Maggie was looking at her schedule for the week.
“We haven’t been out in a while,” she said. “Want to go to dinner Saturday night?”
“Sure,” I said. “Where?”
We talked about the options for a while and narrowed it down to three.
A couple of minutes later my phone buzzed. I looked down. She’d sent me a calendar appointment for our dinner Saturday night at 6.
Kim’s cousin’s mother-in-law posted something on Facebook this week. I don’t follow her but I am friend’s with Kim’s cousin so her mother-in-law’s post appeared in my time line.
I have many questions about Facebook – why I see some things, why when I reload the page stories that were at the top aren’t there anymore, why I sometimes see messages from friends and sometimes don’t (which explains why messages I send sometimes are never read or received). I never posted on Facebook until Kim died. I’m finding this whole community overwhelming and baffling and may go back to checking in now and then.
Anyway, back to Kim’s cousin’s mother-in-law. She posted a really nice note on what she wanted from her children for Christmas. She wanted them to continue to involve her in their lives, to ask her questions and for advice, and to want to check in now and then.
It was very sweet. I completely get it. That dinner invitation from Maggie made me smile like I haven’t smiled in a long time. That’s all a dad wants.
When we used to ask my mom what she wanted for her birthday she’d say “three good children.” We’d think, “it’s easier just to buy you something.”
Anyway, Maggie and I spent much of the week driving up to get a Christmas tree and leaving without one. Thursday night when we got there and the volunteer with the change and the chain saw wasn’t there, Maggie looked at me and said, “we could go out for dinner tonight instead and then come back and see if the guy shows up.”
Sounded like a good idea.
“Where?” I asked.
“How about Happy Buddha?” she answered.
So we drove to Happy Buddha and had a great dinner together. We chatted with the owner near the end. We’ve gone there for years. She also knows Kim’s sister quite well but I don’t think she’s ever connected us.
The owner had been sitting at another table with another pair of customers who, I think, had just gotten engaged. When I got up to pay at the register she got up to greet me, recognized me and say hello. She looked over at the table I’d come from and brightened as she saw Maggie. She asked her about college and life in general.
We stopped by the church that sold the trees and they were closed up tight so we went home. I was tired and ready for bed. Maggie had to work from 9 pm to 5 am and then she was going to a friend’s house to bake cookies at 6 am.
My phone buzzed.
Dinner with Maggie for Saturday was cancelled.
Maggie worked Thursday overnight and Friday overnight. She was still sleeping Saturday when I headed out to do errands. She texted me her grocery list.
“You going out tonight?” I texted back.
She planned on going out for tea with one of her friends who was home from college.
I picked up some items for dinner. It was a cold nasty night. In the midwest that meant something that “sticks to your ribs”.
I got home and cut up half an onion and started sautéing it in oil while I boiled the pasta water.
Maggie wandered in the kitchen as I added rotini to the boiling water. “Did you salt the water?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said and smiled broadly. I added sausage to the onions and browned it. I added tomato sauce. I cut some basil into ribbons and chopped some oregano and added them both. Something was missing. I cut up a few tomatoes and added them as well. I drained the pasta.
I tasted the sauce. Perfect. Start to finish maybe twenty minutes.
We filled plates and ate together in the dining room even though it wasn’t on the calendar.
I looked over Maggie’s shoulder into the living room.
She’d put the angel on top of the tree and hung stockings.
She’d placed some of the traditional decorations in the usual places and the living room felt so much more like Christmas.
The dog whined and paced.
“Does she need to go outside?” I asked Maggie.
“No,” she said, “there’s food in the kitchen. She wants some.”
Maggie got up and let the dog out. She let her back in a moment later and wiped her paws and gave her a treat.
I cleaned up and tossed some of the cooled plain pasta into the dog’s dish. Maggie went up to change to go out.
It takes so little for a child to light up their parent’s life.
Showing that the family traditions mean enough that you’ll go up to the attic and find the right boxes and bring them down and get everything just right – that was big.
Even bigger, sitting down with me and joining me for dinner.