“You’ve ruined my summer,” said Elizabeth over the weekend.
“Oh. How’d I do that?”
“You’re just such a wet-blanket…such a fuddy duddy. You never want to go out and have a good time.”
“You are such an anti-social fuddy duddy…” said Elizabeth. “We are here in a country where we’re not related to anyone…we have no natural ties with anyone. And we don’t want to live like hermits cut off from the rest of the world. We need to get out and socialize. That’s what makes like worth living – or at least, it’s part of what makes life worth living.
“And since we’ve decided to live here…where we’re not automatically or naturally part of the social scene – because we have no old friends or family here – we have to make a special effort to fit in. We have to work harder than most people just to have an agreeable social life, with friends and acquaintances whose company we can enjoy…
“But all you want to do is to write your Markets and Moneys, paint shutters and work on your various projects. You know perfectly well you actually enjoy going out…but you don’t like being interrupted. And I feel like I’m interrupting you or imposing on you whenever I want to invite people over…
“It’s just not a very pleasant way for us to live together. We’re at odds. I know you have different ideas about how to live…but this is an important issue. We’re going to be here – I guess for the rest of our lives. The children are leaving. It’s just going to be the two of us. And we’re going to be pretty lonely if we don’t have friends in the area…”
By nature, your editor is only interested in two things – work and love. If he has his work to do…and his family around him…he is content. But there is more to life, or so they say – and even he feels a certain hollowness when the family grows up and leaves.
On Saturday, we went to a “dinner in white,” on the night of the Assumption of the Virgin. We were instructed to bring a picnic basket, a folding table and all the accoutrements of an elegant dinner – including candlesticks.
Your editor was a bit grumpy about it…reluctant to leave his work and his family to spend the evening with strangers. But he set off without complaint.
We drove down small, oak-lined roads for about 15 minutes. Then, we saw a group of cars parked in a field and a group of people – all dressed in white – standing near a stone farmhouse. A young man appeared as we parked, offering to carry our table and chairs. These were placed in a row with others – out in a field behind the house. The table cloth was laid on…candlesticks set up…bottle of wine opened…
The group of people in white greeted us…we chatted with the few people we knew and enjoyed a glass of champagne. Then, after an hour or so, when a full moon was rising over a pond in the distance…and a haze appeared over the fields, we took our places at the table. Elizabeth and I sat at our table, next to a good-looking youngish couple. Then, our host spoke:
“All men stand up. Shift from where you are now down to the next row of tables.” So, as it turned out…we enjoyed a delightful, candle and moonlight lit dinner with a woman we had barely ever met. There were about 50 or so people in the group, but out in the dark of night, at our little portable tables, each group of 4 dinners was surprisingly cosy. Even more surprising, the Virgin herself must have smiled on the whole assembly. Almost every night in August we have had wind or rain – usually both. Saturday night, whilst we dined under the moon and stars, there not even a breeze…and not a cloud in the sky.
The woman opposite us was from a large family – with a big farm nearby. Her husband had developed the farm into a place for corporate retreats – with hunting…fishing…and team-building obstacles.
“Which one is your husband?” we asked, looking around.
“Oh, he died 4 years ago in a car accident.”
“Very sorry to hear it.”
“Well, life goes on. Is your wife here?”
The conversation was unexpectedly sweet, witty and intimate. We were still at our tables at midnight. Then, the children built a roaring fire. We stood around, talked…and drank…until it was time to go home.
Elizabeth was right, of course.
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