Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just Another Weekend

Saturday morning came early, as weekends at the TH tend to do. I stumbled my way around the semi-dark periphery of the dining room, my intent being to open the blinds and brace myself for not only the Saturday but also for the weekend and the week ahead. We had been having such temperamental weather and I dreaded more cold with its accompanying soggy, clumping snow. Besides that, I had to prepare myself for the exigencies of our annual National Sales Conference. Everything - EVERYTHING - had to tick away with clockwork precision all weekend long if I were to make the red-eye flight, arrive at the conference an hour outside of Toronto and check in my computer before noon on Monday.

 As I came to the little bay with three windows, however, I was greeted with this lovely sight that caught something in the back of my throat and reminded me of the gift that is Alberta weather and the gift that is Doreen.

Doreen has artfully placed little objects of beauty in various unexpected locations throughout the TH, and one is this grouping of bird and bouquet. The early morning light had slipped in between two carelessly closed blinds and gently brought the arrangement to magical life. I silently patted the porcelain head of the dove and rested my hand for a moment on the silken petals of the hydrangea, sensing somehow they were a promise that the weekend was going to be infused with unpredictable beauty and unanticipated moments of light.

And it was, from the first phone call of the day - Ed, ringing to say that he would not be in this Saturday because he was basking in the glory of a snow-capped mountain glistening in the sunbeams of Banff. 

There was no shortage of people to take his place, though: we made three batches of quiches before Saturday was through. The butter chicken curry and accompanying raita came out better than ever before and was a popular choice for both lunch and dinner. Our guests were pleased to be in the TH and no one was in too much of a rush so we were able to cope with the reality of one staff member short on a bustling Saturday.

The music contributed too: my friend Mary, she of the knack of choosing the perfect gift for any occasion, had given me a pre-birthday present on Friday, Calgary's own 17-year-old Jan Lisiecki's new CD containing two Mozart piano concertos. I turned up the volume and the TH was awash in glorious melody. I fell in love with Mozart all over again ... 

That afternoon Brenda came in early to help us out, as she has been doing while we look for a new person to work the Saturday evening shift; and she and Jocelyn arranged a beautiful Afternoon Tea, booked as a birthday surprise from one dear friend for another, on antique cake stands. Cucumber with cream cheese and dill sandwiches jostled with warm orange-cranberry scones, vegetable samosas, egg salad triangles, miniature mango and chocolate mousses, pear with caramelized onion and brie quiches, fresh berry tarts, carrot cake and grapes and strawberries as brilliant as any rubies and peridots.

The friend whose birthday it was was speechless at first that she was the recipient of this largesse. She had never heard of afternoon tea before, never imagined that her friend would go to the trouble of arranging it for her. Once she had recovered, the two ladies nibbled away at the feast and chatted away with the ease and familiarity that only friends connected at the heart can attain. 

Saturday night and 9 p.m. came quickly; after everyone filed out, I managed to get both Sunday preparations and laundry started, my mouth humming with the licorice taste of sugar-coated fennel that my friend Lana gave me just before she and Richard filed out for the night.  I even got to bed before 2 a.m. ... but not before Doreen popped in for a post-closing cup of tea with Norma and me and announced that Franz, the Schubert cherry on the lawn, had broken into bud that day. Our Josh tree might not fare so well, she cautioned me. We had endured a winter that had taken its revenge on our trees. Still, she would see what she could do in the next little while.

Sunday afternoon and 3 p.m. crept up on us unawares, somehow. So many people were trying to get in early that Ed decided to sit outside with his pot of tea on this sparkling afternoon, and I thought of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. No one can forecast our often absurd weather with too much certainty; and Ed, sitting on the verandah for the first time this year, with the sun blazing down and the wind whipping the wind chimes into glorious cacophony, signalled the true beginning of Spring for me at the TH.

Curt, Jocelyn and I rushed our way through the afternoon and evening, with strategic assists from Doreen, Brenda, BA and Norma; and right at 9 p.m. we managed to shoo everybody out into the balmy evening. "Go pack!" I was urged. "You need to get out of here - we can take care of everything!"

So they did. I threw my things into my suitcase, collected computer and camera and phone and all the associated wires. With a round of hugs and a few words of thanks I headed off into the night and onto Highway 21.

The drive was another gift. The roads were clear and there was no deer, patrol cars or traffic. I arrived at the airport with time to spare. I was the last person to be accepted at Air Canada's Executive check-in before it closed for the night, and I scored an upgrade! 

Of course, all the coffee shops and juice bars in the airport were long closed; I did a little work on my computer, thankful for the free WiFi and thankful too that my broken computer had somehow managed, on its last outing, to pick up its signal.

And then, shortly after take-off, the flight attendant came by, murmuring that he would be handing out warm cookies and vanilla ice cream. The cookies were still in the oven, so here were some almonds and cashews to tide me over until he could bring the real snack.

Warm cookies and creamy ice cream at 1:15 in the morning? Why not?! It set the seal on a weekend that had been filled with moments of delight and crazy bubbling joy. 

Somehow, for the first time in any number of years, I was able to arrive in Toronto with a feeling of peace and anticipation for the week that was ahead of me.

And once again I was so grateful for the people who surround me and build me up and allow me to draw on their reserves of strength and kindness when mine are all but gone.

1 comment:

  1. What a cute little birdie to say "good morning" to. I hope the Lord gives an abundant amount of grace this week. Lots of Love! <3


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