“Out.” I text Tav.
“Why so late?”
“Church brunch.” And my new best friend wanted to know all the details about my “boyfriend,” which she proceeded to whisper to every one of her friends. Then, they would glance in my direction with knowing smiles. I love old church ladies.
“Are you inviting me for dinner?”
“Thanks. What time should I be at your place?”
How dare…oh, he’s so adorable and cute. Hate myself.
“See you then.”
And he’s gone.
Gwen was going to have to make dinner. Good thing she liked to cook, and she liked Tav.
And he’s on time!
“Your sister didn’t want to invite me for dinner,” are Tav’s first words to Gwen.
“Hi Tav. Good to see you—Mitch will be home soon.” Gwen gives him a big hug. “Don’t mind Natty. She can be very mean.”
“Hi,” I greet him, only to be swooped up into a big, very big, bear hug.
“Missed you at church today,” Tav’s releasing me from his arms. I’m thinking, I liked being where I was.
“How was it?”
Tav sits down on the couch, totally at home in Mitch and Gwen’s place. Gwen and I pick our favorite spots.
“Well, Sunday’s missionary speaker must have been on the field too long,” Tav continues.
“What do you mean?” Gwen’s always interested in anything to do with missions.
“I think Natalie will find a lot of notes and prayer cards on her desk tomorrow. His references to women and the various race groups represented in the world were definitely not politically correct.”
“Mark was sinking lower in his chair with every example the missionary gave.” By now, we’re laughing picturing poor Mark.
“We’ve had a few of those experiences too. Natty, do you remember…?”
“I could never forget!”
“And what’s-his-name and the whatchamacallit!”
“And the thing from that place!”
And we’re both laughing, remembering the missionary.
“How do you both know what the other is talking about?”
“It’s a sister thing.” Poor Tav, we’ve left him bemused.
“So this is what happened. The wife was giving the children’s sermon. She wanted the children to remember two things—one, to pray for everyone, and two, the importance of being a missionary. She started to name the people to pray for. The pastor, he was the thumb…not sure why…the elders were the index finger, the children were the pinky, the ring finger was for…I forget. Anyway, with each person named, she would fold that particular finger into her palm. And then all was left was the middle finger for the missionary…”
Gwen didn’t have to explain any further. Tav was roaring in laughter. “I bet the children had a great message for their parents that day. I can imagine your dad getting lots of questions.”
“You should have seen our youth. They were sitting in the first several rows of pews and were in hysterics. You know how youth are, mimicking everything.”
“Sounds like you had fun in your church.”
“Best preaching and parents ever!”
“Would love to meet your parents,” Tav said. “They’ve raised two wonderful girls.”
“Wait until you taste the dinner before you say anything else,” Gwen warned, as she heard the kitchen timer go off.
“Need any help?” Tav’s followed her. “I know my way around a kitchen.”
“Sure. You can help with the salad.”
“I’m sure he knows his way around many things,” I remark to Gwen.
“Don’t pay her any attention. Just pull her into the kitchen with you. We’ll get her to work too.”
Gwen was busy in the kitchen and Tav started with the salad, while I set the table.
“Great looking salad,” Gwen’s complimenting him. They both seem to be enjoying each other’s company.
“Our mom insisted all of us in our family learn to cook.”
“What about Natty?” It was weird, heartwarming type of weird, to hear him call me by my family name.
I tune out. I don’t want to hear what Gwen might say about me.
“My favorite sister-in-law.”
“And, luckily for you, your only sister-in-law. Your bride is in the kitchen.”
“That’s how I like my women,” he teases, walking into the kitchen.
“If I was barefoot and pregnant…and not married, my parents would…”
“You don’t have to say another word. I’ll yet make an honest woman of you.”
I loved hearing them both banter. They made marriage sound fun. I can think of a dozen others that made me run in the other direction.
“Tav, glad you could come over for dinner. Have been wanting to connect for a while.”
Tav held out his hand to Mitch. I hide a smile watching both men size up each other. Instant respect registers—as I figured they would. They both were smart and had similar backgrounds. Mitch was a missionary in Europe. Gwen and he had met when he had applied to be the interim missions pastor at our church about a year ago. Theirs was an immediate attraction, but my parents cautioned them to wait until Mitch was more settled.
“Let’s pray,” Gwen suggests, as we sit down together around the table. “Natalie and I are going to leave it to the professionals.”
This was always a joke when we had pastors over at our home. Church members would invite us to their homes for a meal, and would then ask our dad to pray. He was ordained! I was thankful that both didn’t have those long, long prayers before the meal. It was good to hear them pray. I realized how important it was to have someone who shared your faith—something that I missed when I was with Frankie.
“Bon Appetit!” Gwen lifts her glass up in a toast. “To God for all his blessings and the friends he sends us.”
Dinner is fun. Watching the candles flickering and listening to the men talk. As is often common in the world of church, Tav and Mitch are discovering that they have mutual friends in Europe. I’m listening to the many “do you knows.”
Both men are big eaters—Gwen and I won’t have to put away leftovers. I happily noted the fact since I always detest looking for containers to put away food. We’re a pastor’s family, we’re drilled with the “nothing should be wasted” mantra. It always bothers us to throw away food.
“You girls should relax, we’re going to take care of everything.”
Tav insists we sit down, put our feet up, and watch our football game. The men are going to wash the dishes and clean up in the kitchen.
“But you don’t know where everything is,” I protest. “We can clean up after you both leave.”
“Mitch knows where everything is, besides I’m not that dumb…don’t answer that,” Tav warns, realizing both sisters have a ready response to that.
Gwen and I went back to our cozy spots in the living room, but our minds aren’t on game, we’re more focused on the bits of conversation we hear coming from the kitchen.
“What did Mitch say?” Gwen wants to now.
“You forget I blew my eardrums out listening to my rock music.”
That was the truth, well, not completely—but my hearing hadn’t been too good after the last Green Day concert.
“That was a great concert.” Gwen reads my mind again. “Do you remember how Frankie got mistaken for one of them?”
“How could I not?”
We both burst out laughing at the memory of poor Frankie being mobbed by a group of adoring teenage girls. And then, some mother accused him of trying to trick her daughters and called security who hauled him away. He missed the first half of the concert.
“I did tell him not to wear the guyliner!”
“Poor guy. You never let him forget it either.”
We’re laughing again remembering poor Frankie’s face.
“What’s so funny?” Tav and Mitch are back, demanding to know the cause of our laughter.
And for some unknown reason that made us laugh even more.
They watch us indulgently.
Joy is infectious, and love gifted from God is even more so. It spreads from one person to the next in an indescribable, mystical way. As we looked at each other, we all recognized what an amazing thing God had done for us.
We were friends, united together in love by the grace and mercy and the loving kindness of our Savior. Nothing gets much better than that.
Or does it? For Mitch and Gwen, it would continue to grow.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Tav and me.
Heartache or joy?
Que sera sera!