30. A menu for my last meal ever.

Dinner Party

I’ve been waiting for this one. No embarrassing story. No personal details. This one is so easy!

First of all, since this is fantasy-land, can we just make it so that everyone in my family can eat anything they want and not get sick? Grand.

Let’s get started then.

You’re walking into my home, and since this is my last meal, I will be ninety-one (see my obituary here). My house is a beautiful, rambling old cottage nestled into the forest. You’ll be greeted by two cats at the door – Adelaide and Newton, who will keep you company until I can shuffle my way there. I’ll show you inside, take your coat, exchange pleasantries about the weather, your drive there, then we’ll go into the dining room, where a crowd of people circle a long, wooden table. The room is golden, the light moving over faces, creating dark spots in corners for private conversations. I insisted we use only candles when we eat when I was around the age of eighty-three.  Now, you’re being introduced to the other guests – my husband, my children, grandchildren, fellow writers, local artists, and musicians. Music is playing softly, something acoustic and unusual. I’m saving the more upbeat stuff for later. For the dancing.

On the table lie three platters. Seed crackers with salt. Cheeses. Grapes. A selection of cold meats. Small bagels with cream cheese, salmon, and dill. Wine flows. On the other side of the room, an old friend starts making cocktails.

We sit down. The chairs are comfortable; the table the right height. Behind us, the french doors are open, allowing a cool mountain breeze to tickle the backs of necks and ruffle the tablecloth.

The main courses are brought out: chickens, cooked with lemon and thyme; fresh pasta with mushrooms and parmesan cheese; fried chicken with soft, mashed potatoes and gravy. Pickles. Big, vibrant salads. None of it matches. I’m ninety-one. I don’t care.

We eat, passing around the food, pouring more wine. At one end of the table, two people who met for the first time this night are laughing quietly, their heads bent together. Next to me, an artist explains her latest work. Someone shares a poem.

Langley-Park-formal-garden-night1

The plates are cleared and we stand to our feet to walk the terraces. I kick off my shoes and step onto the cool earth. We pass my fruit trees, heavy with apples, and I pluck one from a branch and pass it to the person behind me. The air is mild, the sky inky black and the stars iridescent above our heads. There are night-sounds – crickets, quiet rustlings in the bush. I can smell eucalyptus from the forest, perfume from the pennyroyal my guests crush underfoot.

Back inside. Five musicians decide to play. They reach for their instruments, smiling, and set up in the corner of the large room. Two men argue over who should sing first.

The desserts arrive. Lemon meringue pie, like my mother used to make. Chocolate tart – the taste of it bitter and sharp on my tongue.

Some of the candles have burned out. It’s late – so much darker now, and the musicians switch to slower, more seductive songs. We tell stories and drink more wine and then we dance, enclosed in one another’s arms until sunrise.

The music plays on.

And on.

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