Unfortunately, I am limited in enjoyment of food because I have dietary restrictions. I am gluten intolerant, and I must be selective when choosing my meals. So, imagine my delight, and surprise, to find a totally, 100% gluten-free restaurant in the heart of downtown Ottawa.
I could not believe it when Keith and I walked into an eating establishment offering an enormous variety of foods with no gluten. I was so happy I wanted to do the happy dance. Adding to my joy was a woman standing next to me with the same bright-eyed, little-girl face I was sporting. Our eyes connected, and we grinned at each other in an understanding shared by few in our respective worlds.
“Look,” I pointed out to my new buddy, “carrot cake.”
“Wow!” She said. Her eyes twinkled and she moved closer to me. We traveled from case to case, and counter to counter, savoring our new-found delirium. If one did not know better, it could be assumed we were travel mates, in a relationship shared by only the closest of friends. We breathed in the smells and giggled at the sight of pies, cakes, pastas, and breads, all gluten-free. We moved together as one unit. It was kind of like someone had stuck our elbows together with Velcro.
“Pancakes. Just look at those pancakes,” she exclaimed as we went by the breakfast counter. “Oh pancakes, for us.” We were beyond gleeful.
Now you may be thinking this is all very silly. But let me tell you unless you have lived with a condition that renders you constantly reading ingredients and dreading going out to eat because you feel like a wet blanket at the party, you cannot possibly understand the joy of being able to eat food like others can without worry of extreme consequences.
“Gee,” she whispered while we continued our survey of items formerly denied us, “I feel almost normal. I have forgotten what it is like to be normal, you know, like everyone else.” I nodded, and we moved among the treasures as we tried to decide what to eat. Personally, I was trying to estimate how much one person can consume and still have room in their body cavity for the lungs to expand.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that being normal is not on my bucket list. Normal sounds boring to me, and I have no plans to go that far. But I couldn’t help nodding in agreement as I listened to the enthusiastic exclamations of my new best friend.
The only thing more delightful than finding someone just like me, in terms of diet that is, was to see the look on our husbands’ faces. They followed us around and listened to our happy talk and laughter with a special delight of their own. It is wonderful to have someone in your life who is truly tickled when you are happy.
While my friend enjoyed a stack of blueberry pancakes with butter and pure maple syrup, I inhaled a personal-sized chocolate cream pie. I want you to know I did give Keith a few bites. Oh joy, oh bliss, oh heaven on earth.
As we left the little restaurant, I waved to my friend and wished her happy eating. I took great joy in seeing that she was eating with unbridled happiness indeed. For once I didn’t feel alone in my ailment, or deprived by my gluten intolerance. I always thank God when I meet new people. And today I thanked Him that I met a new person whose name I never learned, but whose gratitude and joy I got to share through the lens of authentic understanding.