Friday, August 3, 2012
The Dinner Party
When last I left this story, I was feeling much less than enthusiastic about my commitment to have my friend and her aunt over for dinner. In fact, I spent the whole day mentally kicking myself. Why didn't you just say No? Why didn't you insist on meeting in a restaurant? But I had already made the offer and it was too late to take it back. I had to go forward doing the best I could.
And that was quite a challenge. Everywhere I went yesterday, things went wrong. First, Trader Joe's wasn't open at 8:20. Then, I'm not sure how, but my daughter and I got to the Farmer's Market too late. We arrived to find the vendors packing up their stalls and all the produce I needed for dinner already sold out. I stopped at the bank for cash and was appalled to see that we only had $10 in our checking account. What had happened to my husband's pay for August?? I had to call the bank, find out that our automatic deposit was missing, call my husband and ask him why he didn't get paid. He investigated at school and it turned out to be an error on the part of the payroll staff. In the meantime, our credit union had covered several checks and I transferred the last of our savings account to cover our pending house payment.
That is when it really hit home for me that we need to have more reserve savings, enough to cover at least a month of expenses for just such a situation. Gulp.
J and I tried to go to a restaurant for lunch, but it had an hour long wait. We went to Trader Joe's and got the groceries, except they were out of the soup mix I had to have for my recipe. We tried to go to a different restaurant in town, but it was filled with sherriffs. Besides we were out of time. So I grabbed the soup mix from Stater Bros and some horrible fast food. We picked up B, came home and ate super fast, put the groceries away, started the dinner cooking in the crockpot by 3 pm, worried that it wouldn't be done by 6, and with nothing else ready and the house completely not prepared, I fell into bed and took a nap. Wiped out.
When I woke up at 3:30, my fabulous daughters and I pitched in and got the house all cleaned up. I prepped the appetizers and side dishes. B set the table in a lovely style. She used the white linen cloth, the green and white china, and the wine glasses. We put a simple arrangement of yellow roses in the center, with glowing yellow candles in silver filigree holders.
By the time L and her Aunt E arrived, we were ready and waiting. Aunt E was quintesentially French. A slim woman in an outfit so lovely it almost looked like a costume, with a tight-fitting, scooped neck white blouse and a red and white dotted skirt with a white lace ruffle. Her high red heels had adorable MaryJane toes, and she wore her hair twisted up onto her head and thick mascara around her blue eyes. She gave us all hugs and kisses, handed over a lovely bottle of French wine, and immediately began to chat.
We spent a lot of time in the family room, snacking on veggies and hummus while I prayed for the chicken to finish cooking. Finally, I scooped it into a pot and simmered it on the stove. Around 6:30 pm, everything was on the table.
I invited our guests into the dining room. When Aunt E entered, she gasped, "Oh, but this table is so lovely. Oh, but I haven't seen anything like this in all my time in America!" Then she actually started to cry. She was so touched by having what to her was a proper dinner, a dinner that reminded her of home, and how people are meant to socialize. She pulled out her IPad and took photos. And throughout the meal, she kept complimenting us profusely on how wonderful everything was. Over and over, she told me how happy I had made her, and how she felt like maybe she had finally found someone to share some social life with. She confessed that she loves spending 3 months per year in her house in California, but that she has no friends and becomes very lonely. See, that isolation again. It's so hard on people to shake that off. I've had many French friends tell me that before anyway, that they find Americans very difficult to establish friendships with. Somehow I'm collecting French friends now.
Aunt E kept gushing and hugging me. It was clear that I had given her quite a gift. All my earlier hesitiations melted away and I felt so glad that I had made the extra effort to do things well when it clearly meant so much to her.