Monday, December 08, 2008


It’s embarrassing to have more than six people over for Shabbat dinner. Six is the Ikea fold-out table capacity; add the card table, and we fit nine. We’ve got four matching chairs and four miss-matched, and the roller desk chair. This Friday night we hosted eleven adults and three children. Yep. Four more people than we had seats for.

We didn’t mean to. People I adore accepted invitations, to my delight, and then asked if they could bring….other people I adore. Plus, I wanted to honor a friend with whom I had a bumpy start.

In fact, she’d asked to join a public pot-luck meal I was hosting last year, and I turned her away. I was already at 10 guests. I had a newborn. Though she’d been new in the community and my rejection had hurt her feelings, her kindness was undiminished. She’d proceeded to babysit the two times I needed it most, and has given me free tickets to a theater where she works.

I've never lived down the shame, and honestly, I wasn’t going to turn away any guests this time.

So we brought out the wood stool I made with my own hands in high school, and a jumbo-sized pampers box, cleverly disguised by a table cloth (until my daughter wanted to play with her “blan-keet” and revealed the ugly truth). Etc. etc.

By some miracle, everything worked out, except the main dish could have been cooked 10 minutes longer.

But what made the whole thing especially miraculous for me what that I had a sprained foot, and couldn’t do most of the prep on Friday. What would I have done without my love, who swept and mopped and cooked and took my daughter to services so I could prop up my foot and let the swelling go down and the advil kick in?

Let’s be honest, I would have managed it. But I would have been a lot less gracious (and a lot less clean). We would definitely have had a buffet. And I might have turned people away again. And I wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

Look, it’s embarrassing to have graduate school furniture three and a half years into a real job. Yes, I had a baby alone, finished, published, or had accepted for publication three books of translation and two books of poetry, and am almost done with a book of scholarship while teaching 9 new classes outside my area of specialization. You can’t do everything. Right? But having a home to which you can welcome those new in town, those visiting, and those dear friends you love, should have been near #1 on my priority list.

Lucky for me, I have a partner who is open to my need to feed people and fill the place with more love than it should (probably legally) contain. This, in my opinion, is the reason to be in a relationship—to have a partner that will help you be a nicer person.

So when we move, we are definitely getting a big table and lots of chairs. And not the folding kind, either. Grown-up chairs.

Now I just have to think about the foot injury. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but somehow I’ll have to find a way to stop running to catch the bus in heels. Look, when you’re 5 feet tall and have baby-feeding boobs, you’ve got to wear heels if you don’t want your students looking at your chest instead of pondering the extremely clever things you’ve just said. [When do breasts go back to their pre-baby size?]

And if you’ve got a baby, you’re probably going to be running to catch the bus. That’s just life. Oh well, I figured out how to seat 14 people on 10 chairs, now I’ll figure out the shoes-bus thing.


Ima Shalom said...

Buy our table--it doubles in size! And folding chairs fit nicely underneath the bed. But let me just say, as one of the many at your house last Shabbos...we had a great time and did not feel the least bit cramped.

Anonymous said...

I will second that! It's impossible to be uncomfortable in a house full of love. It was a lovely, lovely dinner and I was very touched to be invited. S

Bruce said...

My parents have a 4x8 piece of 3/4" plywood that they keep in the garage. (It may have been trimmed a bit.) They just put it over the smaller table, cover it with a tablecloth, and presto! A bigger table.

I took three pieces of 3/4" plywood, cut them to about 6x6 or 5x5, and made them connectible. So we can have a table anywhere from 10' to 18' long. We put them on folding tables, cover them with a table cloth, and we have a long table. (We used that for Passover.)

Of course, chairs are a different story.

Maya said...

The guests make the meal. Bruce, what a great idea!