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Service with A Wink and A Smile: Nina as the Hostess

My mother visited us on Friday, and I made dinner for her and the girls before leaving to meet Santa Maria for an evening out.

Nina and Pinta were very excited to see their grandmother. Nina made a little centerpiece for the table using aluminum foil, parchment paper, a marker, and various ribbons and bows. She got crackers from the cupboard and a hunk of Parmesan from the fridge. She drew up signs announcing when the party would start, and made tickets for entry. She blocked off access to the dining room with a row of folding chairs.

Our new apartment has a pass through from the kitchen to the dining room, and while I made dinner for the evening (roast chicken, baked potato, broccoli), I could see and talk to Pinta and her sister. She was throwing a party, she explained, just for grandma, Pinta, and herself. I was not invited, and neither was her mother, even though she wasn't even there.

I was not permitted to join them, not even for a snack. I feigned dismay, and Nina came around into the kitchen, took my hands, looked me in the eye, and very seriously and kindly explained to me that though this party was not for me, there would be other parties that I could come to.

Early Sunday morning, Nina told me that there was going to be a special dinner that day. As the chief cook around the house, I was very interested to learn this. "What," I asked, "was going to be on the menu?" She said "pasta, Bolognese, cauliflower, and bread." Whew, I thought; all things I had, more or less, on hand.

That evening, the girls pulled chairs up to the kitchen counter so they could stand beside me to help defrost the sauce, salt the water for the pasta, and to wash and chop the cauliflower. I was very relaxed. This meal is one of the easiest in my repertoire.

Then Nina explained to me how to present the meal. She insisted that we line up the pasta, sauce, bread, and cauliflower on the kitchen counter, and serve ourselves. Despite a little squabble about the bread (I didn’t want to use up what I might need for sandwiches later in the week; I relented), we loaded our plates and headed for the dining room.

When we sat down, I saw that Nina had made yet another centerpiece—this one involving little dishes of pine nuts and bran cereal—as well as come up with inventive new way of arranging the flatware (she put it all in Mason jar). Nina looked at me and Santa Maria, and said with a smile "this party is for you and mom."

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