I am indebted to Jane Downes who inspired this conversation.
I haven't seen them for quite a while - for too long
actually. Now they're coming to visit. I'm delighted! Their coming is a
gift, a timely gift. Once I fully realize they're really coming, I also
realize how much I've missed them. They'll be my guests in my home. I'm
excited! We make our plans in
Dates and times are checked and rechecked. It's on the schedule now.
I'm looking forward to it.
I completely revamp the guest room. I vacuum and dust. I meticulously
remake the bed with clean sheets and pillow cases - which I've ironed.
I also fit it with a clean mattress cover - which I've also ironed. I
fold the sheets crisply and tuck them in making military
Once a bed is made and covered with a duvet, no one will notice
the corners, or how and where the sheets are tucked in. Does it
matter if I fold the sheets crisply and tuck them in making
military corners? If no one sees them, doesitmatter?
Here's the thing: I don't make the bed with military corners because
someone will see them. I make the bed with military corners because
I make the bed with military corners. Military corners, ironed
sheets and pillow cases, and even an ironed mattress cover are simply
who my guests are.
there's the question of a gift. I know the perfect gift
for them, one which they'll not only appreciate but will instantly
recognize and be blown away by. The trouble is it's not
easy to find. I look around. I make phone calls. I talk with people ...
who refer me to other people ... who refer me to stores ... who refer
me to private collectors. I'm a detective conducting an investigation.
I follow up all leads one-track-mindedly until eventually
I find it: a revered very, very rare
1992 bottle of their favorite Cabernet Sauvignon. I wrap it
minimalistically in plain white tissue paper, mindful of
not intruding into its
then I set it on the bedside table just so.
It takes me about a half hour endlessly composing and recomposing a
personal note until it communicates exactly what I intend. When it
does, I write it neatly in black ink on a carefully chosen
I place the card along with two unintrusive wine glasses beside the
white wrapped Cabernet Sauvignon on the bedside table.
The flashing red LED on my telephone answering machine
alerts me to an unheard voice message. I press PLAY and
listen. They're not coming. They say they'll call again. That's all
I gasp audibly. My eyes mist over. There's a brief moment of quiet in
my head, then shock as the "Say whut?" hits. That's when
it starts: the conjecture, the imagining what happened, the imagining
why it happened, the making up, the trying to figure
out what caused them to cancel, the firestorm, the
eruption of thoughts bursting rudely into my calm demeanor
like a sudden fiery meteor shower in the atmosphere. What if it's a
health emergency? Oh no! Please, not that ...
Goddon't make it a health emergency ...
What if I offended them somehow? Was it something I
said? Perhaps our friendship isn't as good for them as it
is for me.
Then I go down an entirely new channel: how inconsiderate
of them! Don't they know how inconvenient this is? Do they
think I've got nothing better to do with my time than to clean house
for them? This new turn of the "Na na na hana hana hana
..." surprises even me. The sadness of them not coming has
morphed into something ... well ... nasty. I'm
startled by it. It's not me who thinks this about them.
But it's clearly going on in my mind - so I'm responsible
for it also by default. And then it changes again, this time
into a kind of pitiful poor little me: people leave me,
these are my friends and now they've also left me. As I watch that one
go by on the
I cringe. How self-indulgent ...
They do call again - a few days later. The movie they're producing
isn't wrapping when they expected it to. The shoot is lasting longer,
preventing them visiting with me at the time we planned. They're in a
remote mountainous location from where communication isn't reliable.
They ask if it's OK to reschedule the visit as soon as they know when
their movie wraps. I say it's fine. So simple.
As I hang up the phone, I get how much I love them. I also get what a
ton of stuff, mostly inaccurate, I'm able to make up at
the drop of a hat.
I've gotten my own experience back. Once again I'm in touch with my
creation and its simple heartfelt generosity,
love, and kindness.
My attention turns to the white wrapped Cabernet Sauvignon, the card,
and the two wine glasses standing in their austere simplicity, waiting
for them on the bedside table in the guest room.