I’d like to share with you an evening at Carol’s house. Not a special evening – it could be any weekend of the year when she invited her daughters and their husbands over for a home cooked dinner. It was a common occurrence, and the script rarely varied.
Karen and I walk in, and Carol is at her station in the kitchen. There are already good cooking smells, and we acknowledge them. Carol smiles.
Julie and Jon arrive shortly, and we all sit around and talk or help Carol in the kitchen. Soon, Carol asks if I want anything to drink, and that’s my cue to open a bottle of wine.
Julie sets the table, and food items make their way out to it. Karen’s the first to sit at the table. She’s already serving herself before anyone else has sat down.
Soon, we’re all eating happily, making “mmmmm” noises. Jon finishes his second serving before I finish my first. We’re eating pasta with homemade ragu sauce. Or grilled chicken with herbs under the skin and blueberry muffins. Or we’re eating homemade – even the noodles – lasagna.
If we’re too busy enjoying the food to tell Carol how good it is, she’ll prompt us: “This came out well tonight,” she says, and we all rush to agree and say how good it is before shoving more into our mouths. Carol beams – she loves getting compliments on her cooking, even if she already knows we love it, and even if she has to prompt us.
When the food is gone, it gets a bit dicey. Carol is the sweetest, nicest lady, but this is the point at which things change. After dinner is the only time she ever raises her voice in anger at me. “Chad, don’t you dare do those dishes,” she threatens. Usually, I laugh it off and do the dishes. But every once in a while – purely by chance I think – she actually manages to sound menacing, and I put the dishes down and return to the table.
Carol doesn’t want dishes and cleanup to get in the way of her time with her family. She wants to play a board game or continue talking. Tonight, we break out the board game, Settlers, to a mixture of groans and smiles. Carol hates the robber piece, because it forces her to steal a card from another player, and Carol hates taking from others. “Can’t we play without the robber?” she asks for the hundredth time.
We break to bring out dessert. Tonight it’s homemade apple tart. Or blueberry pie. Or carrot cake. It’s delicious.
Soon, the game is over. Carol won tonight – a rare occurrence that puts a big smile on her face. The rest of us grumpily put the pieces away to this zero sum game.
Then it’s time to say goodbye and end the evening. “Thanks for dinner.” “I love you.” “I love you too.” Hugs all around. “We’ll see you soon.”