Did my headline make you stop and think in this age of coronavirus? I know. It felt weird to write. Because really, who in their right mind would share a dessert right now? Particularly with a stranger? But just a few months ago, I did without thinking twice about it. My, how times change.
I’ve just come back from another quarantine birthday gathering. And by gathering I mean a gaggle of women who sit in their individual cars at an appointed time, drive at a speed and in a formation that is usually reserved for funeral processions, and then honk at the birthday girl. Or, honk in the general direction of her house, that is, until she comes outside.
This is my third in a month’s time. I’m becoming rather good at them if I do say so myself.
The crafty types make “Happy Birthday” signs. I’m not very handy and my letters look all boggledy, so instead I usually drop a small gift bag on the lawn while yelling, “I JUST WASHED MY HANDS! REALLY!” Then the birthday girl waits until I’m back in my car before she retrieves it.
We really should film this whole ritual, I think, so that anthropologists hundreds of years from now can study the odd habits of middle-aged women’s celebrations of one another while in quarantine. We’ve replaced margaritas, martinis and manhattans with processions, posters and peripatetics.
I must admit, it touched me when my own friends did this for me recently to celebrate my birthday. Seeing their sweet faces smiling and shouting to me from their cars reminded me in this socially isolated time that I’m loved. Sometimes that’s all any of us needs.
These distanced celebrations are in stark contrast to a dinner I shared with a friend some months ago, in which we invited a total stranger to join us for dessert. That now seems such a foreign concept. First, a packed restaurant. Second, a shared dessert. And the icing on the cake—a table at which someone outside your immediate social circle sits close enough to share germs.
My friend and I were out for our usual biweekly get-together. Now, if you know anything about me from reading this blog, you know that I follow my gut. And as Beth and I chatted away in the corner of a restaurant filled to capacity, I saw a woman slightly older than us eating alone a few tables away. She stood out because this is a restaurant for large groups, couples, girls’ night out—but not so much solo diners on a weekend.
She didn’t look unhappy but something told me she’d had a rough week. So, on my way to the ladies’ room, I asked her if she’d like to join us for dessert. I told her we were admiring her relaxed Friday evening style—glass of wine, awesome meal, a little “me time.” But that if she’d like a little company, we were about to share something very large and very chocolate.
Surprisingly, she headed on over to our table a few minutes later. And I’m so glad she did.
Katie was a delightful addition to the table. She ran grad school programs at a local college and was also authoring a book on racial equity in the classroom. Divorced and having recently moved, she said she was so thankful for the invitation to join us because it had been a rough week at work. We chatted about writing, higher education, being divorced women of a certain age and so much more. Katie was the choreographer for a local theater production, also, and had known one of my neighbors for nearly two decades. Talk about a small world.
During the coronavirus quarantine, I’ve channeled my inner introvert. I’m reading books, catching up on shows, cleaning things I haven’t before (chandelier crystals are sparkling as never before). But I, like many of you, do miss human connection. Perhaps even more so because I was raised in the art of the chat by my father.
I’m continuing to do my part with social distancing and I’m looking forward to the day when we can again comingle without worry of shedding a virus. In the meantime, I may never perfect the art of the “Happy Birthday” sign but I sure do a mean gal-pal birthday drive-by.
However, my inner extrovert is missing the promise of surprising new connections. When this pandemic ends, I will appreciate with newfound enthusiasm the wonderful possibilities for “the new” that my fellow human beings provide.
We’re really all more alike than we are different. And in those differences, we can learn so much from each other. I hope when we can gather safely again that you don’t just gather with your best loved, but that you also reach out to those outside of your immediate circle.
I’ve yet to regret doing so. As we parted ways, Katie said, “Thank you so much for inviting me to your table. You turned around what was a totally mediocre ending to a tough week. I am going home happy.”
Oh, that would have made my dad smile. He was all about that. And I guess now, so am I.
45 Comments Add yours
I love how responsible you and your friends are and still find ways to connect with each other. We need more people like your lot in this world!
Thank you! And thank you for stopping by my blog. Come on in, the water is fine :-).
Man, for me getting gifts delivered on my birthday sounds absolutely amazing 🙂
Good on you!
Good to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by :-).
Thank you! I appreciate you visiting my blog:).
You’re such a great person inviting Katie, I can imagine she’ll be another friend for life! AND I just love your girlfriend celebrations! I can’t imagine Europeans doing this❤️ Were nearly there, back to as near normal you can here in spain, although no tourists so it’s remains quite empty. We’re visiting our favourite restaurants again so feeling a little better❤️ much love, Barbara x
I can’t imagine my European friends doing this either! It makes me laugh. I think it’s rather an effusive American thing😄. I’m so glad you’re getting some normalcy. At least the weather here is beautiful so we are able to go to patios.
Love your intuition and courage Kristine to change a situation! Sharing desserts will definitely come back in fashion. And if it was up to me it wouldn’t happen until we all understand ourselves more deeply ha!
I so enjoyed this post! Birthday get togethers .. and what a super idea! But I just loved you inviting Katie to your table. Splendid!
Thanks, Julie! I certainly hope we reach a point where I can do more of the ladder and less of the drive-bys. But it is what it is and I’m happy to social distance to help keep all of us healthy and well.
That was kind Kristine. Even if Katie had been less delightful it would still have been kind. A bit of kindness goes a very long way.
I’m not sure we’ve had those ‘Merican-type birthday processions over here. What’s been noticeable in my apartment block are the extended conversations in the communal areas when it’s been unwise to invite people inside.
And, after a couple of months of solo running, it’s good to be getting together in careful twos and threes again and re-associating.
Oh, Roy, I bet you have been missing your running group immensely. I am glad to hear people are finding a way to be together without being too close. It doesn’t surprise me that jersey is not doing the American-type birthday processions :-). I am sure this is our own little oddity. But it does seem to still let people know that they are loved and supported on a special day. You keep running and stay healthy. And I’m sure we will all appreciate those we can gather with so much more when we can finally do it in a proper way.
Love this post. Miss you – let’s talk/see each other soon! xoxo
Miss you too, friend! I’d love that❤️
“Kindness: a quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Being kind often requires courage and strength.” I love the five words used to describe kindness.
Amen🙂. An undervalued virtue at the moment!
I too long for the days when a simple gesture yields vast gains, stacked socially, intellectually and emotionally. Our communities, country and world will again prosper when we can reclaim the common spaces, Kay.
I agree, Mark. I just wish people wouldn’t rush it. I’m all for it, safely.
It’s always the little things that make such a huge difference, whether we’re together or 6 feet apart:-)
So true! The grand gestures are few and far between but the little gestures are equally as precious.
Love this, every word. Thank you! xxx
Aw, thank you sweet Amy! XXOO
That’s a great story and unfortunately not doneness enough But like you said, gut instincts usually determine actions. These driveway birthdays are pretty strange and I especially feel bad for young children who can’t share their days with friends and classmates. but…better days will come. Happy belated birthday! I hope you had a great day, even under these circumstances. Stay well.
Thank you, George! I had a great day in which I got to relax. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Great blog! What an uplifting night for all of you and hoping you can do it again in the future. It truly is a small world when you take the time to explore it. Also love your new word boggledy – should be in webster’s next year.
Isn’t it a great word?! It just works for so many things. 😉Thank you for the kind words.
I’m sure you made Katies week. Such a nice gesture. Thanks for sharing, Kristine.
I hope we did! Paying it forward, John. 😃
Yes, for sure.
I love the story. Exactly one year ago my sister-in-law and I were in a restaurant in Prague. It was dinner time, it was busy and we did not have a reservation but it was starting to rain and we decided to wait. We told The host party of two. A woman came in a couple minutes after us and told the host table for one. He said it would be a while. I said would you like to join us? She did. I don’t think we shared any dessert. But we had the most fascinating conversation and spent 90 wonderful minutes with a stranger!
Oh, and I love your story! What a wonderful adventure, all the more interesting because it took place in another part of the world. Have you stayed in touch with her or was it just a one-time encounter?
You go girl! If anyone can do the gift of communication with style you most certainly have it dear lady 😀
But you first rocked my socks with ‘peripatetics’. Didn’t have a clue to its meaning so I went for a hunt. I did not know it existed, the word that is, but its meaning most certainly. It was usually applied to the young new teachers as they took part time positions everywhere.
And the second was that you were a ‘drive-by’ professional. My first image was of shootings and muggings but thankfully birthdays now take on a whole new meaning 😂 🤣
Oh, and please, please…if your down my way and you need to invite a chocolate dessert ‘connoisseur’ to help out, feel free to give me a call. For that I can be a ‘ring in’ for anything 😂
Great post Kristine, the virus is most certainly changing us all, we’ll look back at this time and see many changes in our culture. Our language, meanings and attitudes are shifting and even our eating habits are taking on a new menu.
But most of all it is the change in our hearts that has stood out for me, there is an appreciation for what we did have in those connections everywhere. We are missing them sorely and I can see a hug festival when this is all over…but this time cars left turned off in the driveway 😀 ❤️ 🙏🏽 🦋
Oh, I love it when unusual words take flight😃. Dare you to use it in a sentence this week. And while chocolate is not out of the question, getting to Australia right now certainly is. Although from what I hear, you all have dealt with this virus quite well. Wishing you continued health and only the best kind of drive-bys, Mark!
Thank you kind lady, and we ‘had’ got through this quite well…until some idiot in parliament decided it was time to relax the restrictions while there was ‘only’ one or two cases about. They have just lifted the lid and I doubt that a second wave will be very nice at all. Talking with their pockets as usual. All they needed to do was wait another 4 or 5 weeks and we would have all been in the clear, but as usual money sings the loudest ☹️
Ugh. Just ugh.
What a difference a couple of months makes. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you were kind enough to invite a stranger to share dessert, or that you’ve found creative ways to celebrate. It seems our creative solutions will be tested to the limit in the months to come!
I agree. I cannot imagine a time when I will be sharing dessert with people again.
This has been a crazy time. Love your birthday parades… Damn… I had none!
I have to tell you, while yes, we must still be careful, I am not freaking out careful. I go out, I do what I have to, I wear a mask where they ask, I always wash my hands… my friend is thisclose to saying screw it, come over for cocktails. As am I. We will not kiss and hug but we will get together. Because life will go on and we are none of us in general population when it comes to work so I think we’ll be good.
That said, I love that you and your friend invited that woman over for dessert. That is such a beautiful and simple thing. If she wasn’t in, she would have said so and no one would have been upset. That you sensed she would, is an even better indication of your spidey senses… keep those babies tuned because I truly hope you’ll be sharing something big and decadent again in the future.
Your dad is definitely smiling from the ether…
I had a couple of friends over in my backyard the other night. We stayed at least 6 ft apart but were able to see each other’s faces and chat. And it was so very nice. I understand what you’re saying. I think as long as we are all responsible and as careful as we can be, that’s all anyone can ask for.
Well there ya go. Exactly what I was saying
How nice that you embraced Katie and shifted her whole week! I look forward to in-person connecting and haven’t yet tried the kind of celebrations as you did with cars. Kudos Kristine.
The car thing doesn’t compare to gathering in person, of course. But on a special day, it is so nice to see friends’ faces rather than just hear their voices.