There is a special time that comes just before my dinner guests arrive. The house is at its best—dusted, vacuumed, and decluttered. Small vases of fresh flowers, or sometimes a single bloom, brighten spots here and there. Freshly pressed linen spreads across the dining table set with formal china. The soft patina of the silverware glows beside the plates, and the crystal goblets catch glints of light from the candles recently lit. The flowers that flow from the centerpiece emit a delicate scent, and delectable aromas waft from the kitchen, promising a wonderful meal will soon be served.
I call this time “my perfect moment.”
Then the doorbell rings. My guests start to arrive. I welcome them with hugs, and everyone is delighted in anticipation of the good time to come. Soon, everyone is here, and the sound of happy folks mingling with one another hums throughout the room.
I announce, “Dinner is served.”
We gather around the table to dine, and the hum becomes a song. Its notes are laughter, back-and-forth banter, tales being told, animated conversations altogether made more enjoyable in the company of good friends eating delicious food.
In spite of declarations of being too full, everyone partakes of dessert slowly, as if reluctant to bring the evening to an end. But at last, the dinner party draws to a close, and one by one, guests leave.
After the last goodbye, I return to the dining room and sit at the table, exhausted. And what do I view? Crumpled linen napkins; bread crumbs on the table; ice melting at the bottom of goblets; silverware that needs to be gathered and washed by hand.
My perfect moment is gone—long gone.
I have to talk myself into clearing the table, yet I begin. As I clear, I reflect on the evening. It did feel good to have the house look so pretty and have the table set with all my nice things. So many guests mentioned how beautiful everything was and how much they enjoyed the food. Plus, I could tell each person was having a great time laughing and talking.
Then the truth comes to me: the moment before the party began was indeed perfect, but the moments of the party itself were absolutely the best.
And then, this tired Southern lady begins planning the menu for the next dinner party.
Text by Ann Dorer
Illustrations by Judy Jamieson
Former editor and consummate Southern lady Ann Dorer shares her reflections on life in our beloved region. For more of her thoughts, see her essay on Becoming a Southern Lady and previous post on her granddaughter Maggie’s pre-k graduation. Browse exclusive place cards that feature Judy Jamieson’s beautiful artwork in our online shop.
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