My former beau didn’t arrive for Sunday supper until other guests were saying good night, but, like acknowledgments made at school reunions for the one traveling furthest, he was flying in from New York, so was excused. I was a bit nervous over the prospect of seeing him after ten years, and therefore relieved his plane was late, our reunion would be private.
Kathleen, jewelry designer and all out positive person, arrived bubbling with news of a new suitor. One not intimidated by her slender height, success, or life experience. Michael Smuin, genius ballet master, walked over, from his home near my enchanted cottage. Arriving late as was his habit, photographer Morton Beebe and his sweetheart, Danielle, took time out from excuses to notice I had his gorgeous book, “San Francisco,” on my coffee table.
Wanting an early evening, I led the way to the terrace where a romantic table set with Tiffany blue plates, floating white gardenias, and flickering candles, awaited. It was a rare incandescent, magical full moon, alfresco evening. Just right for talking about love and gratitude, although our route was circuitous.
Dinning on succulent gingered veal, eggplant parmesan, cucumber salad, and fresh baked wheaten bread, we also enjoyed a good Beringer 93 Gamay Beaujolais. Admiring the rich hue of the wine, Danielle inhaled the aroma before taking a swallow. “Perfect.” she announced.
Having photographed the Napa Valley Wine Auction for a magazine, Mort said he was impressed by the quality of vintages offered. “They’ve made millions for Queen of The Valley hospital and the St. Helena Hospital and Health Center, while throwing a heck of a good party.”
Laughing, I thanked him. The idea for the auction had been mine, I explained. In 1980, with Bob Mondavi’s help, I organized the first Napa Valley Wine Auction. Persuading the vintners was my job, getting Michael Broadbent as auctioneer was Bob’s. A few months after I presented the idea we were ready to roll, but then, without warning, my husband moved out, leaving me so shattered I couldn’t continue, so gave the auction to the vintners. It bothers me, though, I told my listeners, not to be credited as the originator.
“And not to trust men.” Kathleen’s remark hit home.
Michael said he understood. Having worked ten years raising thirteen million dollars for San Francisco’s new ballet building. Being fired as soon as it was built left him thwarted. “I did my tin cup routine all over town,” he said. “Never have I worked so hard and yet no one knows I was responsible for the center getting built.”
“But you can both put your head on the pillow with ease.” Cheer leader Kathleen allowed. We agreed you can’t keep saying they did thus and so to me, but that doesn’t make such injustices right.
“Growing up we’d say ‘she’s getting all the credit, why does she get all the credit?’ No one cares,” Kathleen said. We care, Kathleen was informed. Credit translates into money, reputation.
Danielle’s French accent is pronounced, her voice soft. Curious, she said, how events we consider roadblocks become the very thing that allows us to grow and to achieve in ways we never could have otherwise. If Michael hadn’t been fired he wouldn’t have formed his own dance company, gain an international reputation, and win enormous respect. If Pat, hadn’t been divorced she wouldn’t have founded Children as The Peacemakers and traveled the world.
Kathleen spoke up with forthright authority about gratitude and saying Why. “Why hasn’t my book taken off, why don’t I have servants, why am I not multi-orgasmic?” She put down her fork to address the issue. “Having more than one orgasm is like eating two big meals in a row. If the first one was great, you don’t want another.”
Our Laughter caused birds roosting in the garden to squawk, and take flight.
Being filled with gratitude for the simple things is what matters, we concluded. In this material world we get caught up in the acquisition of titles, credit, meaningless things; cars, a big house, jewelry, more stuff. “
We should make a list of things we are grateful for; this beautiful night, friendship, getting an upgrade, parents, love, we concluded.
Our dessert of Grand Marnier pudding from a family recipe stirred memories of my mother’s motto; “Gratitude is a twofold love-love coming to visit us and love running out to greet a welcome guest.”
A Parents love is important but not having it doesn’t mean we can’t give it, we thought. “My mother won’t let me off the phone until I say ‘I love you.” Michael illustrated a story about his mother by tap dancing across the terrace.
Our applause was so loud I almost didn’t hear the doorbell. It was my erstwhile swain, looking much the same as ten years earlier. With a shy smile, he greeted my guests, then handed me a gift. It was a book “Nothing But You, Love Stories From The New Yorker.” My guests departed on cue, realizing, I suspect, that, with gratitude, I wanted to cuddle up and read about love, past and present.
Causes Pat Montandon Supports
PETA, Women for Women, Amnesty International, Children as the Peacemakers, Peace to The Planet