Friday, January 25, 2019

Beans Spilled

When offered the opportunity to reschedule, I said no dice.

The rain poured down when Mac and I walked this morning under umbrellas, but we didn't mind because it was also 62 degrees. I got home to a message from my intended lunch date, giving me the option (since we were both coming from an hour + away) of moving our plans to a less soggy day.

Since I am anything but a weather wimp, I scoffed at her kind offer. All systems go.

Heading up Route 301 in a driving rain resulted in moments of hydroplaning, the need to slow down to far below the speed limit and the occasional vehicle sending up a puddle spray so immense my car was doused as if at a car wash.

Not ideal driving conditions, I can assure you.

My reluctance to reschedule also had to do with the fact that it had been so long since my aunt and I had met for lunch that neither of us could remember when it had been. Definitely not 2018 and we're not even sure it was 2017, although surely it couldn't have been longer than that. We used to meet up in Fredericksburg 2 or 3 times a year and then something happened to her.

She took up tennis. That she was in her late '60s at the time seemed to matter not at all.

And for someone who came to the game late, she turned out to be really good at it. These days, she plays in so many leagues that her only reliably available day is Thursday and even those are booked way in advance.

Today's lunch had been scheduled the second week of December and there was no way I was going to the bottom of the waiting list for her next free Thursday. So I took on the rain and headed north, eventually frustrating the drivers behind me who saw fit to pass me despite the lack of visibility and puddle-slicked road.

All of that was forgotten when I got downtown and found a parking space directly in front of the Confident Rabbit - why the rabbit is confident, I have no idea - which is the new restaurant in the former Bistro Bethem space where we always meet.

And there she was, this stylish aunt of mine, sitting at a front table by the window, having watched me score the perfect parking space and eager for me to sit down and start the conversation. Her first word, in fact, was, "Spill!"

Seems her brother, my Dad, had alerted her to the news flash that there was a man in my life but he hadn't been forthcoming enough for her. "He told me he really likes him," she said, sounding exasperated. "He said you should have met him 25 years ago!"

Oh, so I had a choice in when all this was to happen?

Only a person lucky enough to find the love of his life at age 23 would be so cavalier about his daughter not "finding" someone in a more timely manner. Sheesh.

There was no sense in opening my mouth for all that until we ordered. Looking at the menu, we saw that it was restaurant week, so it was basically a matter of choosing one from column A and one from column B and our server would be on her way.

When she asked if we wanted wine, I demurred, explaining that I'd just come off a vacation that had been awash in bubbles and rum and I was taking a break. The server's eyes lit up. Seems she'd just come off vacation, too, and wanted to commiserate about how painful it is to readjust to the real world after a stellar getaway.

The struggle is real and this stranger understood.

I was in heaven. Here was somebody feeling the same pain I've been feeling since Monday trying to re-engage our brains and resume old routines while secretly pining to be back in the sunshine doing nothing. When she found out I'd been further south than she had, my aunt interjected herself into the conversation.

"Wait, wait, you just got back from the Keys?" she asked incredulously. "Okay, spill!"

Our green salads arrived as I was giving her the highlights reel of how my life took a sharp right turn once I met Mr. Wright. Sharing one of my more quotable comments from our first date, my pithy aunt remarked, "You never had any problem with confidence."

Much as I tried to keep the saga to a manageable length, she kept asking questions that required more explanation until finally, I realized she'd cleaned her plate and I'd taken three bites.

Needing to wrap this story up, I assured her we were living happily ever after and it was time to talk about something else. I wanted to hear how her tennis playing was going for a 75-year old woman playing in the 18+ league.

Regaling me with tales of championships won, deciding to get shots for leg pain and being crowned "team queen" for her mouthiness and ability to win on the court, I marveled at how she's a poster child for following your passion regardless of age.

And based on the photos she showed me of her and her teammates, she was looking pretty great - of course, I always was partial to that short skirt and leggings look anyway - doing it with her flawless skin, short, white spiky hair and hipster horn rim glasses.

For lunch, I'd chosen the curry chicken salad on housemade bread with macaroni salad, while she'd gotten the tarragon chicken salad on said bread. We'd intended to share our plates so we could enjoy both but we wound up liking our own so much that we were only willing to share a bite. Too often I find curry chicken salad to be too strongly flavored, but our post-vacation server had highly recommended it and she was right.

It was perfection, suggesting curry without drowning you in it.

Because her main squeeze was at home waiting for the Comcast repairman to come fix their spotty reception, my aunt asked me if I was still without a TV and I assured her I was. Turns out that's something she's always admired me for (who knew?), even as she admitted that she couldn't live without hers, especially in Warrenton where apparently there's not a lot else to do.

My condolences.

When my aunt and I were on the fence about ordering dessert, our server leaned in and suggested that one final shared dessert would be an appropriate conclusion to vacation mode, sort of the period at the end of the sentence signifying that once it was gone, vacation indulgence was truly over.

As if. Nevertheless, we shared a slice of black bottom chocolate mousse cake while she asked me for the latest scoop on my five sisters, but there wasn't enough chocolate in Fredericksburg to fully cover that topic.

When we finally got up to go, our server came over with a concerned look on her face. "Good luck coming down from vacation. I know we can do it if we try!"

Ah, the innocence of youth. Honey, if I was trying to come down, do you think I'd have driven an hour and 20 minutes in the driving rain to talk about my life?

Confidence isn't just for rabbits, you know.

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