Umbrellas, lemonade and a basket of corkscrews

Early in the summer, my parents offered to take the kids for a couple of nights in July.  Thank you, Mom and Dad.

We toyed with different ideas of how to spend this time and ultimately wanted somewhere quiet and removed from the noise of the city. I love where we live. I think it is one of the greatest cities with charm, warmth and yet still the feel of a city – but I need quiet. I was surprised when my husband agreed and even more surprised when I pitched the idea of a Bed and Breakfast to which he said yes.

The one we chose was an hour away with our own private entrance, king size bed, a sitting area – and our own private bathroom that used a barn door for privacy.

Breakfast was incredible. To start was zucchini coffee cake and banana bread followed by a french baked pancake with cherry sauce and slivered almonds.

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Day two started with granola and fresh fruit and was followed with a spinach, sausage and roasted vegetable (peppers and tomatoes from her garden) frittata and baked sweet potatoes.

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On the day we arrived a note hung on the door telling us to ring the doorbell and if no one answers – come on in. We did and still no one came up front. We went through the entry, sitting room and dining room to find the innkeeper busy in the kitchen. We scared her and she apologized for not hearing the bell. She then asked if we wanted a tour of the house, to which I honestly wanted to decline because we had just walked through it, but politely said yes.

She took us back to the entry way and pointed out the concierge table, umbrellas if we wanted to walk in the rain, and a basket of menus of local restaurants. She directed us to the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and the lemonade she had made in anticipation of our arrival. The buffet had today’s weather written on a homemade marker board and to the left – a bucket of corkscrews and wine glasses – should we find a bottle of wine at a local winery. She told us of the movies, books, board games that we could take to our room and finally the spa out back.

Excluding the spa, books and board games, I had seen most everything she had shown me on my first unassisted tour through the house. It was her tour, her showing us all of the little extras and pointing out the corkscrews that made me want to stay – to sit down with a glass of her freshly made lemonade and read my book. Her kind way of pointing out all of the little things made us both feel welcome, really welcome.

It is something I’ve thought so much about, her way of sharing her gifts in a way that made another feel welcome. Not only that, but it was needed. I can honestly say had she not given the tour, I would have started to plan the afternoons and evenings away and look past the beautiful old, covered porch full of cozy furniture and a blanket or two – just in case the breeze picked up. I would not have spent time reading on the couch or looking through menus at local eateries.

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Her hospitality made me want to stay a bit, a day or two, refreshed and ready for reality again.  I have been in other places of business, homes, gatherings, events – or blogs even, where gifts are shared and items pointed out in a way that made others feel small and unwelcome. They were shared in a way that said, please compare yourself to me and my riches/talents/abilities, and I hope you lose.

Hospitality is a lost art. Sometimes it is tilted toward self, seen as an opportunity to show off. Those I’ve met with incredibly hospitality are rooted first in a gentle, strong self-confidence. It is not insecurity guarded by perfectionism, but secure in knowing themselves unafraid of their strengths or weaknesses and a desire to invite others in.

Many years ago, Katie Brown had a show on TLC. She did a show on all the ways she prepared for guests – the house, the menu and the table settings. It has been a while and my Google search yielded zero results, but at the end of that show she shared that when it is time for the party she answers the door with wet hair and a towel on her head (or a robe on – I don’t remember exactly). Partially not on purpose but due to planning and time crunching, but partially on purpose as she discovered the impact it had on guests coming in and really feeling welcome and making themselves at home.

Hospitality is authentic and has a way of disarming guests. It has a silent way of saying check your worries at the door and I am glad you are here.

I love being invited to a hospitable home and I hope that mine feels that way to others.