Hospitality

When last we met, I was talking about my awkwardness, my fear of being a houseguest, and the discomfort I feel while staying with friends and family. In my brief trip to NY last weekend, I had the most wonderful experience of being pleasantly surprised by an unexpected feeling–the feeling of being welcome in a place.
 
In planning my long weekend back “home”, I knew that I was overdue for a visit to my dear friends Theresa Tess & Ken. I had missed connecting with them in my visit last August (and what a lovely visit it was 😦 ) and knew I was long overdue. Connecting on Facebook had only piqued my interest in seeing them, and in getting to know their two kids. Gracie was probably two years old the last time I saw her, and Kate, who was then “Katie” to me and a precocious and sweet little girl, is now teetering on the edge of adolescence. It was way past time to reconnect with them.
 
Ken’s status updates on FB had often had me drooling on my keyboard. I knew that they had recently completed a kitchen remodeling, and that he works magic in the kitchen on an almost daily basis. So it made sense that I would “conveniently” plan my arrival for dinnertime. (I’m no fool!!!)
 
However, my usual anxieties surfaced, and no matter who it is, I do not like staying over at someone’s house, because I never know if I will feel welcome, and safe. Nonetheless, I planned to spend the night (and was ready to keep going on to Brooklyn the next day–which also made me feel rude because I wasn’t staying very long) and was eager to see them again in spite of my fears. And when I got there, I was blown away by the outpouring of love and hospitality that I was shown . . .
 
Kate gave up her bed for me. Ken slaved over a hot stove (okay, a crockpot) all day. meatballs and two kinds of sausage in the sauce. The girls set the table–with the good linens!–the day before, and Kate even arranged a centerpiece of candles. I was blown away as I realized something. They were happy to see me! They were excited that I was coming, and they made it clear in both word and deed that I was a welcome guest to their home. Now, the kids didn’t really  remember me, I’m sure, but Mom and Dad set the tone, and they followed suit.
 
I think that the one thing that really struck me was when Ken told me that, had he not made pasta (hello?! as if I’d ever say “no” to Italian food from real Italians?!), he would have made roast beef, with “potatoes that don’t taste like potatoes”. Why did he know this? Because he had cared enough to read my “25 things” meme on Facebook, and had remembered my potato quirkiness. He cared enough to know who I was, just as Theresa did when she called me sometime last year to say hello and to tell me that she had been reading my blog. (one of those times when I didn’t realize that my despair was showing through quite as transparently as it was . . . )
 
When I was a kid, the reason I loved my godmother, Irene, was that she was ALWAYS happy to see me. She was one of the few people in my life who made me feel like I was special, like I was loved. Even at my grandmother’s funeral, she reacted with joy when she first saw me. Feeling loved like this was precious to me because it was so, so rare.
 
Today, with the Beckster and her crew 2500 miles away, I do not often expect to experience that sense of belonging, of being part of something. I do not expect to be surrounded by love, by home, by family.
 
But in Eatontown last Thursday night, I once again experienced what it feels like to be among family . . . to be with people who make me feel special, and welcome, and loved. And through the hospitality of friends, and in the glow of the evening light, my fears melted away, and I thought I got a glimpse of “home”.

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