Guess who’s coming to dinner ~ old friends and enemies



Guess who’s coming to dinner ~ old friends and enemies

I had spent all morning cleaning and straightening up. I knew that it wasn’t necessary, but it’s what I do when I’m nervous. My guests, the ones old enough to notice, would tell me how nice the place looked and that I needn’t bothered. They would say, ‘relax, and enjoy the day.’ I couldn’t. There were too many ghosts roaming the hallways and I had to keep busy or I’d think too much.

Nonie and Sissy were the first to arrive. Sissy struggled with her picnic basket filled to overflowing with freshly harvested rhubarb. Nonie had offered to turn the bright red stalks into a pie, but Sissy would have none of it.

In the way only a three-year-old could, she screwed up her face into a tight frown, ‘I dood it mysef.’ That halted any further discussion of tampering with her rhubarb. She meant for everyone to eat it as nature intended ~ raw, with a sprinkle of salt.

I had set out sheets of plain white paper and crayons for Sissy to color on. Today could get boring for a toddler. She needed to be distracted if the talk turned ugly.

Joints swollen and painful from her rheumatism, Nonie walked slowly into the kitchen to deposit her contribution to the meal… her melt in your mouth Angel Biscuits. Made from a recipe her own grandmother used, Nonie’s were just as delicate, just as delicious.

Nonie wouldn’t say out right that her arthritis was getting worse. She just poked at it with her cane, until someone asked. Then she was free to tell us how her medicine wasn’t worth a damn and that she might as well find a comfortable chair since she couldn’t get around like she used to.

Even in her advanced years, Nonie’s mind was still sharp as ever. Her tongue, however, had lost it’s sting long ago. Age had soften her bite, or gave her the insight to know that everything she wanted to say, didn’t need to be said.

I looked up to see Tra screeching to a stop at the curb in her candy-apple-red Mustang. Her first car, bought with her own money. Didn’t matter that it was really a POS, she was proud of it.

She was tall, thin, beautiful, smart and funny. I tried to hate her, but couldn’t. She didn’t believe any of these things were true of her. This near-woman was almost child-like in her naivete. I knew that in a few years that would work against her and she would make some bad decisions. I had to trust that she would realize in time that she did have better choices.

Tra loved her friends intensely, but struggled with her feelings of fear and loathing towards her family. She would eventually reconcile those feelings ~ separating what she could control from what she couldn’t.

Loathing would resolve into pity, to understanding, to acceptance, to forgiveness.

A bag of potato chips and onion dip in one hand, and a liter bottle of Dr. Pepper in the other, Tra bounded toward the house. Eager to play with Sissy again, she was smiling, something I didn’t see her do often. It transformed her, she was almost radiant.

T.B. and grinch arrived together. An odd pair, a newlywed and an adolescent, one not yet ready to grow up and the other happy to finally be able to.

A perpetual grin on her face, T.B. was excited for the chance to tell everyone about her new husband and the darling little house they just bought. grinch couldn’t decide whether she was angry or happy. The fringe of her braid tucked snugly in the corner of her mouth, grinch looked around the dining room, and finally dropped T.B.’s hand when she saw Sissy coloring at the counter.

The two, heads together, would stay that way until they were called to the table for dinner. Tra sat beside them, watching and refereeing. She had to explain to grinch that if Sissy wanted to give the girl in her picture purple hair it was perfectly alright. grinch just scowled and muttered to herself.

T.B. had brought chicken and rice, a dish she said her husband loved for her to make for him. Nonie and I just smiled that knowing smile and wondered just how good this dish really was.

Chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven sat on a plate grinch had carried in. Her attempt to sneak one of the cookies was given away by a smudge of melted Hersheys on her chin.

Miz R was the last to arrive. She had gained a little weight since I last saw her. She had a few more gray hairs and a few more laugh lines creased her face. Miz R had let her hair grow. I thought to myself that she should cut it short again, she was too old to wear it long.

A crisp green salad, with cut up cherry tomatoes and carrots, filled the Tupperware bowl Miz R brought to the table. Always trying to shed a few stubborn pounds, Miz R believed she could accomplish the impossible with a bit of rabbit food.

We were all finally together again.

We gathered around the old family dining table. Nonie was at one end, I at the other. the rest filled in the surrounding seats. We clasped hands to return grace. Tra had to shush Sissy as Nonie gave the blessing.

Passing plates and sharing tales of our lives, even grinch and Tra told us of their classes and friends at school. Nonie shared photos of her grandchildren. T.B. was especially interested to see how her children were now parents themselves. Miz R was quiet, not saying much, simply enjoying listening to the stories.

As the younger guests finished, they were excused from the table. It was time for the rest of us to confront the reason for the gathering.

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