Excerpt #5. Marissa and her family and friends celebrate her new furniture.
|I had dinner with my friend Barbara from church. We went to a local Mexican place. I knew she was struggling a bit to get by in our high cost of living area. Tonight her blonde hair was pulled back in a pony tail. She had on a bit of makeup but she looked tired. She asked about my job and we both ordered a chicken enchilada. Our talk turned to Paul’s writing we had been studying on Wednesdays.
“I go home and read whatever book we are on over and over between the classes,” she told me, taking a sip from her iced tea. “I want to understand it better, and reading it over and over helps me.”
“That’s a good practice, Barbara. You might also want to pray that God gives you fresh insight every time you read the Bible. I’m glad you’re thinking about what you read. That helps me, too, as does talking about it with a friend.”
“I like that you call me Barbara,” she said, digging into her enchilada.
I looked at her in surprise, my fork poised over my dinner. “Isn’t that your name? What do you want to be called?”
“No – Barbara is my name. But hardly anyone in my life calls me that. They call me ‘Barb’ at work, which is okay.” She made a face. “My family still calls me ‘Barbie’.”
I held in a laugh. “Oh. I would never think to call you that. I’m happy to keep calling you Barbara if that’s what you want.”
“Yes, it is. Thanks Marissa. My family drives me crazy.”
“I think all families do that to some degree. What is it that is driving you crazy tonight?”
“They don’t take my faith seriously. They think it’s a fad or a phase I’m going through. They keep telling me that I’ll quit it just like I quit everything else.”
“Barbara I’m so sorry to hear that. You know you should expect things like this, right? When you gave your heart and life to God Satan wasn’t happy with that. He will send people to you to try to discourage you and distract you.”
“You’re right. I had forgotten that. Right. So, what should I say to them when they tell me I’m not a real Christian, that I’m just faking it to meet men?”
I was surprised her own family would say those things to her. “You might have to listen to what they say, Barbara, especially if it is a parent. But you can stand up for yourself. You don’t have to be silent, and you don’t have to defend yourself. When I have negative things said to me I try to remember to ask God to help me to say the right thing. Do you pray for your family?”
“Well, yeah. Sort of. I mean, it is hard for me to pray for them. Some of them are really not nice people.”
“Yes, I can understand that. I’ve known some not nice people. But God wants us to pray for them even if we think they aren’t nice. God sees their heart, and God knows how He made them and what good things they are capable of. Pray for them Barbara. It will help you feel better, and it will open doors for God to work in their life.” I finished my dinner and wiped my mouth.
Barbara looked at me with a little smile. “Okay, I’ll try. Thanks for letting me talk about this stuff Marissa. It really helps.”
“It helps me, too, Barbara. And I like talking to you.” We had a short prayer time before getting into our cars. I made plans for the party. Mary and Margaret were helping with the food, and Michael said he would bring a casserole. Everything else was covered. I got RSVPs from a lot of people. Barbara couldn’t – she had something planned with her family. James caught a bad cold the day before the party and couldn’t come either. Guido and Margery had tickets to a play or maybe it was a concert, so they couldn’t come. Lorenzo was coming, as was Melody. I had also invited Pastor Fernando and his wife Colleen. They didn’t get to do too many adult things, being Children’s pastors. I had Lorenzo’s painting ready for him – I hoped he liked it. He had asked for a bird instead of a squirrel.
Michael came down early, and went down and let my family in when the buzzer sounded. Mark and Mary came up carrying food. Then Michael was kept busy going down for various others who were showing up. Margaret and Albert came up in the elevator from the parking garage, and Lorenzo walked over. Stefano was the last to arrive. It was quite the loud, friendly group when we all gathered. Mark decided he was going to be the drink manager, and roped Albert into helping him. Margaret and Mary and I were kept busy in the kitchen, but with the open layout we could see and hear everything. Fernando and Colleen perched on my new stools for the kitchen counter. I had rented a second table and chairs so we could all sit down and eat. Fernando and Colleen were regaling everyone with the story of my first craft project with the kids.
“… And then she spilled the glitter!” Fernando roared, giving the punchline. His audience all laughed at my expense, but I was laughing too. It wasn’t funny at the time, but afterwards I could see the humor in it, and I had to admit it must have been hilarious to see it all play out. I had learned my lesson – no more glitter! The tables were groaning with food. I asked Mark to say the blessing, then we all tucked in. Lorenzo and Melody were sitting next to each other. I noticed Mark eyeing them, but they seemed just friendly and not touchy-feely to me. Stefano was also keeping his hands to himself, but he was attentive to Margaret. I couldn’t hear what they were saying since they were at the other table, but whatever it was it would make Margaret smile now and then. He didn’t neglect including Albert either. Michael and I were sitting at one end of the table.
“So Marissa,” Fernando asked from the other end of the table we were sitting at. “How long have you and Michael been dating?” Earth, please swallow me now. My sister’s head came up and she looked right at me. Mark tried to hide a grin and Mary’s fork had stopped its way to her mouth. It felt like the whole room had gone silent.
“Uh, honey,” Colleen started to say, putting her hand on Fernando’s arm.
I found my voice. “Michael is a friend of mine. We aren’t dating.”
Fernando looked confused. “Oh. I thought Mark said you were dating someone?” He turned and looked at Mark, who was busy wiping his face with his napkin, I was sure to cover his smile.
“I am dating someone, Fernando. But he couldn’t come tonight. Michael is my upstairs neighbor. And he’s a good friend of mine.” I hadn’t dared to look at Michael.
“Oh! Well silly me for getting that confused!”
“No problem. Do you plan to do anything special with the kids for Easter this year?” Oh, good segue, Marissa! Thank God the conversation steered to other things. When I was able to, I stole a quick glance at Michael. He was busy with the food on his plate and didn’t meet my eyes.
Someone – I think it was Stefano, asked Margaret if she would sing for us. She said she had a wedding the next day and couldn’t, but she could lead us all in singing some songs. Pastor Fernando, who I now knew was not a shy type, started us out with a gusto, singing “Go Tell It On The Mountain”, and we all joined in. He was delighted about the great sound we made and encouraged us all to form a group and come to the church to perform. Lorenzo and Albert and Melody got out some card game over by the arm chairs in front of the window while the rest of us talked and laughed. I was very happy to see that everyone could fit on my new furniture, and there was room to spare. I offered a tour so everyone could see all my new things. We crowded into the craft room and I showed off my new craft table. I remembered to give Lorenzo his painting and he beamed at me, then actually came over and gave me a hug. Mary had to try out my chaise lounge, and was so campy and silly toward Mark he pretended to sit next to her and kiss her, like they were in some old movie.
After all the dishes had been washed and leftovers doled out to those who wanted some, everyone but my siblings and Albert left. Stefano kissed Margaret on the cheek when he said goodbye, under the eagle eye of our brother. Michael gave out cheek kisses and handshakes, and with a wave and a flashing smile left to his own apartment. We all sat back down on the couches.
“Marissa, I’m sorry with the mix-up about the boyfriend,” Mark said. However, his apology was diminished by the fact that he was grinning.
“It wasn’t funny, Mark! I felt sorry for poor Michael!”
Margaret and Mark both laughed. Only Albert and Mary didn’t, bless them. “Well, it was kinda funny, Marissa,” Margaret said. “And you two really do look like a couple.”
“Yeah – why aren’t you, Marissa? A couple with Michael, I mean?” Mark asked.
“Urg! Change the subject!”
“I love your new craft table, Marissa,” Mary said. Thank you, Mary! “Where did Emily find it?”
“I know! I love it, too! I’m sure she told me and no doubt it’s in my paperwork, but I can’t remember the name of the place right now. Do you want me to look it up and email it to you?”
“No, I was just curious. The adjustable top will be so handy for you. I love those stools, too. Aren’t they the same ones Michael has?”
“Yeah – she got me two of them from the same place she got Michael’s from. I just love them.”
“I like that hall rug,” Margaret said.
“I know! I just love the colors. I wanted something there, but not something that would cover the entire length of the hallway. Emily found that for me. She’s amazing.”
“What’s Bridgette doing these days?” Mark asked.
“Oh, she’s very involved in guerilla knitting.” Exclamations of surprise all around. I explained about the late night knitting hijinks, and the monthly knitting circle.
Margaret laughed loudly. “Oh! I’ve heard of that group! They’re famous around here! I had no idea Bridgette was involved with them!” She kept on laughing, and I couldn’t help but join in.
“I think there might be a man she’s interested in, but she isn’t ready to tell me the details yet.”
“I sure hope she can find someone,” Mark said. We had all known Bridgette a long time and cared about her.
“I hope her heart softens towards God,” Mary added.
I turned toward Margaret. “So – do you and Stefano have any plans for Valentine’s Day?” Time to put the spotlight on her for a change. She blushed red and fiddled with her dress, looking down at her lap.
“We’re not – I don’t – I mean, he hasn’t said anything, no.”
“Are you going to get him a card? Knit him something?” I kept up the pressure.
“I – I hadn’t thought of it.” She looked up, at me then at Mark. “Do you think I should get him a card?”
I said “Yes” at the same time that Mark said, “No, I don’t.” She looked back and forth at us. Mary took pity on her and leaned forward. “Go to the card store and see if you can find one that fits how you feel that he might like. They have quite a wide variety of cards during this time of year. You are bound to find something.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll think about it.”
“I think you should, mom,” Albert chimed in. His mom smiled.
“Okay. I said I would think about it.”
That seemed to break up the evening. I was very happy to have everyone over. My dining room table didn’t fit everyone but the living room did and we could spread out and be comfortable without feeling squished. What a blessing this apartment was, and how blessed I was to be able to afford all the new furnishings I had!