As we sat here waiting for my friends to come visit I went over a mental checklist to make sure everything was ready:
coffee in a thermos and espresso cups- check
a bowl of water to wash hands and cups- check
tea in a thermos and tea cups- check
whole fruit and knife- check
trays to carry everything to the living room- check
Oh, and their brother is coming to visit Drew as well, so I need two of everything…
It’s kind of overwhelming! Then they get here and I try to gracefully welcome them to my home. “Thank you for coming, How are you, How’s your health, How’s your family, May God give you life…Please, please, make yourself comfortable” Lots of kisses, lots of greetings. “Sit, sit!”…Oh man, I forgot to give them the place of honor, farthest from the door.
We all sit and my head is spinning- what’s first? Am I doing this right? Open dates, pour coffee…who am I suppose to serve first again? Is it clockwise? Is it oldest first? Am I serving with the correct hand? When they give me back the coffee cups, do I serve them again? Did they indicate they were done by shaking the cup? I didn’t pay attention! All this is running through my head while I try to carry on a conversation in Arabic, juggle kids, and look like I know what I’m doing.
Next, the fruit. I hate trying to cut fruit just holding it in my hand. Don’t they know how much easier it is to do this on a cutting board? A comment about how rough my apple slices look. Oh well. Pushing them forward I say “Please, eat! eat!” Everyone politely takes a piece of something. Keadryn and Sayla both grab a ton of fruit. Am I suppose to correct them and say it is for our guests? Or is it ok because they are young?
Still trying to look natural and be interested in conversation. But what’s next? Do I serve dessert now, or wait until the fruit is gone? Should I serve the tea with the fruit or dessert? Am I pushing things along too fast? I decide to serve the tea. Everyone takes a cup after asking what kind of tea. Thyme tea is well accepted, but I let it steep too long, points out one of the girls. As they’re finishing tea and handing back cups, I offer dessert. “No thank you”, “We’re full”, “Maybe in a minute”. Oh…I’m going too fast. Should I let everything sit here? Offer more tea? Clear everything? Will that make them feel like it is time to leave? Maybe I’ll just clear the coffee and dates…Try to start clearing and spill the water bowl. Lots of giggles.
We talk a bit more, laugh a lot,and I remember how much I love these girls and it makes me relax a little. I offer cookies again and they accept. We laugh more, talk more and listen to some music. All the food is cleared and soon after they announce it’s time to go. “Thank you so much for coming, Go with peace, May the year bring goodness, May God bless you…” As they walk away I hope it was successful. I hope I honored them. I hope they feel welcome in my home.
As I shut the door, I fall down on the couch. My mind is spent from speaking Arabic and trying to be hostess-with-the-mostess in a culture that, even after 2 1/2 years, I barely understand. As you can see, visiting here is a HUGE deal. Hosting people isn’t about showing off. It is, at the core, about honoring the person who is visiting. By offering them your food, your home, your service, you show them that they are more important than you. The first time you visit they even douse you in perfume when you leave!
I feel the pressure when they come to my home because everything in new and different, but when I visit them they perform the whole sequence with effortless grace. They have been observing and participating in this since they were Keadryn’s age. It is second nature to them. Thankfully, they offer much grace when I don’t do everything perfectly. And, even though it is a bit stressful, I do love this tradition and what it communicates at the heart level. I am so thankful to have friends that always make me feel welcome and honored.