Friday, December 24, 2010

Room at the Inn

For Christmas this year, my brother, sister-in-law, and niece made reservations well in advance so that we could share a holiday dinner at the Worthington Inn. That is our present, and I'm glad we opened it early! Maybe this historic inn is simply a good place for foodies to gather any time of the year, but it combined all the elements I'd stage for a film of a perfect family Christmas dinner.

The setting was ideal as we approached the Inn: snow on the ground (but not the pavement or roads), twinkling lights in windows, crispy air--and a dash into the warmth of the Inn. Then up the marble staircase, through a maze of serving rooms, to a corner table in the front dining hall, right next to a candle-bedecked fireplace. On cue, the server brought us wine and starters, leading to the best of Midwestern winter fare.

My non-meat-loving tastebuds (and I know fish is meat, which is why I'm now pescetarian instead of vegetarian) thrilled to butternut squash soup dressed as elegantly as we were. Salmon with farro, winter veggies, warm bread--and the warmth of Glenmorangie to send me back out to the snow.

I seldom take the time to "dine" anymore. I microwave or drive through. I seldom take the time for dinner that lasts all evening, allowing me to savor good conversation as much as fine wine. I far too often gather with friends and colleagues instead of making the trek to visit family (and despite our frequent email and mobile chats, that's just not the same). Last night was a Christmas feast in every sense.

I couldn't have cast our roles more perfectly. Smiling across the candles, we shared memories of holidays past as well as the trivia of everyday normalcy. We had time to really listen to each other and to catch up on everything that gets lost across the miles. Last night I made a mental movie that I'll replay for years to come.

I've learned to enjoy the moment, not morbidly, but diligently, to hold onto the special scenes that I realize won't ever come again--at least not exactly in the same way. Three years ago, after a lovely family Christmas, my mother died unexpectedly on our trip home. I never got to say goodbye.

This year I say as many cheery hellos as possible. Every moment together is a gift. Last night was special, and I'll forever be grateful there was room at the Inn.

Here's wishing you warmth and the wealth of family, friends, good food and drink, and a special place to remember this season.

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