Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bread and Wine

It's been a fun weekend. Several months ago, college friend Martha, now a doctor in New Mexico, sent me a text message saying she would love to visit Nashville again. She was here in 2011 for Older Son's wedding and fell in love with the place, as so many visitors to this area do.

Anyway, we settled on this weekend. She arrived Friday night and is leaving in the morning (Monday).

Ours has always been the most platonic of relationships. We found each other our freshman year in college. Our hometowns were about 30 minutes from each other. Her mom and my parents became friends. We worked together in Colorado the summer of 1981 when she was in medical school and I was in law school. We've always been extremely comfortable with each other.

She's divorced now, but I was friends with her ex and she is very good friends with Wife.

Anyway, Wife got an invitation to go to the beach this weekend, the beach being Wife's haven for relaxation and soul-restoration. I told her by all means she should go, that Martha and I would be perfectly fine and at our age, I'm not too concerned about what anybody else might think about it, and probably nobody thinks one blessed thing anyway. Martha and I are longtime friends and I don't have time to worry with appearances.

So Friday morning it was off to the beach with Wife, and I picked up Martha at the airport Friday night.

Daughter and DSO are here and yesterday Daughter ran in the Country Music Half-Marathon. We went and cheered her on and Martha took us to lunch afterwards. It was a gorgeous day and Daughter looked radiant as she crossed the finish line.


Martha has some old med school  friends that live in Franklin, the town just south of us. She suggested we have dinner out with them last night and I suggested we just have them over to the house. She thought that was a splendid idea.

I grilled some salmon and sautéed some vegetables on the grill's side burner. We made a huge salad with lettuce, pecans, muenster cheese, strawberries and vinaigrette. Daughter made some bacon-wrapped dates and brie as appetizers, and some herb-roasted new potatoes to go with the salmon. We opened bottles of wine.

I also took some chocolate muffins out of the freezer (that Wife had made) and made some vanilla ice cream in the little Cuisinart ice cream freezer we gave Wife a couple of years ago.

I threw a cloth over the table on the back deck and put out some candles. It was a delightful night and we sat and ate and talked until the bugs became bothersome, then came inside.

I only had to make one call to Wife, to confirm something about the ice cream freezer.

Martha's friends raved about the meal and the female of the couple allowed as to how she's a bit picky but this far exceeded her expectations. She was writing down recipes by the end of the evening.

I talked to Wife this morning and told her what a successful evening we had had, and that I gave full credit to her because she has taught me so well. She exudes hospitality and that has rubbed off on me. More and more, I am much more content sitting around our own table with guests rather than meeting them at a restaurant.

And again, I owe that to Wife. Yes, she prepares wonderful food, but more importantly, she makes people feel welcome and comfortable, where they want to linger over just another bite of cake or just a bit more wine as the candles burn down and warm conversation continues into the night.

There's a wonderful young writer named Shauna Niequist. Her latest book, Bread and Wine, is a collection of stories about life around the table and the importance of hospitality. Wife and I both devoured it last year and still read parts of it to each other. Here are some of our favorite excerpts:

What's becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God's presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table. The particular alchemy of celebration and food, of connecting people and serving what I've made with my own hands, comes together as more than the sum of their parts. I love the sounds and smells and textures of life at the table, hands passing bowls and forks clinking against plates and bread being torn and the rhythm and energy of feeding and being fed.
It's not actually, strictly about food for me. It's about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another's faces, listen to one another's stories.
And finally:
The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.
Beautiful words, words that state exactly how we feel after we open our home and our table. It has not always come natural to me, but I've had a good teacher who has made it so.