On Saturday, I was faced with the task of setting our dining room table for a five-course meal. For ten! A bit of back story on how I got to this point is in order.
I grew up in South Florida. Though there was southern tradition on my dad's side of the family, that was not a very large part of my upbringing. I did attend a public school in Palm Beach - most famous these days because Donald Trump travels there most weekends to stay at Mar-a-Lago - but I lived a good fifteen miles across the bridge and north of this island that is filled with wealthy people with names like Kennedy and Trump. Palm Beach Public School was not where any of those people went to school. I guess they found creative reasons to truck in extra kids from across the bridge to fill this school. My younger brother attended cotillion, but for some reason I never did. It would have helped me on Saturday night.
When I was engaged to be married, my paternal grandmother insisted that I register for silver. I was twenty-one years old and not accustomed to arguing against what Grandmama said. My mom is a very thrifty bargain hunter with exquisite taste. She bought a beautiful set of china, crystal, and silver from area estate sales. She paid a total of about $425 for all three sets of these lovely treasures. I did assuage my grandmother and register for silver. As I "registered," I picked out a few "complimentary" items to go along with the sets Mom bought. They are beautiful but were not complete sets - well, at least I sure don't have 10 of everything needed to set a table for a 5-course dinner!
My husband Mark loves good food and entertaining people in our home. I do as well. He bid on a special auction item that benefited the adult day care center connected with our church. About a year ago, the senior pastor at our church retired. He is a gourmet cook. Each year he offers up the experience of cooking a five course meal in someone's home. Mark scored that item and did all of the arranging for this evening - except for the table setting... I agreed to do that.
Last Friday, I completed an energizing yet exhausting four-day training to become a Circle of Security Parenting Facilitator - more on that in later blogs. It was emotionally fraught and I came home Friday night feeling like a wet noodle. I slept well but when I awoke on Saturday AM, my body was still exhausted. I trudged to Trader Joe's to pick up a few items and some flowers, and then I hit a brick wall. I called Mark and said, "I am exhausted. I need you to do everything with the girls while I go to yoga and take a nap. I can be back in the mix by 3:00pm." He was gracious and said he would pick up the slack. A one and a half hour yoga class and a short nap restored me.
As I drove home, I realized that I had NO IDEA how to set the table for this night. I had begun to wash in the dishwasher the rarely used treasures that sit in our china cabinet. Some of them had absolutely never, ever been used in our home, but they had been boxed up and moved around multiple times. I have some Raleigh friends who grew up in a more white southern tradition and did lots of cotillion and debutante stuff, so I started to call them. I reached my friend Carol and told her of my dilemma. She gave me some tips and then recommended that I consult google. Great suggestion. She offered to let me borrow her silver soup spoons, and I said no thank you. When she asked me if it was a "shi shi" (pronounced shee shee) crowd coming, I laughed. I was pretty sure that if I put any spoon in the soup spoon spot that everyone would be a-ok.
We decided to invite eight people from our mission community of our very diverse church. The guest list included people age 27 to 60, half black and half white, single and married, and included the most unpretentious "cotillion marshall" (this information was only shared as we laughed about the struggle I had setting such a table) I have ever met. We hailed from eastern North Carolina to Raleigh to New York to Ohio to Kenya and beyond.
Saturday evening was one of the most delightful evenings that I have ever experienced. For four and a half hours, we ate and we drank and we laughed harder than I have laughed in quite a while. It was a little slice of heaven. I texted our pastor Lisa a photo from the evening, and she responded, "THIS is a reflection of the Kingdom. Wow!" I think she is onto something.
Clean up was a big job, but it was nice to do this "five course meal for ten thing" once in my life. My mom is quite happy that I used all the treasures that she procured over thirty-three years ago. I imagine that my grandmother Vick would have been proud of me that night. Even though I was like a fish out of water as I set the table, I felt right at home as I ate and communed with those at our table. It is a big table, and all are welcome. Next time, I'll probably use paper plates...