A Week to Dine Out On
by Melodie Corrigall
“Surprise!”, my daughter Sally chirped, standing at my door, arms laden with flowers and nutritional offerings. I don’t appreciate surprises and when, as now, I feared the unexpected guest was coming to celebrate my social whirl, I was aghast.
“Am I not to be invited in, or have I caught you with visitors?” my daughter sang.
“No, luckily not today?” I said. Nor tomorrow nor the next day, I could have added, but for once, wisely kept my mouth shut.
Let me give you some background to my disquieting situation. My daughter and son-in-law worry I do not have an active social life. My daughter even sent me an article indicating that seniors need company to stay healthy. Research says so, but I say differently, albeit with a sample of one.
The older I get the more I enjoy my own company and shun that of my neighbors. Meetings at the condo involve arguments about belonging to the Neighborhood Association or how much a new boiler should cost, and I have long since avoided these and other such meetings. My daughter, who inherited her father’s social genes, has fretted about me being on my own and not having clusters of friends. Her emails urge me to join a club, look up old work colleagues or, worst of all, volunteer for some worthy cause.
I am a widow. Many of my friends have joined the heavenly choir. I am not inclined to sign up for any clubs or activities that require smiles and sympathetic murmurs about someone else’s chronic medical conditions or family dysfunction.
My daughter lives across the country and finds my solitary life a sad state of affairs, so I have resorted to white lies or exaggerations about my social whirl to keep her from nagging. (When did it happen that instead of nagging your kids to do things, they start nagging you?)
When I meet someone on the elevator—I am on the 8th floor so I have a brief time for a chat—and they tell me they just got back from a cruise, I bank the information and share it with my daughter. Even a meeting in the mailroom can result in a note about a neighbor’s son’s visit or a local restaurant that is worth sharing. I sometimes enjoy supper out but tell my daughter it was with friends, not that it was me reading my magazine or daydreaming over a glass of wine.
Of course most of these passing-ships-people I never get a name from or, if I do, I forget it before the next meeting, so I often will refer to “a friend” or just make up a name.
Like eating peanuts, once I started sending these chatty e-lies to my daughter, I couldn’t stop. I soon had hooked a tale to almost everyone in the building.
“What was her name again?” my daughter would say.
“You know me with names,” I’d chuckle, determined to start keeping notes.
“But if you’ve been to someone’s place for dinner or if they took you to the theatre, the least you could do is remember their name.” Point taken.
At Christmas my daughter sent me a big box of expensive chocolates to offer when friends dropped by, which sadly I had to eat myself, and for my birthday she shipped me six high-end wines, which I had to drink all by myself. (Okay, so not too much pain in either case.)
But now my daughter had flown across the country for a surprise visit. And my mind was spinning as to what to say to keep the myth alive. When we got on the elevator to pop out for supper, there to my horror was Pink Hat.
“Wonderful to meet you,” my daughter enthused. “My mother has told me so much about you, such a flare for hats. If I remember correctly you were a milliner.” Having glanced behind hoping to find someone else on the elevator, Pink Hat moved away, clutching her bulging purse in front of her ample breasts.
Luckily for all concerned, we had reached her floor, the door opened and she popped out, glancing back with a look that said ‘Next time I’ll take the stairs.’
“She’s shy,” Sally said, “Maybe that’s why she hides behind the hats you always describe so well. Obviously not a person who needs a lot of thanks.”
Determined to get us as far away from the apartment as possible I insist on not going to the corner coffee shop on the pretense that we should try something new.
“But I so wanted to go to your local coffee shop, where they always remember what you like and even gave you a slice of cake for your birthday.”
“They no longer sell cakes,” I noted. “Let’s try somewhere new.”
I was now reminded of those movies—and there were many—when a parent came to see their offspring who had said they were dating but weren’t and so suddenly had to find a spouse. But, of course, being romantic comedies, they always ended with the young couple sailing down the aisle with family cheering in the background.
But I hadn’t seen a movie quite like my situation, so as we walked along the street I was scrambling to imagine a happy ending which did not include me confessing to my exaggerations (or more bluntly put ‘lies’) or my daughter going into a blue funk because she now “Couldn’t believe a word I said.”
At what I hoped was a safe block away I saw a chap from my building heading in the opposite direction, I made a cursory wave and said to my daughter, “There goes old Dave.”
“The one with the sports car?” she asked.
“Just the one. He must be heading off to his class.”
A close call, I sighed but then to my horror, ‘Dave’ swung around and headed back in our direction. “Oh no,” I said, tugging at Sally’s sleeve. “Let’s get out of here. Once he starts in, it is chat, chat, chat.”
“No, I came all this way, I want to meet him, “ my daughter insisted.
‘Dave,’ a rose by any name would smell as sweet and who knew his God given name? came hurrying up.
“Sorry I didn’t see you, was I supposed to be at the meeting today?” he said, “I thought it was the day the boiler is to be turned off.”
My daughter leaned forward, “Dave,” she cried, grabbing his hand and giving it a hearty shake. “So glad to meet you. Heard so much about you.”
He looked somewhat taken aback. “Did someone put my rant about not paying my traffic fine on Facebook?”
“Of course not,” she said. “I’ve only heard good things.”
“And I’ve heard great things about you,” he said, wondering who she was and if he should know her name.
“We’ve got to race,” I said. “Medical.”
“Tell me about it,” he said, shaking Sally’s outstretched hand. “Friends call me Thomas, but Dave will do.”
“He is even forgetting his own name, “ I whisper to Sally as we head off.
“What fun,” she said, trying to free herself from my firm grasp. “What next? What a week we’ll have!”
Yes indeed I thought. It promised to be a week to dine out on, should I ever dare dine out again.
Melodie Corrigall is an eclectic Canadian writer whose work has appeared in Halfway Down the Stairs, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Corner Bar Magazine, Blue Lake Review, S/tick, Sybil, Blank Spaces, The Local Train Magazine, and The Write Place at the Write Time (www.melodiecorrigall.com).