Born in 1900 as the eighth of 11 brothers and sisters, Temperance Lulu Lord, was ahead of her time, a product of her time, and now I realize, an influence on my time here.
After WWII, Gran decided she wanted to earn a law degree at a time when women were stenographers, not lawyers. She moved to San Francisco to take the courses, but, alas, failed tort law at the bar exam. Gran returned home to be with her daughter while she gave birth to her daughter, my cousin, Janice. Gran took on a Challenge but tempered it with family commitment.
In 1957, she spent two weeks back East with the Red Cross helping flood victims from heavy rains that killed 13 people, left thousands homeless, and caused millions in damage. I remember watching her board a DC-7 at the old Lindbergh Field Terminal in San Diego with the whole family. Gran fostered Community by helping others.
Gran loved her cars. Her choice of wheels was not a powder blue Ford Falcon automatic like grandpa drove but a mink-colored, four-on-the-floor, Fiat convertible. When her wanderlust set in, she traded that Fiat for one of the first Ford Econoline camper vans. Maybe unbeknownst to her, I used it to sneak my buddies into the drive-in by hiding them under the table and seats. Gran lived her life while aiding and abetting a juvenile delinquent.
In her early 90's, Gran chronicled her life in a series of short stories. Herding the family cows down from Idaho pastures, courtship and marraige, raising two daughters to adulthood, mourning a son way too soon, All of this, some 180 pages of original manuscript, on a manual typewriter, then making xerox copies and binding them as gifts to the family. Gran created community and legacy through creative continuity.
Gran and grandpa lived on a 2-acre hilltop peppered with granite boulders perfect for climbing, and a corral for my sister Susan’s horses, Old Joe and La Reyna. A perfect spot for cousins to play while Gran and her daughters, my mom and Aunt Connie, prepared Sunday dinner for a family sit-down.
I remember hand-cranked ice cream, shrimp on the barbie, and a long table under the Concord grape arbor. If everyone showed, there were seats for the five cousins, Aunt Connie, Uncle Ernie, two sisters, one brother, mom and dad, gran and grandpa. Sometimes, a great uncle or aunt, or two, and their families joined us. To my young self, it was a time to play, eat, talk and listen in a community setting.
Now, decades later in Gran’s honor, I am reviving the practice of a Sunday community dinner. I’m calling it Second Sunday Supper and as the name implies, it happens on the second Sunday of the month. It's premised with only one essential condition; you may know only one or two others in the group. The purpose, and my hope, is to foster Gran’s ideals of commitment, community, and challenge with people you would not normally interact with.
For a supper to be successful, everyone must commit to a dish that will feed everyone. Can’t have hungry guests going after my chickens because someone forgot the satay app. Besides, I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen making the entire meal. If Cheryl and I do that, then it is a hosted party and not a communal supper.
A limit of 8-10 people gives the event more heft than just the casual “why don’t cha come on over for dinner tonight”, but not so many that people get lost in the din of a large group.
And lastly, and most important in my humble opinion, is the challenge of not knowing more than one or two other invitees, maybe even none. It’s easy for Cheryl and I because we made the list. But, what I shoot for is a common thread that connects the unknowns. Say, couple #1 doesn’t know couple #2, but they share a common interest (besides "How about them Cowboys?") to start a conversation and expand from there.
Sunday, January 11, was the inaugural supper with 7 locals and a friend from San Diego (Cheryl’s sorority sister and my sous chef, Barb). The bring-a-dish commitment was met so no chickens were harmed in the making of this event. And only one half of one couple knew one half of another couple so the challenge factor was covered. As a result, appetizer conversations sprung up between people who just met as a magnum of Richioli Pinot was drained.
Community was achieved as Sunday Supper was served around two connected tables family style with an unintentional international menu – African salad, maitake mushroom soup, lemony mashed potatoes, chicken and chanterelles in cream and sherry, and a tarte tartin for dessert. The invite said 3-ish to 6-ish, but life stories and insights circled the table and kept us there til 8. How civilized, and how gratifying to see strangers sit and talk to one another.
Prior to sitting down, I knew I wanted to thank our guests for coming and to explain the why behind Second Sunday Supper. But, as I began my explanation for honoring Gran's vision, a very unexpected wave of emotion overcame me.
Gran passed at a very respectable age of 99, some 15 years past, but her influence on me, her legacy of community, commitment, and challenge still pulls on me. And, as I paused, I knew this was one of the most important 65 new things to do this year.