I once fainted while driving in Toronto traffic after having blood taken so ever since I’ve always been a little reluctant to have that procedure done again. A few years ago, though, I delayed and delayed and delayed my routine bloodwork by almost a year. And I thought about it almost every single day.
I’ve been reminded of this waffling recently, well, over the last six months really. People have asked me repeatedly whether I–like Daisy Jane in Ithaca–host weekly soup suppers in my home. And until today, I hadn’t. But just like the bloodwork fiasco, pretty much every week I’ve evaluated my schedule to decide when I should invite the neighbours to come to supper.
To be fair, our family is an active one, with lots of activities taking place in the afterschool-supper-early evening timeslots. My other excuse was The Dog. The Dog likes to greet people with enthusiasm. The Dog generally settles down again within five minutes, but not everyone likes being greeted with the whip of a wagging tail. Not everyone likes dogs, even. So, yes, that has been a delay. Someone has a sniffle and I’d rather not plan a meal only to cancel it. Oh gosh, there have been both valid reasons and worried excuses.
We have new next-door neighbours. A few weeks ago, I was telling my husband that we really had to do the soup supper soon, but when??? He suggested we do it the weekend they moved in, as a kind of welcome to the ‘hood. That was this past weekend. Initially the weather forecast called for rain on Sunday–and my solution to the dog issue was that we could hold the party in our decent-sized backyard, and keep the dog inside, but that wouldn’t work if it rained–but eventually the weatherman decided it would be sunny both Saturday and Sunday. I went to the market on Saturday and found beautiful bunches of asparagus and long green leeks. One of my kids suggested vichyssoise–potato-leek soup–and I had seen a recipe for asparagus-lemon-parmesan soup that sounded delicious.
What I should have done was go around on Saturday and invite all the neighbours to Sunday lunch. What I did instead was “hem and haw” as my mom would say, until 10:30 on Saturday night when I began sweating leek circles in butter, and grating fresh parmesan into asparagus. I finished two pretty large vats of soup just before midnight.
Was I committed now? I was not. Honestly, it was not until after church at 11:30 in the morning that I began knocking on neighbours’ doors with invitations to a spontaneous soup lunch. I sent my husband out for bread and butter, and sliced limes into water, and found paper bowls and plastic spoons and set them all out on a table in the backyard.
I had said to come for 12:30, but 12:30 came and went–and my butterflies increased their fluttering. The reality is that I have met and talked with all of these neighbours on a variety of occasions–even the new ones. But to break bread and soup together is to cross a line, to build a different kind of relationship with the people who share our block. And I don’t mind saying that I felt some degree of resistance to it, even as I wanted to encourage community around us and with us. In the end, I decided that I didn’t need to make such a big deal out of it–I didn’t need to wait for the perfect time. The house didn’t need to be totally clean. The Dog could come out and be the life of the party–until the one child arrived with her healthy fear of dogs firmly in tow, and then The Dog could go have a break. Two of my three kids had to leave as the lunch started–oh well. The neighbours are the people who see your underpants hanging on the clothesline. It could be a small deal and that could be good.
And it was. They began arriving at 12:45 and they began meeting each other, talking, finding common ground. Little kids played in our backyard (something that made me very happy). Kids asked for extra chives on their potato leek soup. We talked about stuff. People said we should do this again. They said we should definitely do this again.
One of my other pre-soup worries was that I would feel like Daisy when she felt like she was too much the hostess, that she wasn’t able to enter into the conversation, but that didn’t happen. There was no tinkering that needed to happen along the way so I was able to eat and talk.
So I say too, we should do this again.