Here is the situation (short version backstory - I gave up Coke for Lent) - I was invited for Sunday dinner (that is the lunchtime meal on Sunday here in the South) at the home of a lovely woman from church. She is the widow of a former pastor at Centenary and has those Southern manners of a preacher's wife. When she had the choir over for our Christmas Luncheon a couple of years ago she did a seated dinner for about 25 people and had her daughters serving us.
She has beautiful goblets and an immaculate house. And when she had her lovely daughter serve us beverages before dinner on Sunday, I would never have dreamed to say something uncouth like "is that a soft drink? because I gave up soft drinks for Lent." To do so would be incredibly rude. Besides, I very much enjoyed the bubbly Sprite and cranberry juice!
The garlic bread kind of stopped my breath for a minute though - although I don't think any of my dining companions noticed.
No, not because of the garlic. Because it reminded me of my friend Kathleen who passed last January. I used to go over to her house for an evening every week or two to read her email to her and help her with little projects on the computer. Mostly it was a social call. She made dinner and often there would be this garlic bread. It comes from the freezer section of the grocery store and was easily heated in her nifty toaster oven. She made some very interesting meals. Salmon chowder, chicken stew, pork chops...but my favorite thing was the Kielbasa Surprise.
She didn't call it that - but that's what it was! The only constant was the Kielbasa and the broth made from soy sauce, pancake syrup and beef broth - then the sky was the limit. It could have anything in it! Corn, beans, chickpeas, black olives, tomatoes, cabbage... It was often weird - but always good...in its own way.
So - for a moment there were all these incredible parallels between Kathleen and my friend who was hosting. And I realized how much I missed Kathleen. She was an incredible woman. She broke the glass ceiling before anybody knew what one was. She pretty much invented the Happy Meal - because the Burger Chef kid's meal FAR predated the one from the clown.
And she was the one who put that all together - the colorful tray, the characters, the TOY (although I best remember the series of Iron-Ons featuring the caricatures of pickles, tomatoes, etc.)!
Kathleen faced the diagnosis of "terminal" more than once in her life. She lost an eye to cancer. She tended a terminal husband for a long period of time. But she traveled; was accepting of a gay nephew without batting an eye; adopted and raised a son; hosted a public access TV show! But I will always remember the evenings just hearing about what her son's family was up to - and reading forwarded email jokes - and eating garlic bread toast.
I think that I should remember to make time - at least one evening every week or so - to spend an evening eating and laughing and hearing the stories of incredible people. I know that I enjoyed my time on Sunday afternoon. I know that the woman who is far more than just a pastor's widow - and I can't wait to hear more stories! Because I got to hear the tale of this refined and genteel Southern lady chasing a purse snatcher through a train station...and beating the would-be thief WITH said purse.
Until the security guard stopped her. And then they were calling her train so she ran and caught it.
Incredible. And she makes very good garlic toast.