Hospitality comes in all forms, sometimes simple and warm, other
times it is elaborate and luxurious. There are times in our lives,
each one has its ‘benefits’ and comforts, too.
My ex-sister in law, Linda, was such a special woman. She was so
kind and thoughtful. We had her up a few times for holidays, but
as she had invited us numerous times, we felt compelled to go her
direction- to Roanoke, Virginia. We were excited since we had at
the time six children, three of his and three of mine. Yet, we were
given a ‘vacation reprieve,’ while my parents were taking my two
girls and a boy, his other sister and her husband, were taking his
two boys and a girl. They were both heading in different directions
with the children, one to the far western part of Ohio for my parents
to where their ‘home camp site’ part of the Good Sam camping club,
and the other three were heading to a farm out by Johnstown, Ohio.
They were going to help pitch in with pigs and also, dunk in a spring
fed pond to wash the smell and dirt off, enjoying ‘country living.’
Linda had sent me a questionnaire; really! Smiling right now at her
sweet questions, asking me to rate some of her favorite and practiced
dishes, letting her know which ones I would like her to prepare for
our meals. This way, she had thoughtfully and carefully planned all
the meals and had competed her shopping, too. Mike told me he loved
ALL of her home cooking, so not to worry about checking back with
him. She also asked in this fun and interesting quiz, what activities I
liked, what treats I enjoyed snacking on and other hospitable questions.
Upon our arrival, we found a lovely fruit basket in her guest room. It
had (at the time, I felt this way) ‘exotic’ fruits like starfruit and kiwi,
along with apples, pears and tangerines. I had told her I didn’t like
bananas, unless they are greenish, never any brown spots on them.
So, Mike who loved his bananas ripened, no such luck for him!
We had brought her a stone carved into an angel for her garden.
Linda was so thrilled and we felt we could not have brought her
a better gift. This is how a generous and caring hostess greets her
guests and makes them feel so welcome.
On our pillows, I had three Lindt dark chocolate balls. No, at this
time I had never tried them, but when asked which candy I liked in
my Easter basket (yes, this was a true question!) Linda found out I
liked the white chocolate bunnies, the dark chocolate covered coconut
eggs, and the milk chocolate maple eggs. I would switch with my two
brothers until I had the combination I enjoyed most. (The second
night she put a Heath bar on my pillow and on and on, until we left
after a four day visit. Back to the plain old house, with the bustling
children there. Shoot!)
When we went into her newly furnished bathroom, she had placed
the exact color of towels she had seen in our own bathroom. I had
‘assigned’ Mike an olive green and I had lilac or lavender colored
towels at our house together. I had always felt if I ever had more
than one bathroom, I would decorate with a basket of violets and
those colors. Linda had bought a large bath towel, hand towel and
two wash cloths, in the colors from home.
As you can guess, we had delicious meals, went to many scenic
places, along with a beautiful mansion to eat our dinner at. It was
set off the road, quite a step back in history to the elegant antebellum
period of time. This is the period between the 1812 war and the Civil
war. I like to think of “Gone with the Wind,” when I reminisce about
this lovely place. The meal was delectable, with our being able to
choose one, two or three meats for our meal. My ex, Mike, being tall
and lanky, able to eat as much as he wanted order the three meats’
meal. Linda ordered pork and I ordered chicken. The other meat
was beef. We had dressed up, full of expectation, which we were not
disappointed in this at all.
When I was growing up, my Grandmother Mattson, liked to make
desserts. Her German heritage helped to prepare yummy breakfasts.
We would usually have a simple meat, vegetable and sometimes a
bread or potato. My Grandfather had changed her into a Swedish
chef, for meals and a gourmet streusel, rum balls, Black Forest cherry
cake or German chocolate cake would be our reward for eating a
well prepared meal, but healthy for our lives. We still don’t prepare
our daily meals with many complicated recipes or sauces.
When we would arrive, my Grandmother would be given a gift,
my Mom called it her “hostess gift.” She emphasized respect, love
and never arriving at someone’s house, ’empty handed.’ Often, the
gift was flowers. Sometimes, it was a bouquet, often it was a potted
plant of lilies, tulips, or daffodils in the Spring, burgundy or golden
mums, if it were Autumn. Late summer, my Mom liked to pick out
sunflowers, along with asters. Sometimes, these could be found at
roadside tables, along the country back roads from Cleveland to the
town of Middletown, Ohio.
Mom often would give my Grandma a pretty tea towel, candy and
if she had baked cookies, those were stored in a tin for them to open
after we left. Once, my brothers got into that tin and boy! Did they
ever get in trouble!
When my parents retired the hospitality became less structured, it
was now Lake Erie casual dining experiences, find your beach towels
on the fence or in the linen closet. When they moved from the suburbs,
the antiques got shipped to an auction house, barely any were saved.
I was asked, but I had decided on Early American or Colonial period
having been raised in a Victorian style home, I was anxious to choose
a different way of decorating. Sometimes, I do wish I had saved some
of the special pieces, but then when I moved to my little apartment,
it would have been bittersweet parting at such a late date from them.
When we were on our way to my parents, we would use our landline
phone to call theirs. “Leaving now, see you in about 3 hours.” We were
not ones to carry on much conversation. Even now, when I call my Mom,
she immediately asks, “Is everything all right, Robin?” or “Are you okay,
dear?” (This works for all of us, since she and Dad named us all with “R”
in the beginning, it is quite a silly thing to hear her go through the names,
including my Dad’s, too.)
Upon leaving the last highway and getting onto Baumhart Road, our
labrador retriever mutt, Toby, would howl. He knew the lake was out
there, wanted the window open to snort and sniff. He would walk on
top of people to get to the window, but usually even in the dead of
winter, we would ‘humor’ the good ol’ boy.
If it were Summer, my Dad would hear us honk about three times, as
we passed the Showse Park beach area. He would get up off his lounge
chair, go to the back of the house, grab these spongy things called,
“noodles” and usually for fun, had a Life Preserver over his shoulder.
This man was so ecstatic to have company, more than you would ever
know if you had been his friend at work or in the church we went to.
Dad would have either croquet set up or the net for badminton or
volleyball. If anyone mentioned a different preference, Dad was on
top of this, so excited to be able to play with the kids. You may have
read awhile back, my Dad gave up his childhood play time pursuits
at age 11, to start working to help pay rent and take care of his own
mother. His father had been in the war, was in Cincinnati Veteran’s
Hospital. Being retired was like Heaven at the end of years of being
‘on top of things.’
The formal ‘bar’ my Dad had had, with all kinds of liquor, the “Old
Mr. Boston’s” book of bartender’s recipes and the side dishes of olives,
onions, cherries and orange slices were gone. The Beach retirement
life style meant you could grab a beer, pop, water or wine cooler from
the three full bags of iced up beverages in the huge coolers kept under
the picnic tables on the carport.
Food was sandwiches, available 24/7, with various delicatessen meats,
cheeses and condiments in the drawer of the refrigerator. If anyone
showed up who wished to get a frozen lemonade and make it in a
pitcher or stayed a few days and wished to make some Sun Tea,
all the ‘fixings’ were here. There were steaks, chops, salmon and
hamburgers in the freezer. If my brothers wanted to take the time
to fire up the gas grill and prepare them, all of us were overjoyed.
Otherwise, Mom and I would make potato and macaroni salad in
the early cool hours of the morning and were quite content with
nibbling on snacks, cookies and an occasional piece of meat or
Relaxed dress code, shirt optional.
Wow, this was the simple and warm hospitality I had mentioned
in that first paragraph.
Please share some of your favorite places you have gone, where
hospitality was special to you. Oh, since I didn’t cover the whole
gamut of Southern Hospitality, please pitch in with some details!