Dinner for One

It’s early Saturday morning and I’m sitting at my desk with my favorite giant mug of coffee. It’s quiet and I set about paying bills, balancing the checkbook and taking care of various papers that litter my desk. I look up out of the large windows every now and again to reset and give my brain a rest when I notice several trucks and a large dumpster parked at the little dingy house tucked away behind mine where Penny, an older lady, lives.

Men in HAZMAT suits and facemasks are coming out of the house with arms full. Some armfuls go straight to the dumpster and others go in the other direction toward one of the trucks.

I guess this means she’s gone and I catch my breath. I’ve talked to her several times, enough to know that, like me, she is alone but it’s been a while. I don’t know much about her – just that she had a dog and apparently a whole bunch of cats and she liked to knit.

I wonder. Did she, like me, have a wild side in her teenage years sneaking out to the Oak Beach Inn to dance with abandon and drink amaretto sours only to have to speed, Cinderella-like, across the bridge through the salty sea air to be innocently home in time for her curfew? Was she a Mom too? Did she pack PB & J’s and sing Itsy Bitsy Spider with a sweet little toddler in her lap?   Was someone hopelessly in love with her in her younger years? Did she cry when she was alone at night? Did she ache for someone to hold her hand at the end?

The neighbors shake their heads with furrowed brows, say things like “so sad”, make a comment or two about the weather and then go on with their days. There are groceries to buy, sports scores to compare and flower beds to be weeded.

I watch the endless stream of workers in their white suits go in and come out with boxes of memories having no value to anyone else but Penny. Some faded kitchen curtains come out next in a heap and are tossed in the dumpster and I think about Penny sitting all by herself at her kitchen table. I picture her making a cup of tea in a worn, old kettle, eyes glazed over traversing days gone by. Were her solitary evenings full of TV dinners warmed with a sense of futility and resignation?

I feel tears prick in my eyes and leave my desk. I take all the old chipped, mismatched dishes I have in my cupboard (it’s just me here, after all) and switch them out with the pretty set of Casafina with the horse bit pattern I’ve been unsuccessful in selling.

I resolve that, if one day, it is my house the men in the HAZMAT suits are cleaning out they will exclaim, “Wow! This woman knew how to treat herself well!” They will find cupboards full of fleur de sel, Hungarian paprika, herbs de Provence, etc.   Why do we only make the extra effort and use the nice things when we have company?

Take a few extra minutes to make things nice for yourself. Eating alone doesn’t have to be lackluster. How about a Steak for One with a Quickie Béarnaise Sauce? And don’t you deserve a Summer Risotto? It only takes a few minutes more to make something a lot less depressing than a frozen dinner.

It’s not my intention to grow old and die alone and, I’m trying, but I just may not have control over this. What I do have control over, however, is how I treat myself.

Eat the cake off the good plates. Open that great bottle of red, give yourself a healthy pour in your favorite glass and sit on the porch with it. Eat, drink and be merry. Live! Live happily and well because you never know when those f*ckers in the Hazmat suits are going to pull up!




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