Who Would You Invite To Dinner?

“You can’t forget how important coming together is, whether it be a mom and a son, a dad and a daughter, whether the family be ten people, or twenty people, or a million people. Dinnertime is the perfect time for that. Dinnertime is the perfect time when you can sit down, you can offer thanks to your kids for making you laugh, or to your parents for supporting you, or to a god for looking out for you, or to whomever you want. You can just close your eyes and open them again and realize that you have the opportunity everyday to change your life, or change someone else’s. Dinnertime is a great time to think about that.

~ Dillon, age 22
From Dinnertimes: Stories of American Life, 1912 to 2012”

 

We’re stuck in the city just now, waiting for Ben’s knee to be sufficiently recovered from surgery for him to sit in the car for a few hours while we drive home to our farm.

One of the beautiful things in our marriage is that we talk about anything and everything. We have never yet run out of conversation.

So, Ben asked me last night, ‘If you could invite six people to Christmas Dinner, who would they be?’

‘Anyone at all?’ I asked him.

Yep. I could invite anyone at all. My mind went crazy. A table full of interesting and intelligent conversation? Wow. Who to ask? The new Pope. I’d love to have him to dinner. Patrick Stewart? Make it so. Sting? Remind him to bring his guitar, or a lute. Elizabeth Gilbert. She’d be fun. Cate Blanchett too. I was searching for a third woman to balance up the numbers, but really wanting to ask Joss Whedon while tossing up Joan Jett or Dame Judi Dench. Then I had a thought. I asked Ben if my dinner guests had to be living.

‘Pretty hard to have a conversation if they’re dead’, Ben said, ‘but sure, if you want.’

Suddenly everything changed.

If I could invite anyone? Anyone at all?

It would be my darling grandparents. Nana and Pa. Marga and Ceddie. As a grown woman now, there is so much I want to ask them. So much we never got to say. Ben’s dad. Bill passed away before I met his son. I’ve always wanted to cook for him, and to hear his stories. My Great Aunt Gwen, who died when I was still at high school. She was a remarkable woman, and she has had such a formative influence on me. I’d love the chance to share one good meal with her, adult to adult.

That’s who I’d want. Not famous strangers. Loved ones. Family. One last chance to have a glorious conversation, to ask them all the things we never talked about, to tell them how much they mean to me, how much I love them. To thank them with my hugs and my words and my food.

Who would you ask, if you could?

Image from www.flickr.com

Image from www.flickr.com

Those All-Night Conversations…

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“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

I’ll keep this short, because I am seriously just about to go to bed at a little after 6am.

I’ve had one of those nights with my beloved. One where we both woke long before midnight after hardly having been to sleep, both got up to stoke the fire because the house had grown cold, started talking, and then settled down in front of those crackling flames and kept talking all night.

No alcohol. Nothing to fuel the conversation but the need to talk and explore ideas and emotions and choices and all the big life stuff you usually only talk about after too much red wine.

I so love that after this many years of marriage we can and do talk about everything under the sun. May we grow old together, still having fascinating conversations at the oddest of hours.

Bye for now. Soft bed and pillow are calling my name…

Everyone has a story to tell…

In these days of emails, tweets and text messages we can spend our days constantly communicating, but not really sharing at that deeper level of connection.

One of my favourite forms of communication is a fairly old-fashioned one.  It involves conversation and cups of tea. Yesterday, my dear friend Carly-Jay Metcalfe, a poet and writer, came visiting with me as we sat in the kitchen of my neighbour, Gordon Greber, and heard some of his story.

Gordon is 85, nearing 86. He’s lived what he considers to be an ordinary life but as times change, what he has done and how he has lived is no longer ordinary. He has been a timber cutter, and cut sugar cane by hand and hauled it on his shoulder before the time of mechanical harvesters.  He’s been a fencer, a truck driver, a dairy man, a farmer.

As a young boy he left primary school when war broke out to work on a family banana farm, thus cutting dramatically short his formal education.

But Gordon, like many old bushies I have known, has a keen interest in the world around him.  Life has been his teacher. As we sit drinking strong tea and nibbling at the scones I have brought he gently unfolds his life before us.

There was plenty of hardship and cruelty in his childhood, followed by unending years of brutal physical labour in a range of jobs that took him far from where he was born, before he came full circle in 1954 and bought the farm he lives on today, not so far from his birthplace. That was the beginning of even more work, as he took a run-down and overgrown dairy farm and turned it into a home, and a productive enterprise.  He often worked several jobs, starting before sun-up and finishing well after sun-down in order to pay the bills. It took a huge toll on his health, but Gordon is uncomplaining. That was how life was back then, he said.  You had to work hard to get ahead. If you wanted a different life for your own family, that was just what you did.

I love watching Carly’s face as Gordon regales her with yarns about battles with brown snakes, friends killed in trucking accidents, crippling droughts and floods that tore families and farms apart. Gordon is so modest; his amazing stories told with humility and self- deprecation.

Carly’s drinking it in, and I see the writer in her storing it away.  Fodder for the mill. I know I will see echoes of this man’s life in her poetry, her novella, her fiction.

They part as firm friends, and I take one last photograph of them, Carly’s small hand pressed up against Gordon’s large one.  Both of them are battlers – with courage and grace by the bucketful. (More about Carly’s life-long journey with cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant here) They have met life head on, and not given an inch. I wipe away a tear as they hug. Both cut from the same fabric, although they are not related and are generations apart.

Each of us has a story to tell, something to share, something to teach.  I hope that you can find some time to sit down with someone soon, and get to know each other a little better over a cuppa or a cold drink.  We are a tribe of storytellers – we need to hear them and share them.  It connects us.  It makes us whole. ♥