My husband was making noises in the bathroom that filtered through my consciousness and caused me to wake. No, not those kind of noises, these were the sounds of a man tapping his three-bladed razor on the sink edge while a trickle of water splashed into the basin. Let’s see, morning + husband getting ready for work = a week day. I glanced at the bedside clock—eww, only 6:45—and squiggled around hoping brain cells would engage. What day was it and what was on my schedule?
Pudgy stared at me from her sentinel post at the end of the bed. Any signs of life on my part mean the potential of kibble filling her dish, and she wasn’t about to miss an opportunity. I shook my head at her. “Not a chance, kiddo. You have to wait until I’m vertical and functioning.” She continued to stare. Gotta love an optimist fueled by hunger.
As the layers of sleep lifted I realized today was the day my friend Kathleen was coming over for lunch and much delayed girl-talk. Suddenly my head surged with tasks to do, food to prepare, and a dog to walk. How should I time the oven foods with the non-oven foods? Should I hope it would be warm enough to eat on the deck or should I set up a table in the sunroom?
Somewhere in all this mental whipping it hit me. I was exerting an awful lot of effort to prepare for the lunch without anticipating the time and connection with Kathleen during the lunch.
What I mean is this…when I was a child and a friend came over for the day, or perhaps for an overnight, I didn’t have all the socialized clutter. The moments weren’t planned or staged, they just happened. Spontaneously. I maybe made my bed, I maybe pulled out a few favorite toys, but more often than not just asked my guest, “Whaddaya want to do now?” As children we moved from one interest to the next, giggling, exploring, being.
Food was whatever was in the house and nobody worried that it was good enough. If anything my mom wanted to test my friend’s adaptability and attitude by serving the plainest foods possible. She’d say, “We ain’t got much, but we’re willing to share.” (This act of supreme charity went over both my head and that of my friend’s, but the tone sounded good.) Bologna, butter, and mustard on white bread sandwiches and Kool Aid. Again, Mom? Great.
My brothers made no attempt to surprise us with good manners either. There were usually a few ambush moments of playful torment and posturing. Sort of like when a male dog marks territory. One brother or other would wrestle me to the floor, or toss a ball at my head, and then eye my friend with volatile potential. “You’re visiting my sister, uh? I guess that will be okay. This time.” They’d swagger away giddy with boy power. Mmmhmm.
As an adult hosting a simple lunch for a friend, I had no brothers lurking about , no bologna sandwiches drying out in the fridge, and no mother casting about for character. So why was I stressing about getting ready for Kathleen’s visit instead of anticipating the actual time with her? Beats the heck out of me. I pondered getting up and going.
My freshly shaved husband tip-toed into the bedroom and placed a kiss on my lips before heading off to work. He smelled of aftershave and soap, and I liked it. “Gail, why are you awake this early? You’re not going to over-fuss today, are you? Just enjoy the time with Kathleen,” he said. His knowing eyes fueled my guilt.
What? Is he a mind reader now? “Oh, I am so going to relax,” I semi-lied.
Somewhere between roasting the garlic shrimp, hand-dipping the chocolate covered strawberries, and obsessively mopping the kitchen floor for the second time, I let go of my need to be a good host. Want I really wanted, if I took the time to be present, was to focus on being a great friend.
The doorbell rang, and the day began in earnest. Kathleen and I giggled, we sat in the sunshine, and we caught up.
Two friends, one afternoon, no agenda. Ahhh.
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