Friday, January 27, 2012

Return of the Prodigal Daughter

Last night, once the chaos of greeting and hugging arrivals was done, wine glasses filled and plates dished up,I stood back and took it in.  I watched this eclectic collection of wonderful women gathered in my cottage; soaked in the laughter and chatter; witnessed the comforting through things going or gone wrong and felt fully blessed.  This is my Dinner Club.  Part of my Tribe.  This is my homecoming.

It must be now about seven years since our first dinner.  I showed up not knowing anyone in the initial group.  Coming with reservations (not the kind holding a table) to a meal in the apartment of a woman I did not know.  I had signed up (with huge angst I tell you) to attend this gathering to discuss potential for a follow up "support group" for women that had completed the Divorce Recovery Workshop hosted by my church.  Actually, it wasn't "my church" at that time.  Just a local church that hosted this program: this program that I had signed up for also with extreme angst and embarrassment but turned out to be a step in the right healing direction.

So I came to the flat of a stranger, weary from work and nervously on edge, to check out what might turn out to be either an agonizingly long evening, for which I already had a fake excuse for escape cooked up, just in case, or the beginning of something that could help me through this life journey's detour I was on.  It was an oddly matched group of women.  That night there were probably seven or eight women in attendance.  (Two added later were by my invite as women who had attended my same small break out group from the workshop.  Another, no longer part of the group, was a real nut job.  'nuff said.  Though I'll probably say more 'cause she was really something to write about.)

Last night, as I was doing that stepped back observation, I had the thought that this group is such a wonderful fluke.  My path probably wouldn't have crossed with most, or maybe any, of these delightful women, without the Divine intervention of that Recovery Workshop and the action of one attending who felt called to propose some form of fellowship in the aftermath. I wouldn't be part of it if I hadn't stared down fear in its ugly face and took the risk to show up. 

My unease on that first evening was greatly reduced when somebody brought out a bottle of wine (not because I needed wine (well maybe I did) but more because this was a group built on a church sponsored program and I assumed it would be some sort of intense Bible study or something).  My commitment was sealed on the discussion around what kind of group do we want to be and what shall we call ourselves.  "Please don't call it a 'recovery group'" someone said.  ("Yes!" my heart sang).  And then we all laughed when the organizer in all innocent honesty said "besides we might want to continue to meet through the year and we'll be through the recovery process by six months."  After more discussion and a second small glass of wine we hit on "The Dinner Club."  We'd be meeting on a weeknight evening so dinner would probably be involved.  Those of us living in homes that could accommodate the group would take turns hosting. (Many were still on uncertain financial ground and eating out regularly seemed like a frightening fantasy) Then would it be potluck, rotating meal makers, take out, what?  The table was filled mostly with deli containers and other store bought prepared food by those of us who grabbed something on the way over from work.  But, unbeknown to us at the time, we had a Chef amongst us.  When we popped that fork full of moist pork tenderloin into our mouths and bit into that perfectly oven roasted green bean that the Chef had prepared all other food was forgotten.  The wine took on whole new wonderful taste characteristics.  The Chef, who loved to cook food and loved to have people love her food, agreed to be the food preparer for future Club meetings.  The rest of us would pay her a fee that covered her costs and a little of the labor involved and take turns hosting.  Sometimes we do more potluck style, but mostly it is the Chef's creations we enjoy. It has been a perfect arrangement.

Since then we've been meeting regularly.  Bi-weekly at first.  Then monthly if possible.  We've been through a lot together since that first meeting.  All divorces were eventually finalized.  Children launched (though one still has a son at home).  Lost a few parents and beloved pets.  Some ventured back out into the dating world.  Some have remarried.  Some of those marriages didn't work out.  Some completed advanced degrees and started new careers.  Others lost established careers.  We've been through a lot together.  An observer, if any were allowed, would hear lots and lots of laughter, see a few tears, see genuine connection and hear wonderful wisdom shared.  Most of these women I don't see outside of dinner club.  I hang with a few though "outside club." 

Our cast of characters includes:
  • The Chef
  • The Nurse
  • The Event Planner
  • The Nursing Home Dietitian
  • The Technical Editor
  • The Therapist/Teacher
  • The Real Estate Agent
  • The Retired Army Nurse
  • and me, The Transportation Planner wannabe Writer
  • (and the Whacked out Nut Job who got herself excused from the table)
The Dinner Club only met a few times while I was assigned overseas.  Twice they set up a computer and I Skyped in on their dinner, with my morning latte in hand on the other side of the world.  A third time they thought they were Skyping me in but I was able to surprise them in person due to an unplanned trip home.  It was a sweet reunion.  Last night, as we met in my home, I felt like a returning Prodigal Son.  Or daughter I guess.  I had moved away from this group.  I was in very little contact with any of them.  While over there I felt a little abandoned in my very small world as I realized their lives had moved on without me.  And truthfully it was me who had moved out of theirs.  So the "homecoming" last night, in my home with my Tribe was just what I needed.  What we needed.  And I look forward to the next meal we will share.

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