"Absence makes the heart grow fonder." -- Eleanor Roosevelt
Tonight I had dinner for the group again.Absence seemed to be a theme that ran through the evening. First, I was under the impression that Susan wouldn’t be joining us. As I prepared the table I was sad she wouldn’t be here and knew we’d miss her laugh, shining eyes and how she leans forward – eager to hear the last word of each story - as we gathered around the oak table.
But there she was coming up the front walk, right behind Crystal, dessert and dessert wine in hand.
We’d been standing around my kitchen for a few moments, waiting for Grace and our appetizer to show up. As we waited we laughed at how Grace didn’t realize she was bringing the appetizer last time and I'd set out some almonds and olives to get us through. But she’d promised THIS TIME she’d have something “extra yummy for us” … yet here it was … a quarter past – and no Grace and no appetizer.
I finally called. She’d totally FORGOTTEN it was tonight. “Come on down. We have more than enough without an appetizer – but we don’t have enough without you,” I told her pulling out the almonds.
As we sat around the table, I realized North Carolina has become home. The last year and a half that we've been too scattered get together have allowed the absence between visits become noticeable. I’ve know it takes a while to make a new town/city/state your own. I also knew that when it came to my friends from church I’d made that connection. But I wasn’t sure I’d made it with other people.
So this group, the women who showed up around my dinner table tonight are all connected by geography; neighborhood geography. Grace is my neighbor. Beth use to live across the street, and Crystal lived around the corner. Susan, the fourth member of our party, grew up in the same hometown as Grace.
We know each other well. Where we stands in regard to our politics, food, wine, and reading preferences; but we don’t really know everything about each other. When we come together … we become stronger, yet more diverse as we tell our stories.
Tonight we learned more about Grace and the years she crewed on sailing ships. It was fun to tease her, “So – were you the cook’s mate – or the cook-mate?” All laughing and teasing aside – the idea that my neighbor sailed from the US, to Spain, to England, to Australia and back to Spain as the assistant to the chef on a SAILING ship is pretty eye opening. Especially since she is always claiming how much she hates to cook and how much she enjoys what I prepare.
That’s another lesson I’ve finally learned with this group. It doesn’t really matter what I put together – it’s the fact we’ve carved time out to be together that matters. This is the first times I’ve felt that I can cook “anything” and it will be ok. Tonight is a perfect even if it was not the typical “Mit Dinner”. I supplied the Philly Cheese Steak Soup and they paired it with bread, salad, and dessert. Because the soup cooked while I was at work I was able to come home, set the table, and enjoy my company without the last minute chores of dicing, stirring, sautéing, and seasoning.
There was this amazing quality of … relaxation throughout the meal. We’d just been together two weeks ago – so the news we shared was a little more recent – and not so urgent. We were current with the big things happening in our lives and now we could focus on the spice. Susan talked about she and her friend wearing tiaras and feather boas to a concert … and getting a flat tire as they drove by the erotica bookstore on their way home. We sobered at the direction the economy is moving, laughed over the difference between “whore” and “horror” when you have a southern accent, and considered where the best tasting vegetables came from in our childhoods.
The time spent ‘round the table was fortifying, rejuvenating, and inspiring. We’ve made a date for the next dinner and set the food and drink assignments. I think we’ll leave the stories to serendipity.
Eleanor might be right – absence makes the heart grow fonder, but frequency makes the bonds stronger.