We’ve Got You
Claire’s was a treasure. On a corner just off campus, for thirty years, it stood for fine vegetarian and vegan foods at prices that college kids could afford. Claire, herself, was a treasure. After training to be a nurse, she left the profession to focus on diet and nutrition when she saw how much medicine was being used to address things that a proper diet never would have let occur in the body. And her love of cooking for people is what led her to care for all of the college town with her nutritious and beautiful food.
It was a favorite of mine. I held “office hours” there on Friday mornings. I had two classes down in that area a few hours apart and people would come and meet me for coffee and cake sometimes between the classes. When you’re in your late thirties in seminary, there are things that young people in their twenties want to ask you, but they don’t want to ask you in front of all of their friends. So I had a lot of conversations in Claire’s about long term relationships, what working for a living is like, and other things of that nature with these amazing young people.
One Friday, before my earlier class, I got a call from a friend who was concerned that his roommate never came home. The concerned roommate was a solid guy, very devoted and concerned about everyone in our circle. But he really had a kind of brotherly care for his roommate. I said I hadn’t heard from him either. But we both agreed to keep our eyes out. I finished my early class and headed to Claire’s. I was enjoying my home brewed cinnamon coffee and vegan pumpkin loaf (immensely), when the missing roommate walked in and sat down for office hours.
It was the early part of October, so New Haven was chilly. And the missing roommate was slowly peeling off a scarf and some mittens. I said his roommate was concerned for him, and he said he knew he’d been out of touch, but there was a reason. He got off the layer of his coat, sighed a little and gazed into his coffee. He said he’d spent the night at his friend’s house and that he was gay. I did not need my almost forty years of experience to know what that meant, so talked for a while longer that Friday morning.
Claire never had children. And she told me once that she thinks of all the children she serves with food as her children. I listened to this child tell of growing up in the Deep South and the ways he’d denied himself and his love until that crisp October night, the eve of National Coming Out Day. I watched him sip his coffee and eat his cake. And I knew then that Claire had him, that I had him, that two childless people with a century of living between them held this child in love, in understanding, and in all the best wishes of good health and a fine future we all will treasure.
Happy Coming Out Day, my friends. And many blessings to you.
Rev. T. J.