On Friday they arrived, after a sad comedy of errors concerning weather and missed connections---when I thought they were safely ensconced in their last lap, they called to say they were still at home, for Atlanta was allowing no landings for hours, in the terrific winds and hail.
And so they sat, waiting and hoping for rescue, til they were finally set down here in town at close-to-four a.m. And the car rental office was closed, with their hotel way on the other side of town. But luck was beginning to smile, as their lovely seatmate, a nice lady who lives not-too-far-from-me, knew of their plight, and since her husband was picking her up and they had to come all the way over here, passing their hotel in the process---well---things just work out, sometimes, don’t they?
And there I was, sleeping away, knowing nothing of their late-night teeth-gnashings and final ravenous nibblings from a vending machine. And morning dawned, as we arranged for us to pick them up for breakfast, and Chris to take him back to the airport for their car, etc., etc.
She and I were on the phone when Chris drove up in their parking lot. “OH!!” she exclaimed. "I didn’t know you were going to send SANTA CLAUS to pick us up!!” And the day went on in that happy note, as they spilled from the car, all smiles and hugs, and I went flying out the back door to greet them. They were just who I was expecting, and though I can only hope that we met their own expectations---we got along wonderfully, and I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.
We ate amongst the just-peeking-out ears of the hostas and the windchimes and answering birdsong---I’d prayed for nice weather, and was answered tenfold. The big patio table (customarily the residence of whatever-we’re-carrying-when-we-reach-the-back-door), was brightly-clad in a splashy floral cloth, and the lunch table was all pink---cloth, plates, goblets---with springy green napkins. And since the mealtimes were so oddly mixed, we combined the pastries and bacon and fruit with the odd assortment of Things in Dishes that we hauled out of the fridge, and each plate had our own combinations of Chicken Salad, Paminna Cheese, Egg Salad, or hummus, with crackers and pita chips. Everybody just chose their own, and we dipped into each bowl and platter as we felt like it.
Then the guys went off to do the car and hotel stuff, and she and I spent a long time in the upstairs sitting room, passing old family pictures back and forth, each interested in the other’s family and history, swapping odd little stories and anecdotes. We've shared so much of our histories and our families in e-mails and blogs, we seemed to know just who the other was talking about, and saw the faces-for-the-names we'd only read of. We went out for the rest of the afternoon in the arbor, with the nice breeze in the leaves and the wind-chimes unceasing in their merry tune---we talked and laughed and shared more and more stories of children, of grandparents, of little phrases and pronunciations and words that families pick up and share forever, known only to them.
We showered and changed and went to Hollyhock Hill for dinner---a big old country house in the middle of the city---it’s a big houseful of dining rooms, all white-draped and latticed and scroll-worked in a gardeny setting, with cheerful waitresses---in the best, old-fashioned sense of the word---these ladies were the Real Thing---in white blouses and blue jumper-dresses scurrying past with trays and bowls and platters. We enjoyed a big “Family” chicken dinner---some of the dishes carried on in their familiarity since the thirties---from the first-set-down dishes of homemade beet pickles, relish tray with celery and radishes (how often do we see a whole radish in a restaurant these days?) and sweet-sour-dressed plain lettuce salad, and basket of fluffy biscuits with a little silver bowl of apple butter.
Then the platters of crisp golden chicken, the bowl of mashed potatoes with rivulets of melted butter, the true farmhouse gravy, the golden corn and the country-style greenbeans, long-cooked in their broth of ham and seasonings.
Dessert was a nostalgic moment of our childhood "lunches out"---vanilla sundaes in small metal "sherbets" with a little chrome castor of sauces and syrups. And so we wended our way back out into the evening for a stroll past the fountain, and on toward home with the windows open to the soft evening air.