ownership and soon became an irreplaceable asset on holidays.
I tell you all of this so that you can understand why being excited over a cookbook was a big deal for me. I didn’t cook, but still I flipped through the pages giddy! Right there on the page was my moms rolled sugar cookie recipe and underneath it…my name. This was no ordinary cookbook. The women of my childhood church had put together a book full of recipes submitted by members of our church. Right there in the midst of First Presbyterian cooking royalty, my mom had placed my name under one of our favorite recipes.
This recipe is not for the faint of heart. In a world where you can buy pre made cookies, rolls of dough, or just cookie company cookies, rolling your own cookie dough is a labor of love.
Every year, at Christmas I pull out that cookbook. I turn to my page, and marvel at my name! I proceed to follow the recipe to a T so that my labor of love proves worthwhile.
This year felt different. I pulled out my cookbook and nostalgia took my breath away. You see, flipping to the table of contents I caught a glimpse of another name in the cookbook, Phyllis Yocum. She was my best friends’ grandma, and very early on, she had no choice but to adopt me as a grandchild as well.
She was everything a grandma should be. She mentored women after women during her time at the church. Cancer took her from us this year and with her went a piece of my childhood. A piece of innocence really.
I skimmed the pages of the cookbook, looking now for names instead of recipes. The pages are filled with names of my past. Names of people that I am still connected to through Facebook. Names of the friends that, when I see pictures of them I think, good for them. I want nothing but absolute happiness for them.
However, when I see their names in this cookbook I don’t see them as they are today. I picture them as I knew them. They are perfectly immortalized in my memory as who they were to me as a child.
You can ask anyone that was a part of that church family in the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s, there was something supernatural about the group of people that came together in one place. There is no other explanation why a group of people, so different, came together so beautifully. They called their class, “the Nomads”.
Which now, really seems a bit prophetic. As life changed, so did church attendance. But even so, the Nomads stayed strong: loving, supporting, and encouraging one another from any distance.
There have been job changes, retirements, graduations, marriages, grandbabies, and deaths. Celebrations and tragedies alike will bring the Nomads home. Whether it be “home” physically or “home” through a phone call that leaves them feeling grounded and connected.
It really has been a wonder to watch and live through. As a child it was magical. Church events came with built in friends. Weekend trips were organized with other families making them that much more fun. We were deep in holiday traditions. Including Christmas Eve at Grandma’s (Phyllis) house, work trips, Christmas baskets, choir, Christmas Eve service and so many more.
Now, as an adult, I watch my parents and the other Nomads do friendship and I replace the word magical with Holy. There is no other explanation for what was built at First Presbyterian in Joplin.
The Nomads raised me. They loved me, they supported me. They gently corrected me. (There was a very unfortunate event that involved glitter that was handled with pure patience) They taught me. They included me. They helped make me who I am. They instilled in me the meaning of connection and how to do friendship well.
As individuals they are not perfect. But together, what they created was perfection. They have and are creating a legacy left for all of us that had the joy of being a part of the Nomads.
Even now, a phone call about a Nomad can bring me great joy or bring me to tears. A death will send me running back to Joplin to feel “at home” with the Nomads.
Being with them transports me back to a time when life was more simple. A time when my own innocence gave me the false ideal that what existed around me was common.
This day, I flipped through the pages of the cookbook not to find a recipe, but to find myself. Not my name, like at age 9, but this time I was searching for something more.
I was looking for my history. Each name brings with it memories of the past. Memories that collectively make up my childhood. Memories that prove the impact other people can have on one’s life.
Some of them have no idea the impact they’ve had. Their individual impact second only to their collective impact. These people are home. Hugging them feels like childhood, safe and secure. Their names reminding me that I am and will forever be the daughter of two Nomads, and for that I will forever be grateful.
Surround yourself with people that make you better. Invest in people that love you and bring you life. Find people that feel like home, safe and secure.
Relationships, connections, and friendships are a gift…treat them as such!