Classroom quiet and still, shoes kicked off, bare feet on cool floor, cold diet coke within reach, menu planning. I love, I love getting out my tablet of graph paper and a sharp pencil and plotting an evening's delectability. It exercises and calms my brain at the same time. Deciding on the right scheme, the perfectly contrasting colors, flavors and textures, evening the playing field for all dishes concerned -- it's a welcome, pleasant challenge each time, and I think I may be getting better and better at it.
Dad's birthday was Tuesday, but who wants to celebrate on a Tuesday?! So we're gathering on The Hill this evening. Joshua and Angela are handling their usual tasks: tasty hors d'oeurves and fine, handwrought cocktails. Mom and I are handling the main menu. She graciously acts as my sous-chef and forehead-blotter as I zoom about the kitchen in a mad, how-will-I-get-everything-done dash. She talks me down and chops the vegetables, cues the music and pours the wine.
When dad has had his hand smacked for stealing tastes before the grand reveal, when Grappelli is playing at just the right volume and once the plating is complete, we belly up to the dinner table and take stock. Mmmmmms mingle and eyes feast first. Billy the cat weaves through our legs, his little dark grey nose busy-busy, underneath the lushly laid tableau. We join hands, offer thanks, and exchange kisses all the way around the table (sometimes we do that twice). We offer thanks for such a sweet life, for a family who live and love together so closely, who share burdens and triumphs, stories and songs, for our bounteous blessings which never seem to abate.
Little Johnny had no idea when he was a freckle-nosed, sweet-faced boy in Missouri, or when his head was full of an architect's dreams in high school, or when he feverishly practiced all those millions of hours of piano in a dark sanctuary or the university's activities building, or when he found his dark-haired beauty, Martha Jane, all those 42 years ago in a sleepy little corner of Arkansas, that he'd end up 'round this board full of finery and richness, laughter and understanding. And with a happy family such as this one.
Happy birthday, pops. All my love.