I know Husband's people not by their names, but by their descriptions. The Scout Leader. The One Whose Dad Owned The Grocery Store. The Ones Who Always Had Lots Of People In Their House.
We talked a lot about these ones. Even before we were married, Husband set a vision in front of my eyes of people walking in and out of the kitchen, children too excited to close the screen door gently, teens stopping their neighborhood basketball game for lemonade on the porch. Hospitality. Ease. Laughter.
We were almost to their house as I quizzed Husband about these people we were visiting. Practice their names one more time with me. Draw a family tree in my head. Who are they again? Oh! These are those people. Why didn't you just say that?
Why didn't you just say: These are the people of the house where everyone was welcomed, everyone was comfortable.
Why didn't you just say: These were the people we want to be.
This is a good exercise for me, picking through the thousands of adjectives to describe our afternoon there. I try many on for size. I rustle through other languages. Nothing fits. Everything seems too blurry. I want words that are crisp. Words that are bright and pure and true.
The family is there: extended, yes, but also close. The men, greeting us, elegant Southerners, crossed legs and smiling in regal high backed chairs. The furniture is sequestered to the walls, leaving a table in the center of the room directly in front of the fireplace. Proper. Respectable. But, less the formal setting make you feel formal, right away, there is laughter. Children playing on the piano and weaving in and out of this room and that. A quick catch up and quickly to issues not designated to polite chit-chat – but to soul talk. Real talk.
The Mother comes in, dinner's ready, she said. But, there is no hurry to the table. I hug her. I have been very lonesome for my own mother. And I have been even more lonesome for a friend. She hugs me back and I knew why people are drawn to this house.
The paint, a rich grayed brown – secure in it's place on the wall and not given to the whims of fad designs – does not try to swallow the light from the large window, nor does it bow to it, sharing the space with dignity. She says the name, some silly name, and laughs, and isn't that an awful name for a color.
Her voice sways gently with the grace of a southerner, but is not so heavy as molasses. It is honey, the lightest kind, not too syrupy or sticky. It is the kind that you could feast on and still dream about at night.
Fried chicken, of course. Tomatoes. Corn on the cob. Sweet tea. Apple pie. These are the things we eat, but what we consume are the people.
Stories and stories. Told and received. Memories and aspirations. Love and death. Life. Holy Communion with biscuits and sweet tea.
They knew Husband's Father, a man I never met. The grandmother sat with him before he died. For this alone, I love her. Husband resembles him, she says again and again. It is something I cannot see in the Polaroid pictures. It must be how he stands, how he holds his head, his arms.
Father-In-Law's table is right there in the dining room. It holds the Christmas desserts, which I desperately want to taste although we are too early for that. My only memories I will steal from theirs. I cannot get enough of him. Please, tell me more.
I look at the China, at the dishes in every glassed cabinet. There are two little men sitting together at a table. They are in a pub, I'm guessing. They are talking about the fields, the weather, their lost loves. They are on cups and saucers and plates and bowls. I love these men for the community of friendship they have made over the years of meeting here together. But, for our own community of friendship, we do not use their china, but paper plates. Good, I think. Less work. More time to talk.
And talk is what we do. An easy talk – questions and answers. More stories of how we have met, how we have learned, how one conversation can change your life completely. Again and again we remind each other that God is faithful even when we can't figure it out.
There is a collective hope in the air. Show us, Oh, Lord, Your faithfulness once again. Open our eyes. Don't let us be.
People do come in and out of the house, filtering into the dining room and sifting back out. Some are quiet. Some with their own big stories. Everyone knows there is food on a Sunday afternoon. Food for the stomach and food for the soul. Everyone knows there is room at this table. Everyone knows there are chairs enough. Everyone knows there is time enough.