My grandson-in-law said to my granddaughter recently, “Why is it that in this country you need to make appointments to see friends and neighbors, even relatives?” (I need to explain that Luis grew up in Costa Rica where people mingled freely on the streets or in each others’ homes.) He said, “We never called to see if it was OK. We just dropped in on each other. If we were home, fine. If not, no big deal.”
It’s true. Whenever I’ve moved I might meet my new neighbors coming and going, stop for a minute to chat, but then we’d be on our way. If one of us asked the other in for a visit we’d likely have set a date and time and then be sure to get it on the calendar. My latest move to The Willows has been far more cordial and relaxed. People came to my door early on with tokens of welcome. A plate of cookies, a little flowering plant, a small sack of chocolates. We visited amidst the boxes waiting to be unpacked. Now that I’m settled and ready for drop-ins, they're not coming. I've said, “Please, come see me when you have a minute,” but no takers so far.
In my grandmother’s day women used to regard Thursdays as the day to go calling. I think they’d even indicate on their calling cards which Thursday of the month they’d be at home and ready for callers. Things were formal then but Grandmother told me about one friend of hers who had invited her and one other for tea and on the appointed day she and the other invitee arrived at the same time only to find that there was no answer to the doorbell. Just then their hostess came hurrying up the sidewalk, her arms laden with groceries. She smiled and greeted them, got out her key and let them in. “Sit down here in the kitchen,” she said. Then she got out a bowl and spoon and the fixings for cookies, lit the oven and set the tea kettle on the stove. She excused herself to go out the back door and came in with a tablecloth off the clothesline, sprinkled it and ironed it while the cookies baked, visiting cheerfully all the time without excuses. I’ve often thought of that dear lady and felt a kinship with her. I wonder if she didn’t ask Grandmother and her friend to take off their hats too and set the table.
It’s good to have my new house in fairly good order. I’d be ready for anyone to drop in on me today but I didn’t issue an invitation or make an appointment. Guess I should go look at my calendar, get out the list of other residents here and plan a tea party. Let’s see, who shall I invite first? How many can I fit in? Where is my recipe for those yummy date-filled cookies Grandmother used to make? Shall I try scones too? What about the clotted cream to go with them? And strawberry preserves? The linens will need to be washed and ironed maybe, if I can find them.
On second thought it’s so peaceful here this afternoon. Just thinking about all this has made me look longingly to the sofa. Wonder what’s showing on the TCM movie channel? Wouldn’t it be nice if a neighbor just popped up to my door now? I could offer her some delicious multi-grain toast with orange marmalade. And I have lots of tea. I'd invite her to watch the movie with me. Shall I snag someone off the sidewalk? But no one is going by, and besides if she were she’d be on her way home. It’s hard to beat the pull of home. Another time? I’d give her a call later and set a date.
I'd planned to iron some blouses today but the movie is starting now. It’s a good one with Harrison Ford, my favorite. I’ll go grab a soda and a fistful of those alphabet cookies in the cupboard, take the day off, be my own guest. Linen napkin? No, a paper towel will do.