This past weekend, while driving through neighboring towns, headed toward one of the most bountiful farmstands to buy fresh vegetables and have lunch al fresco, I asked my FHB “If you could invite anyone to dinner, dead or alive, who would it be?”. Without a moments hesitation he said “Thomas Jefferson”. I wanted details. I asked for the why, and wondered whether it was because of his political views, history, or personal story. The answer was actually quite simple. Since we visited Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Virginia, many years ago, he was fascinated by the inventiveness and beauty of the building and he would want to ask him questions about the construction and design. My FHB is an incredibly creative man, who paints from realism and builds furniture from a practical vantage point. Function and form is his credo. Delving into Jefferson’s designs for his plantation home, there was a parallel in terms of his practical nature when it came to having furniture and arranging space. I asked the question of where dinner would take place and apparently it would be in our loft. I then asked who else would be at the table, and he stated that Norm Abrams, Master Carpenter from “This Old House”, would also be invited. I already figured out that I would be preparing the meal, and I was curious as to what we would be serving Mr. Jefferson (not sure if we would call him Mr. President) and Mr. Abrams. Since we live in a seaport and fishing city, fish would be on the menu. At this point, we had arrived at the farm and we sat and ate our lunch and worked on the details of the dinner. I was dithering about the table setting and placement of our guests. I didn’t want to be too formal, as in bring out the real good china, but on the other hand how often do you get to sit and eat with two people with whom you can get right to the heart of the details of shared knowledge, and talk about what your passions are. I decided that the Wedgewood would not be over the top, and we would ,of course, use cloth napkins. I was not planning to sit, but listen in from the kitchen area. There would be no tablecloth, because the wood is so beautiful, I thought that both men might comment on it.
The beauty of the conversation was enhanced by the realization on my part, and I am sure on my FHB’s part, that creating a dinner, attended by the people he would want to break bread with (something crusty, of course, with sweet butter), is always within our imagination. I like to think of it as stretching our brains and satisfying that itch that often comes from wanting to reach beyond the mundane. The excitement of considering the possibility of experiencing the magic of history pared with our contemporary creative idols made it so real, in the moment. It was satisfying to be engaged in creating a moment in our imaginations that we could both build together.
Reality is often constrained by the obligations we have to consider. As adults, we spend a lot of time, running errands and doing tasks. We feel committed to following our routine, which, although comforting in some moments, can feel like a path worn down by doing it over and over again, day in and day out.
I like to ask the questions that generate the possibility that nothing is impossible. In past days of counseling small children, they would often build wonderful structures out of blocks and give me details of what the building was, and who lived there, and how one entered and so on. At the end of the hour, they would fret that they had to dismantle it, and resisted the idea that someone else might want to build another castle, and need those same blocks. It was a frequent discussion. The solution that I offered was that we would stand and “take a picture in our minds”. I would put my hands up at eye level, and wait for the little one to copy my stance. I would hold my hands as though I had a camera (not an iPhone) and we would count to three and click the shutter. In that moment, a smile would come across their face and they would say “I have good picture, it’s in my mind”. Life would go on till the next time.
There are no limits on how we can conquer our world with our imaginations. Those moments do pass, but we can hold them as pictures in our minds. I would hope that Thomas Jefferson would be happy to talk about his house and not his political views and enjoy a good meal and meet both Norm and my FHB. It would be a great evening. Imagine that…and have a great week.