More Than a Meal by Pamela Rothbard
December 24, 2014 § 10 Comments
I don’t remember their names, the couple that hosted Dad and me that Christmas Eve. After a cafeteria Thanksgiving–lukewarm turkey under fluorescents–walking into their home, the air pine and apple rich, gave me the feeling that things were looking up.
Dad was trying to sell the man on his latest venture and had somehow wrangled an invitation from their few interactions. We showed up at their wreathed door, a scrawny 14-year-old girl in last year’s holiday clothes and her empty-handed, slick-haired father.
Their home was modest yet I silently marveled at the space between their coffee table and couch. Pure luxury. Dad and I were low, the promise of his businesses just that–promises. We were living in a friend of a friend’s garage. Our couch, beds, lamps, dining table butted against each other, my world condensed.
The two men sipped eggnog while the woman cooked. Dad began his pitch. Dragging work talk into their holiday home oozed desperation. As we started dinner, the woman winked at me and said, “Okay guys, no shop talk at the table.” I smiled my thanks. She presented a shiny clove and pineapple-studded ham. Afterward I helped clear, slowly stacking dishes, making it last.
At evening’s end, she hugged me and whispered, “Merry Christmas,” as she handed me my coat and a burgundy velvet box. I opened it to find a small ring, tiny rubies circling a chip of diamond. It wasn’t new or even my size. It was beautiful.
These years later, I still size the band with tape, preserving her carved initials. The ring is gold hope, a ruby reminder to open my heart, to invite others in. I’ve thought of that day often, imagining the woman sorting through her own jewelry for more than a meal to share with a stranger.
Pamela Rothbard is a writer, mother, baker and photographer living in Glencoe, Illinois. Her writing has appeared in River Teeth’s “Beautiful Things,” Creative Nonfiction‘s “Tiny Truths” and placed in Prime Number Magazine’s flash nonfiction contest. One of her essays appeared on the “This I Believe” segment of Bob Edwards’ national Sunday show on NPR. Her parenting and baking blog, Flour on the Floor, is currently featured in Better Homes and Gardens’ Kitchen and Bath magazine. Her photos have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review and as cover art for Steam Ticket Journal.