A New First

Stephen and I have been doubly vaccinated for a while, and last weekend we had our first indoor dinner with friends—at our house!

I’ve never been a dinner-party person. Not that I don’t enjoy good food and company. But I’m a perfectionist, prone to worry and anxiety, and although I’ve quelled my perfectionism in many areas of my life, it surges up and out whenever I’m responsible for guests.

Years ago, Stephen instituted the rule that I not try any new recipes when friends are coming for dinner. Please! “It’s bad enough when you’ve mastered the meal. Let’s not make it worse,” he urged.

And he doesn’t know the half of it. The minute I am out of bed the morning before guests are due, my vision becomes an acute 20/20. I spot the tiniest speck of dust on the furniture or smudge on the walls. The front porch, which until that morning had looked welcoming, turns into a shambles. And how could I have so misfolded the guest towels in the bathroom?

I spend the initial hours of the day wiping away the spots and smudges, refolding the towels, sweeping the front porch and tending its plants, fluffing pillows, eliminating fingerprints from light plates and around door handles. All that before I even think about the table and food.

But last weekend, I did none of this. Well, that might not be true. I may well have done all of it, but with a completely different mindset. It had been over a year since friends had come to our house, and I couldn’t wait for other bodies and other voices to fill our rooms. Instead of anxiety, I felt excitement. And warmth.

It helped immensely that I wasn’t responsible for the entire meal. Since none of us had prepared a meal for guests in quite a while, we had decided on a potluck, with each person or couple responsible for one dish. Stephen and I were hosting, so I volunteered to prepare the entrée.

Responsible for just one course, I could slow the food preparation way down, enjoying each step in the process, from combining the spices, cutting the fennel, and slicing the clementines, to marinating the chicken and finally sliding the roasting pan—piled with the meat, cementines and fennel–into the oven.

It turned out that each of us who had prepared a dish had the same experience: joy in the preparation, heightened anticipation of finally being together, and a deep sense of our bond with one another. With such great intention and warmth in the preparation, it should be no surprise that each dish was delicious, and that each of us enjoyed every single bite—to say nothing about each minute of our time together.

Lichen at Ring Mountain

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