Now, after so many years in Nashville, my journals and photograph albums are full of the stories of these gatherings. I’ve come to see them as part of the significant work of my life. I have no guarantee they will ultimately have the effect I want them to. But what I suspect, and what I hope, is that the scents, flavors, often-used recipes, family chitchat, friends catching up, and the familiar stamp of the way things are done will seep in, helping to create a family identity and leave a heritage of belonging.
The seating arrangement will be tricky, because some of these people are shy and will not be comfortable talking to strangers. They might feel uncertain about proper table manners or what to wear. They probably don’t get asked out much. But none of that matters. At this fantasy dinner party, every one of them will arrive with any fear in their hearts replaced with hope.
It is a small but real thing that each of us can enter into this practice of conservation believing that we can be part of tangible renewal. For some, it might take the shape of educating or gardening. For others it might look like banking or engineering, a public office or scientific research. It takes all kinds to accomplish the greater good. And it matters for us to practice renewal. It matters because God loves what He made, and when you love someone, you are drawn to love what they love.
My mother adored Daddy, as she called him, but she swooned for Ravel. Family legend has it that a recording of Ravel’s best known piece, Bolero, which somehow turned up in my mother’s possessions when in high school, was promptly destroyed, being deemed far too sensuous for the impressionable oldest daughter of a Swedish Baptist preacher. And she could painfully recall not being able to attend a friend’s birthday party as a child in Pasadena, because the planned activity for the group was to see a movie — a novel, rare treat in 1930. The first time I saw the film Babette’s Feast, I had some inkling of the dilemma my mother’s upbringing must have wrought in her blossoming creative life, as it would later in mine.
You have been betrayed by your body, when you had gone around all this time thinking you and your body were one thing, inseparable, a winning team. And although the doctor’s approach you with their sterile, shining instruments and unfailing clinical cool, still you panic, and inside you feel hurt.
Because you are hurt.
And although doctors now have treatments for most maladies, what comes after that — the healing — is something one must do alone.