In my previous posting Vignette- Paula in Minnesota, I mentioned the “travelling dinner”. I vaguely remember some years ago a friend talking about a “neighborhood dinner”, where everyone from the neighborhood (a fairly small one I believe) shared a meal. However, instead of all coming to one house to eat, the families went from house to house eating a course here and another there.
So on one of the evenings that we spent at Sherry and Greg’s place in Minnesota, we were invited to participate in a travelling dinner. Two of the couples did not live in the immediate vicinity of Sherry and Greg’s house, but were great friends of all the people who did. So they brought their contributions to the meal to Deb and Crystal’s home.
On the appointed evening at the appointed time Sherry, Greg, Rich and myself walked down the driveway. It was a very pleasant evening so the walk was very enjoyable. We made a right-hand turn onto the road at the bottom of the driveway, walked about fifty yards, passing the driveway that led to Connie and Joe’s house (Sherry and Greg’s immediate neighbors), before making another right-hand turn into Deb and Crystal’s driveway.
No house could be seen, so I wondered how long of a walk this was going to be. I needn’t have worried. The driveway sloped upward for about fifty yards and as we crested the top we saw that it then sloped downwards for about another fifty yards and there at the bottom, slightly to the right, stood the house. From this view point it appeared to be a one-story building with beautifully cultivated flower beds on the one side, and a wonderful large fire pit encircled by brightly colored Adirondack chairs which in turn were surrounded by more raised flower beds. All this was then surrounded by lush green grass and trees. Another piece of heaven!
But the view of the house was deceptive because it was built on a fairly steep slope. It wasn’t until another day that I saw the other side of the house and realized there was a lower level which contained a spacious apartment where Deb’s Mom, Mary, and Deb’s sister, Paula, lived. It took me a while to actually go into the house because, being the gardener that I am, I had to check out all the beautiful flowers in bloom and the various plants that I didn’t recognize, plus there were lots of interesting and whimsical garden decorations to look at.
Eventually I made it inside where there were some delightful appetizers laid out. Once we filled our plates, most of us migrated through the kitchen and dining area to a lovely screened-in room located at the back of the house. The view was as delicious as the food we ate. As I mentioned before, the house was built on a fairly steep slope, so this room was was quite elevated and gave the impression that we were seated among the tree tops. (For me it was a small God-moment.) It was here that we got to meet the non-neighbors, Char and Frank and Doug and Deb.
After about forty five minutes of eating and socializing, it was deemed time to move to the next course. This was to be eaten at Connie and Joe’s house and we were told that we were going via the “scenic route”. So we all trooped out in Indian file and followed a pathway that they had created through the woods connecting the two houses. It was rather magical and I half expected fairies and pixies to jump out from behind the trees. The crossing point between the two properties was marked by a lovely vine-covered trellis archway that stood over a couple of steps down. My heart actually started beating a little faster right here because in a “deja vue” moment it reminded me of my Dad’s garden. (See my posting Vignettes- My Kingdom.)
All of these neighbors are avid gardeners, so we found ourselves stepping into another beautifully appointed garden where flower beds were in full bloom with lots of lush greenery everywhere and more whimsical garden features. We spent quite a bit of time checking everything out. A special mention needs to be made here about Joe’s “work shed”. I’m talking about a GIGANTIC work shed the size of a small warehouse. There were big tools and small tools, and every kind of small (and some not so small) machinery all neatly laid out. As you can imagine, the men folks in our party were in hog heaven.
After admiring everything, flower beds and the work shed contents, we all drifted into Connie and Joe’s where a second round of appetizers was laid out. More eating and more socializing took place and by this time a few glasses of wine had been consumed so there was lots of merriment and laughter. In the meantime some rain clouds had gathered and so we got sprinkled on a little as we made our way over to Sherry and Greg’s. Earlier in the afternoon I had helped Sherry assemble a huge bowl of a very colorful mixed salad into which we had put everything bar the kitchen sink! As people came in, we tossed it in a home made dressing and in no time at all that huge bowl was empty.
We were all beginning to get full tummies but the walk back to Deb and Crystal’s house must have helped our digestive systems because we were ready for the main course by the time we got there. Actually some of us rode in the car because of the rain, but we were still ready. I think the laughter and the socializing shook the food down nicely because we even had room for dessert after eating yet another plateful of food. It was altogether a very fun experience and I’m already plotting and planning to see how I can replicate it, even though most of my friends live in rather spread out areas. But maybe that will make it even more interesting. I’ll let you know when and how I make it happen.
In my previous posting God’s Creation-Minnesota, I mentioned that through the trees on Greg and Sherry’s property you could barely make out two other houses – their neighbors. Connie and Joe live in the closest house, while Deb and Crystal live in the other house along with Deb’s Mom, Mary, and Deb’s younger sister Paula. Deb and Crystal live in the main part of the house while Mary and Paula share a delightful apartment on the lower level which, because the whole structure is built on a slope, is also on a ground level of its own.
We got to meet all the neighbors because on one of the evenings that we were there we participated in a “travelling dinner”. I’ll share details of that event in another posting. Here I want to talk about Paula who is somewhat mentally challenged and is quite a delightful character. She is actually forty-five years old, I believe, but looks like a teenager.
When we entered the kitchen at Deb and Crystal’s, Paula was seated at a table on the far side of the room of the room next to her Mom, Mary. Paula is not very tall, maybe not even five foot. She has rich auburn, curly hair that she wore pulled back from her face that day. Her face is very round and when she smiles her eyes crinkle up, Chinese-style, and she looks like a mischievous pixie!
Richard had stopped at the kitchen island to pick at some appetizers, while I walked around it and went over to be introduced to Paula. She did not look up at me immediately, but then Deb said, “Look at this Paula”, and pointed to my hair. At that, Paula looked up at me and her face lit up in pure delight. She clapped her hands together like a little child and exclaimed, “It’s purple, it’s purple, my favorite color!” Looking into that innocent, beaming face, I felt as though someone had given me an exquisite gift. My heart lurched and I fell in love with Paula right then and there.
She continued to smile up at me and I pointed over to Richard and said, “And that’s my husband, Richard.” Without skipping a beat, Paula looked in Richard’s direction and once again clapped her hands together. Her smile widened and, in such genuine innocence, she exclaimed, “Oh, he’s so cute!” And she chuckled. The whole room seemed to light up and people laughed, not at her, but right along with her, joining in her delight at the situation. And I fell in love all over again with Paula.
Later on in the evening, Paula brought me a piece of cake. I thanked her and kissed her cheek. A dazed look came over her and she slowly put her hand up to her cheek in wonder. As she returned into the kitchen, I heard her say to someone, “I’ll never wash my face again.” The person asked her why and she responded, “Because Margo kissed me.” I felt my throat constrict and my heart welled up with love.
There are moments that I recognize as pure God moments. I know I experienced the love of God in that sweet pixie of a person, Paula. I have often heard people question “why” about many things that happen on this earthly journey, including the “why” of people like Paula. My answer: they help us to experience a special kind of love – if we are open to it. I will remember Paula with great affection and I hope I get the opportunity to see her again.