When I discovered the AOL Christian Senior chat room in 1998, I had no idea how much the people I met there would change my life. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be flying to other parts of the country to meet these Internet people. At that point I had never even been on a commercial airplane.
Because it was a "senior" chat room, most of us are not spring chickens; some of us have died. My Arkansas friend, Lona, and a Tennessee buddy, Virginia, are gone. Cliff and I were guests in both their homes. Those ladies were the cream of the crop, and I will never forget them.
You know how it is when you move, or leave a job where you've worked for a long time: You swear you will keep in touch with your longtime friends, but as time goes by you totally lose touch. It's been that way with a lot of my chat room friends, although thanks to Facebook, some of us have resurrected our friendships and renewed our ties.
Maria was a rare bird in the Christian chat room, being Catholic. There were a few folks who wanted to show her the error of her ways and "convert" her. She never let them bother her.
At our chat reunions, Maria and I were the first ones awake each day, so we'd drink coffee and keep one another company until others awoke.
Maria tried Facebook for a brief time, but had a bad experience there when someone hacked her account and put some nasty stuff on her wall. She left and never returned, and I lost touch with her. At some time in the past few months, I got a Facebook friend request from some Donna person and I asked, "Do I know you?" It was Pepsi! So we renewed our friendship. She asked if I knew that Maria had recently been in the hospital for a long time, practically at death's door. There had been doubts whether she would survive, but she made it. Hey, I'm not surprised. She always was a scrappy little lady.
I emailed her then, and she replied, saying, "Let's keep in touch."
I'm awful at keeping in touch. I sure wish she hadn't had that bad experience on Facebook.
Yesterday I was searching the Internet for some way to use the ricotta cheese I made and found a recipe for gnocchi that listed it as one of the ingredients. Having no idea what gnocchi was, I searched further and found that most of the recipes did not call for ricotta. Many of them used potatoes. One recipe warned that the dumpling-like things might fall apart when you put them in the boiling water. (I'm probably losing my readers at this point, because who cares about the stupid gnocchi, right?) I didn't want to waste my time on something that was going to be ruined before I tasted it.
Then I thought of Maria! She was always talking about the authentic Italian dishes she loved to make, so I emailed her. She replied. Of COURSE she has a family recipe, and can give me advice.
That's about as far as this story goes, really. I do still have a lot of my old chat friends on Facebook; they will enjoy this walk down memory lane with me. The good thing is that I get to introduce my readers to Maria while she is still alive. I will leave you with one more picture, placed here for the enjoyment of my chat room friends: