It’s been close to two months since I’ve been away from home. I’ve had the wonderful gift of spending time with old and dear friends from my elementary and college years, as well as special friends I’ve made over the last decade of my life.
One of the dear friends whom I reconnected with on this trip is my dear friend, Liza. We met in Seoul, Korea in the wintertime, in the early 1990s (way before K-Drama or K-Pop) as young wives and mothers.
Liza had her young daughter Meret and I had baby Pia who was under a year old when we moved to Seoul. Liza and her young family had been living in Seoul for a while. Her presence was a great comfort to me — a newbie in a foreign and very cold land. Her welcoming home was a sanctuary for Pia and I.
When Liza was at work, Inay was there to help raise Meret. In a sense, Inay became my mother, and surrogate lola to Pia. I was always comforted by her wit, her caring ways, and her cooking.
A couple of years after, we left Seoul and Liza and I stayed in touch for a few years. She and her husband Bob and their two girls left for the US towards the end of the decade. We lost touch after that but I would often think of her and Inay through the years.
Fast forward to 23 years later and Pia, now a doctor, stumbled upon Meret on social media. “Do you remember Meret from Korea?” She asked me one day a couple of years before the pandemic broke out. My heart leapt. Pia ﬁnding Meret would mean me ﬁnding Liza again!
I lost no time in contacting Liza, who was now living in North Carolina, through Messenger after ﬁnding her on Facebook through Meret’s page. Talk about missed opportunities! Liza had just left Manila the day before and had just arrived in the US when she saw my message! From that time, we would message each other regularly and both hoped that one day life would bring us back together again.
Last weekend, my ﬁancé Mark and I found ourselves at the door of Liza’s lovely home in Mooresville, a suburb of Charlotte, three hours away from Raleigh where Mark lived. The moment Bob opened the door to their home, it was as if I was transported back to our time together in Seoul. Bob, with his bright smile, gave us a warm welcome. Liza, just as her mom did many decades earlier, was busy in the kitchen, preparing lunch. We squealed and hugged, laughed and began to chat as if 27 years had not passed.
Life is strange sometimes. Many decades ago, in another lifetime, Bob and Liza had been a great support to me as a young wife and mother in Seoul. I was beyond happy that in this new season of my life, we would all be together again, even if only for a few months each year, in North Carolina.
“I made your favorite, just like the way Inay used to…” Liza smiled at me across the kitchen table as she stirred the pot.
For a moment, I had to think hard about what the dish was. However, the moment its aroma wafted in the air, I knew in an instant what it was. “Mechado!” I beamed.
Back in Liza and Bob’s living room, my tummy warmed by Inay’s delicious mechado, I was home.
There are friends who stay with us through a lifetime, and those who are with us for only a season or two. Life has taught me that no matter the time we are given together, we are grateful. And for those friends whom we reconnect with after a long period of being away, we give thanks for the grace, and the chance to rekindle, and begin anew.
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