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The Gift of a Perfect Evening

June 18, 2014

“Mom, do you want to have dinner together tonight?”
“Sounds good. I’ll be home around 7. Will that work?”
“Sure. See you then.”
“You want me to pick something up or do you want to eat out?”
“I might make something. We can eat here.”
“Ok. Great.”

I could hear them all in the kitchen as I opened the door into the house. Laughter, voices, music…the smell of food already prepared. I dumped my work bag in the laundry room and called out hello to all and passed out hugs. The kitchen felt full of life and twenty-somethings. Kristin laid out salad, fruit, appetizers, freshly-made gazpacho. Joe was outside grilling hamburgers. His girlfriend Kate leaned on the kitchen island chatting with Kristin’s friend Michael. I breathed a deep sigh of complete happiness as we gathered around the dinner table. This is my idea of a perfect evening. Lively chatter. Animated storytelling as we linger around empty plates. A couple fun disagreements about the way we retell a family event. Some sarcasm. The kitchen table feels like a place I’ve landed after the busy events of the day, and I relax in the swirling conversation of my kids and their friends. I listen to Kristin telling a story; her face is like a movie I love to watch over and over again. Joe grumbles a snarky comment to take her down a notch on some claim or other. Kate’s soft laughter joins the symphony of voices; I love to watch her when Joe is talking and I love her quiet presence at our table. She personifies comfort. Michael shares a lively tale from his summer internship; he fits into our dialect like he was raised here, and he makes me laugh. Tom calls from his business trip in the middle of it all. Joe answers, and they chat for a few minutes. “Dad says to call him later,” he tells me, and I smile, knowing that Tom is miles away generously giving me the gift of this perfect evening. I’ll call him later and tell him how much I loved it, but he knows without my saying just how precious these things are to me. Kristin and Michael eventually remind us they are due to meet friends in Broad Ripple, and we all jump up and start clearing plates. There are five of us in the kitchen putting food away, washing dishes, wiping down the counters. More laughter. Quick clean up, and we disperse for our evening. Joe and Kate to the basement to hang out and watch tv, Kristin and Michael to meet their friends, and me to catch up on lingering email from the workday and a nice chat by phone with Tom about his day.

When I was little, my mom and grandmother insisted on prompt thank you notes for gifts. We were taught in my family to acknowledge the giver’s thoughtfulness, share a bit about how you’d used and loved the gift, and tell what it meant to you. My daughter organized this night for me. Out of an ordinary day, she created this lively dinner party. She made the food, invited us all to be home on time, put on the music, coaxed Joe to light the grill, and gathered us around the table on this summer evening to talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. She has a gift, Kristin does, for creating these moments for people, and I love that. Tonight was a gift, and this is my sincere thank you note for something I will remember forever.

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