Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hospitality (02/07/05)
TITLE: HOME IS WHERE YOU CAN BRING FRIENDS
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Not soup again! Thin soup at that! What will Maria think? My cheeks flushed as I looked down at the parsley leaves floating lazily in the colourless offering my mother had placed before us. I peered sideways at my friend to see her reaction, but Maria was grabbing a piece of bread and spooning in that soup as if it was going out of fashion. Well, actually it had. After the war. It’s just that my mother hadn’t noticed. People nowadays bought soup out of a packet in all sorts of flavours, with much more than a few scraggy bits of parsley trying to make it respectable. Of course, she didn’t get any warning that there would be extras for lunch. She probably just stretched the soup out with more water.
I know Maria’s mother serves up delicious meals. I saw one once when I accidentally called at mealtime. There were so many dishes of food in the middle of the table, I wouldn’t have known where to start. I wasn’t invited to join them though. I kind of had to apologize, back out the door and say I’d come back later at a more convenient time. I heard her mother say that she should pick better mannered friends who know a family likes to be alone at mealtimes. I heard that, right through the closed door. I felt so embarrassed.
That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about with my mum. Making my friends feel unwelcome, that is. She always has a big smile whenever I turn up with hanger’s on, even if she is baking bread, sewing a patch in someone’s trousers and feeding the baby all at the same time. And they always go and give her a kiss. Come to think of it, they seem to love to hang around our kitchen. I know it is lovely and cozy on a winter’s day, with the coal-range going, but it sure gets hot in the summer. I don’t know how Mum stands being in there so much. Of course she often cools off out in the garden when she is picking beans or digging potatoes or something. I guess that would help.
My friends aren’t the only ones who love to be in our kitchen. There’s poor old George from up the road, who isn’t quite all there. One day he came scrambling up our front porch, which doesn’t even have stairs, because our house was built kind of back to front and nobody goes round that way to enter. They all come to the back door. We kids got the giggles when we opened the front door and saw him there. He looked as if he might have climbed over the front fence too, even though the back gate is always open. But my mum, when she heard his voice, called out a welcome from the kitchen and told him to come right on through, as if it was perfectly normal to enter that way. You should have seen his face light up when he saw the hot scones mum was just taking out of the oven. She always tries to have some on hand to go with a cuppa if people drop in unexpectedly. Or scramble in, as George did!
And then there’s Ron who can be counted on to zoom up on his motor-bike at odd hours. Nobody else’s mother lets him past the door, because he never thinks about changing out of his working clothes and as he works on a pig farm, you can smell him coming even before you hear his motor-bike. But my mum says everyone deserves to know they are welcome, even if you have to disinfect the chair they sat on after they leave. I suddenly find I have something important to be doing, somewhere else, whenever he comes. I don’t know how my mother can stand being shut up in the kitchen for an hour or so with him, while he eats his scones and drinks his tea.
Now that I think of it, I don’t really need to be embarrassed about what my friends think if there is only thin soup. I can count on my mum to make them feel welcome. And they know they can count on that too. Probably that’s why it’s always my place they want to hang around at. I should really let Mum know ahead of time more though. That way we might get thick soup!
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