It wasn’t that the evening was perfect. It was the care she took in crafting it.
You know the feeling. You head somewhere—a social engagement or obligation—after a long week at work. It’s Friday night and you’re still in final conference call mode (or your equivalent). You rush through the end of the work day, make yourself presentable, feed the dog and head out.
And usually, you end up having a good time. But not the kind of time that changes you in any real way. You walk out and get back to your normal routine without much thought. It’s fine.
Recently, after what was supposed to be a routine book club night, I walked out feeling inspired by the experience rather than just “fine.” And when I puzzled out what made the difference—I realized it was the care our hostess took of us. That might sound weird—but in the space of a few hours—we all were recharged.
I knocked on the door, my mind focused on remembering to pay my life insurance premium before its due date. On replacing the garden hose before spring, on signing the field trip permission slip for my son. And then, the door opened, and the most wonderful smell wafted out.
I was welcomed, hugged effusively. As my hostess, Milanka, hung up my coat, she said to her husband, “Martin, take Kristine’s car keys and put this in her car.” Later that evening, I opened the bag to find homemade cinnamon rolls and the most delicious homemade granola. Both packaged with jaunty bows for the holidays.
I was immediately given a choice of specialty drinks—from Moscow mules to sangria—as I took in the beautifully set table. And before I knew it—before I had time to ruminate again on the nagging tasks I needed to remember—I was sharing fondue with some wonderful women. We were talking about the book and in the process, talking about our own lives. Our experiences with love and disappointment. Pain and joy. Marriage and more. The house, warmly lit, became even more inviting as conversation flowed.
As if that wasn’t enough, two homemade desserts were trotted out by our lovely hostess. A coconut cake and homemade ice-cream-filled whoopie pies that could grace the cover of Southern Living. She sent me home with toffee (Do you need to ask? Of course, homemade. Of course delicious).
If it sounds heavenly, caring, it was. As I exclaimed over the effort taken in providing a really wonderful, gracious evening, Milanka’s youngest daughter said, “Food is love.” She shared with me that is what her mother has taught her over the years.
Why did this evening make me feel so good? First, the love and care that went into it. Milanka must have been cooking all day. She tells me this is not unusual, that her Serbian family comes from a tradition of “real” meals. I could get used to this tradition.
If you’re like me, you may be pressed for time. I used to cook up a storm, back in the day, when I was staying home with my kids. Now, as a divorced mom, I’m usually working right up to dinnertime and then punting. Many nights, I work after dinner also. So, to be reminded of the care and love that can transform what could have been a typical cheese-and-crackers book club night into a really wonderful experience—well, that was beautiful. Because I think we’re starved for this kind of beauty and care in our lives.
Prepared foods are all the rage. Why? Because none of us feels we have the time to do something as simple as cooking anymore. We hire out walking the dog, cooking, even buying birthday presents for loved ones.
I’m not sure it’s worth the trade-off. I’ve tried to create a bit of love and magic again in my own home over the past two weeks—two weeks I took off from work to recharge. We’ve eaten healthier, felt more loved, slowed down.
And it’s been freakin’ wonderful.
Milanka inspired me. I was new to this book club, comprised of a few moms from my eldest’s former school. Yet, the care she took of me and her other guests that evening made me feel she treasured our relationship like an old friend would. It made me wonder when was the last time I took such good care of myself. And my sons. And my friends.
There’s a difference between a pre-made meal heated in the oven and the real thing whipped up in your own kitchen. A difference between soft music and candles accompanying good conversation, and a night in which everyone is on their phones.
I know you know this. But when is the last time you did something about it? Tuesday night dinner with candles? Sure. Why not?
I gave it a try. And I think it translated to love felt by my kids. Time spent together that felt more quality than usual.
I’m itching to do the same for my overworked, stressed-out friends. But I’m back to my own grind after the holiday break.
There’s hope, though. I invited a couple of neighbors over for a date later in the month. I’m not sure I can meet Milanka’s standard of care but I can certainly up my own. Imagine a world in which we all got to have evenings like I had more often. Where true thought and love goes into what we experience, eat and drink.
It’s micro-change at best, but it means so much more for the people it touches.
You in? I’m in. One thing this month, done with the utmost love and care, for at least one fellow human. Let me know how it goes.