She picked out pieces of beef and left the stew, with a transparent excuse. Three cumulative bites maybe, performed in slow, birdy increments for my benefit, a can of vanilla Ensure, and that was supper. I left here feeling discouraged about mothering my grandmother.
But I was on my way to a Christmas dinner with Rob, and since it wasn't my party I couldn't cry if I wanted to, so I tried to shake off the blues and leave them on the road to Tucano's Brazilian Grill. Anyway, I was successfully suited up in my black velveteen side-zip, form-fitted dress that Becca gave me years ago, and even better, I could actually breathe in it. My father-in-law showed up as we were leaving for the party and told me with feeling that I looked beautiful. (There's a special word power that fathers and fathers-in-law possess and wield when they bestow their rare compliments.) I found an old nearly-in-fashion costume brooch to hold myself together with. (Women who aren't into the peekaboo straps fad comprehend, as I do, the value of a well-placed pin.) I wound myself up in the anniversary shawl Rob gave me this year, probably the loveliest piece of apparel I have ever owned.
My point is, I felt sort of pretty for the first time in a very long time, and we were going out for a great meal I didn't have to think of or prepare. We. Best of all.
So, we got to the restaurant, and I though I wasn't particularly glammed, I was overdressed for the occasion. Everyone else was casual. Oh well, I thought, shaking off self-consciousness, it's Christmas. I wanted to look nice for Rob. For me. For a change. What's not to dress up about?
Dinner was so good. The salad bar had me humming little raptures. It seemed like I ate and ate as the guys in black came around and came around and came around with their great skewers of meats (what, me, a vegetarian?) but I never reached the awful point of being uncomfortably stuffed. By the end, all the others in our party looked as if they were becoming dangerous to themselves and encountering some early season holiday self-loathing, but I felt fine. I'll be dreaming of a perfect beef tenderloin and carmelized fresh pineapple for weeks.
What I'll be laughing about for weeks is the image of a little man in black showing up after everyone at our table was beyond finished with the many rounds of voluptuous meats. He presented his sole skewer which held what looked like a string of wooden beads and he asked, "Chicken heart?" As one body, we all stopped our breath, gaped at him, then began to laugh. It was terribly funny and surreal. Rob and I hooted in the parking lot about the various delicacies that could be offered up in such a place. My favorite was, "Pope's nose?"
Aside: My birthday is in April if anybody wants to spring for Tucano's.
After collecting our gifties and exiting, we stopped at WIlliams-Sonoma to browse, and then went to Leslie and Kitty's to check on them. Leslie took a bad fall yesterday while he was out walking. We visited for over an hour. Kitty remarked about my shawl and then started fussing about having something she wanted to give me. She left the room for a time and then reappeared, carrying a bundle wrapped in old tissue paper. What was inside was her own grandmother's bone-colored embroidered silk shawl, a really gorgeous thing. I was quite surprised, as was Rob. Kitty said she'd thought of giving it to her niece, but had decided it wasn't her style. She seemed very sure about giving it to me. Kitty's in her mid-80s; how old could this wonderful shawl be? Kitty thought maybe 150 years. She said she believed it had never been washed. It's wonderful. I put it on around my shoulders and tied it off to the right side, and proper Welsh Kitty said, "You've done it just right." Here's another first for me this week, this doing it right; I seem to do little else besides bumble around Leslie and Kitty. (Isn't it strange how around certain people you consistently become an instant lunkhead, no matter how good are your intentions?)
The really remarkable thing that happened when she gave it to me is that as I accepted it and opened it and then stood to examine it, fold it in half, then try it on, I suddenly recollected very distinctly a dream I'd had, who knows how long ago, about that very moment. I was immediately aware of its memory, one I hadn't consciously maintained. I couldn't place the dream in time, but knew that when I'd dreamt it Kitty and Leslie were still strangers to me. It was such a potent feeling, this dream-remembrance, and I nearly mentioned it, but wasn't sure how to go about speaking of it. I thought maybe Leslie and Kitty would find it too odd, and I didn't know how I would begin to describe what was quickly passing through my mind. It was as if something in my brain simply opened up, or some curtain parted, and I could look into a moment long-since passed and see myself there, perceiving the future. It's impossible, I think, to say this well. This experience, shared by no one else in the room, infused the situation with even greater significance for me. It was like someone ran a highlighter over this part of my life's script and said, "Here's a moment you need to notice and remember always. There's far more here to understand than you can see on the surface."
I went out of the room to a hall mirror and tried on my lovely shawl, around my shoulders, around my hips, embarrassed and pleased. A couple minutes later, the expansive sensation had gone and the feeling of "vision" had departed. The point is still clear to me: I saw this very interaction in a dream, many years ago, and it's of real importance. The dream itself has retreated again into the shadows of my memory and only the general outlines of it stay with me. But I will remember tonight. Kitty's given me her grandmother's shawl. It's a treasure to me and I told her so.
Kitty became embarrassed over having given it to me on a night when I was already wearing my anniversary shawl. I tried to assure her that it was a perfect time, but she still fretted. Leslie tried to comfort her with a joke, saying I would now be known as "the girl with two shawls." I really must let her know somehow about the dream. I think that might help put her dear, proper heart at ease and know a little better how deeply I appreciate this gift.
It's time now for me to dream again. In a few hours, I'll wake up to a beef stew world and I'll have to decide what to do with all the picked-over potatoes and carrots. My scarf will be of butcher-variety cotton, and I'll have it tied around my waist.