Several months ago I received a text from my friend, Christina, inviting me to a Mother’s Day luncheon at her home. The word “luncheon” immediately conjured images of ladies dressed in lace, pearls, and hats belonging to British royalty. After a lengthy career as a military physician, Christina now has the time to pour her excellence into domestic and culinary endeavors. I requested the day off work and was excited to partake in the fabulous food and company.
I walked into Christina’s home, greeted by a warm, earthy scent. The spring sun flooded the wide windows of her kitchen and lit up the generous slabs of Carrera marble on her countertops and backsplash. White hydrangeas dressed the dining room table. She offered us glasses of prosecco and homemade humus and pita bread. She’d made tabbouleh and was preparing to fry a fresh batch of falafel. I felt like I’d walked into a magazine. No detail was overlooked, and thankfully, the hats and pearls weren’t required.
I’m usually the one who’s hosting gatherings at my house, so to be invited into another’s home is such a treat. They say that the way we give to others is also the way we like to receive love. I can’t deny that when someone else opens her home and creates an intimate experience in an intentional way, it touches something deep in my heart. It’s my love language.
Christina made introductions and shared that she’d invited each of us for lunch so we could connect. She knew us individually and wanted us to know each other. Among us was a Navy pilot, a general surgeon, a pediatric nurse, an ex-pat from Scotland who worked in the oil industry, and a teacher who’d worked with refugee children in downtown Chicago. We were all mothers. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, curious to know each woman’s story.
Having moved around my whole life, I’m invigorated by situations with new people from different backgrounds. There’s so much we can learn from one another!
I typically bring to every party a bottle of something alcoholic, a deep hunger for connection, and a lot of questions. Thankfully, wine and questions go hand in hand!
I possess a keen desire to move past small talk and get to the heart of another person…in less than two hours.
Like Dani Shapiro writes, “I want to climb all the way inside the questions and see what’s there.”
The dynamic reminded me of a similar situation when I was a college student attending an intimate dinner with a handful of classmates and our instructor. Someone remarked that I was like Barbara Walters. “You’re so inquisitive,” she said.I felt a rush of pride and shame—the feeling of being caught—not knowing if this was a snarky insult or a compliment, or perhaps a bit of both. It’s wonderful to be a good conversationalist, but I also didn’t want people to feel interrogated.
In social settings, I catch myself wrestling with a voracious appetite for meaningful conversation. I also subconsciously assume that I’m the only one at the table who can make it happen. (That feels arrogant to admit!) What is sadder than a table of guests who don’t know what to say to each other? Or one person who dominates the conversation and another who barely speaks? Or two hours of empty chatter that leave everyone feeling lonely, bored, and disconnected?
By the time we’d indulged in rich coffee and homemade tres leches cake, I was fully aware of my conscientious self-critic who’s always perched on my shoulder. She reminded me that this wasn’t my party, that I needed to chill out and stop trying to direct the dialogue. “Show a little restraint,” she chided. I doubt the other women perceived the tug-of-war occurring inside of me. I suppose the strengths we bring to a party can also hijack the party if we aren’t self-aware.
As a writer and writing instructor, it’s my job to dig deeper, to understand why and how and when and where. I’m always trying to make connections, and for better or worse, this state of mind translates to party situations too. So, if you happen to like Barbara Walters, and if you enjoy sharing your life story and deep psychic struggles over a bottle of wine and a two-hour time span, then I’m your girl.
If I’m being really honest, I hope you will ask me some questions about myself too. The way I want to deeply know others is the way I long for others to know me.
Libby Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow, Relief Journal, Driftwood Press, and Literary Mama. A veteran of the US Air Force Nurse Corps, she now resides on the coast of Virginia with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, and keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as registered nurse and teaches poetry workshops. She is passionate about a good cup of coffee, bumming on the beach, and finding meaning in the ordinary moments of life. You can find her at www.libbykurz.com.