A light cold rain fell over Evanston as my son and I moved from the doorway of his building to the little Kia. He navigated the puddles to put the bag holding our contributions to dinner and the presents for his girlfriend’s parents in the car before coming back to take my arm and guide me down the stairs.
As we drove through the streets to the neighborhood in which we would dine, he mentioned a few things about our hosts which would help me acclimate and avoid any obvious faux paus. I strained to focus on some balance between fear of being wooden and my innate sense that my true self offended people by its very essence. By the time we parked in front of their home, I had worked myself into a mild but hidden tizzy. I’ve been criticized so much over the years that I automatically steel myself for social failure.
I reckoned without the graciousness of Hope’s parents and her sister. They took our coats and offered hugs, wine, and hot tea. They settled us in the most comfortable of the available seating. Even their little dog welcomed us. I found myself relaxing.
More people came, long-time friends easy with one another’s company. They carried plate after plate of steaming food to the table. Latkes, sweet potatoes, challah, salad, turkey — enough for fifty, with only fifteen present. Everyone took a chair. Our host and hostess stood by the menorah. And then we lit the candles, and said prayers, and held hands to say grace, for this family combines the Jewish faith and Catholicism with a whimsical happy flair.
At the end of grace our host offered anyone a chance to speak. I almost did. Words rose within me which I yearned to utter. But tears lingered just behind and I did not trust myself. The moment passed.
Had I opened my mouth, gratitude would have poured into the room. I cannot think of any place that I have felt such acceptance. The people who opened their home to me last evening assumed my worth. I did not have to prove anything. I understood that their attitude flowed outward — because of their virtue, not mine. But nonetheless I benefited. Their goodness surrounded and comforted me. I felt consoled.
It’s the twenty-sixth day of the thirty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. From Evanston, Illinois, I send my greetings. Life continues.