Something that has become a running theme with 100 Connections has been the reaction of people who may have met me for a moment in my previous life, who have seen me now and hardly recognize me. At the retreat I attended, a gentleman named Kent, who I had previously had a small business discussion with months ago, point out the new lightness and joy of my being. My friend David sees almost an entirely different person. Reina Gascon has a very similar story of meeting me. She will tell you I was nice and professional, but very tense and eager to see how I can help you, though there was always this undercurrent of stress. Reina will also tell you how different the man she sat down to have coffee with today is from that person she met so briefly before.
Reina's home is probably the greatest expression of the warmth of her being. It is beautiful, each room a new adventure, each nook and cranny attended to with love and joy. Outside, while the air is cool, older and younger oaks shade the home, an orange tree waits with its growing fruit, pepper plants sit alongside the path, and banana trees, a callback to her home in Puerto Rico, cozy up alongside the house. A large open space awaits either a new home for the family, or a gathering place for pig roasts, Puerto Rican Christmas celebrations, or even just the gathering of friends. It is an eclectic blend of plants and structure and yet it all blends seamlessly, nothing is out of place or alien in this environment. Everything belongs in this home, as does everyone.
Reina is not simply a hostess, that word alone could not describe the love and kindness, the sheer joy, you feel upon entering her home, upon crossing the threshold to smell that delicious coffee and see the sun flay across the room just so. It is as though she was an artist, her home was the canvas and you and her become the subject of what will surely be a masterpiece. She smiles with such happiness, it can best be described as glorious, and you cannot help but return it. For this woman's smile to not lift you up, you must be in a pit where no sunlight has ever been seen. Her voice is melodic and her way of speaking is just musical. I have been to Puerto Rico several times, and the music and warmth of that land have truly come to Charleston with this woman.
We talk about her home, about the joy she takes in thinking of it. She tells me about how she saw Puerto Rico before the hurricane devastated it, and so she remembers her home in a way that it will one day be again, but isn't now. She has faith and hope, she sees it, but there is sadness in her eyes for her home as well, this beautiful place where this incredible woman and her beautiful heart came from. We eat fruit, pick at bagels and sip coffee, talking and sharing. In these 100 days, the swapping of stories has made me wealthy, the caretaker of treasures form countless years and amazing people. The stories Reina and I swap, tales of faith and of love, of sorrow and struggle, but also of triumph, they are beautiful in a whole other way. I have only said this of one other connection, but Reina is magical.
Time flys by in this magical home, this place filled with mystery and wonder. The rhythm of music, the song of her birds singing, the cadence of our conversation all form a wonderful harmony together. It is truly sad when the time come for it to end, and yet I know in my heart it is not over. So many people say that their home is open to you at all times, often it is just a nicety, a simple expression of language we almost feel compelled to say. As I prepare to leave Reina's I reflect, her home is always open truly. My new friend with her incredible coffee and her banana trees, with her magic and her music, will always welcome me to her table. It is the same with the 100. This story never truly ends, the changes will always leave me the person I was meant to be and living the life I was supposed to. It, like this breakfast at Reina's, was just the first chapter.
Favorite Dinosaur: Brontosaurus
Why: Gentle gianst, family oriented and vegetarians so they weren't trying to hurt anyone else.