I have very few skills and, with the passing of time, some I once had (like fencing, card games, life guarding, dancing through the night) have fallen into disuse. It might be possible to re-nourish those gone to seed but I doubt it will happen. One of my few enduring talents, though, has been my capacity for appreciating people. I’ve been blessed by a ragtag cornucopia of delicious friends all over the world. These have been the diamonds and sapphires in my life’s jewel-box. That many have died and some are near the end has rendered those remaining even more precious. Especially those with time on their side.

One such  youngish, newish friend named Zoe – whom I’ve hung out with about eight times in her short life in three different countries – doesn’t often cross my path because she lives above the Arctic Circle. Nonetheless, she keeps me threaded into her life and current with photos, emails, and we trade funny things for her cat blog. i.e.

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If Zoe is busy with other things, her mother (whom I’ve known all her life almost) keeps me up to date and explains or translates or simplifies if the need arrises. In early December Zoe contributed to Prosjekt Fantasi (Project Fantasy) – a Norwegian national competition to which children were invited to send ideas for inventions. Zoe’s mother shared Zoe’s entry:

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She explained: The invention is called “Human Gills”. It’s a small mask that filters oxygen from seawater. It includes ear buds and speakers for communication.

Amazing!

Juries in each region of the country will pick 20 winners.

I was excited. Not only was Zoe a funny young friend she might be a genius as well.

Not long after that, Zoe’s mother sent an excited email: I just got a call … Zoe is one of the regional winners! I can’t wait to tell her when she gets home from school. The winning entries from each region will be sent on to the national level competition….

My oh my oh my!

More recently, in late December, I learned that Zoe had was busy again. She and her mother had worked tirelessly on a gingerbread house because Zoe wanted to contribute to the gingerbread “town” in their town library.

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Seeing the photo, it certainly looked like a great effort had been made.

We worked on it for a week, Zoe’s mother explained.

I was impressed. Curious too, I asked, Do the houses get eaten?

The reply came back, Good question.

Details soon followed: Contributors can take home their entries after Christmas. However, after they’ve been on display for a month, possibly with lots of little grubby hands touching them, they’re no longer particularly appetizing. Most people choose to leave their gingerbread masterpieces at the library at the end of the contest.

Sad.

A few years ago the library delivered the left gingerbread creations to a goat farm in the area. However, the goats didn’t much like them. I suspect this was because most of the gingerbread houses contain distinctly non-edible material, such as wire, cardboard, plastic, aluminium foil, cotton balls, and glue (and I don’t mean icing “glue”).

Even sadder.

I like to imagine that the goats would have been happy to eat our own gingerbread houses, since we always make them 100% edible. But I don’t know if goats actually have much of a sweet tooth. I personally couldn’t bear to eat even one corner of a gingerbread house. Nowadays, the gingerbread town is just thrown away, which is a pity.

I asked, May I share what I’ve learned?

She replied: I guess so, although I wouldn’t want to heap scorn on the event.

I promised. No scorn.