Hosting and nesting at the Pink Lady

It’s been a lively week at the Pink Lady, with two sets of houseguests, a dinner party that turned into a fundraiser, and a flurry of home-improvement initiatives.

A week ago dear friends from Congo arrived for a short visit. Nestor and Béa were in the US to attend their son Cedric’s graduation from college in Georgia and managed to squeeze in a trip to Indiana between visits to two other sons in Philadelphia and Quebec City, all by bus.

We invited five other local friends of the Mukinays to dinner while they were here. At dinner Nestor spoke about the violence and interethnic persecution in their territory of origin–Kasai Province–and relief efforts by those who, like them, have moved to Kinshasa. We prayed together and took up a quick collection to send back with him. It’s a knotty, dreadful situation triggered by political instability and exacerbated by tribal mistrust. The conflict is relatively new and came to international attention when two UN investigators were slain there in March.

The Pink Lady’s big dining room was perfect for dinner for 10, with lively conversation in two languages around a fully extended table.

There was just enough time after the Mukinays left to launder the linens before our son and daughter and their spouses and children arrived over Memorial Day weekend. It was the first visit since our move for one family, and the first time that we were all together in this house. I remembered how my mother always longed to have the whole family together: a matter of principle, pride, and ultimate maternal satisfaction. I felt it. And the Pink Lady is, as I imagined, the perfect setting for such a gathering.

Of course, so was the house in the woods, and so would any place be that held us all. But here is what I especially appreciated about our new home: The roomy, independent guest bedrooms, each with bath. The spaciousness that made the inevitable scattering of toys and gear feel homey rather than claustrophobic. That big-enough dining room. Room in the kitchen for helping hands.

And during the visit, the house acquired another wonderful living space: the side porch. Accessible only through the dining room, it was crying out for a little indoor-outdoor furnishing. Fortunately, our daughter, Joanna, has powerful decorating and gardening drives. She helped us arrange the main parts of the house days after we moved. On this visit she went to work on the side porch.

Through online searches we gathered family opinions about furniture. Joanna carted old planters out of the garage. Then she led the willing shoppers among us on a marathon through a local Pier One, Target, and the garden section of Meijer.

By the end of a full day, hanging and potted plants and flowers decorated this porch and the steps of the front porch, little bird lights were strung, and enough furniture was in place for hanging out–drinking wine, playing with squirt guns, and making seven-month-old Rowan giggle.

I love my blue wicker chair but I’ll have to take Vic on a separate trip to find his perfect porch chair. Bless his heart, he spent hours in the park with Hazel and Ethan while we went shopping. Grandpa is devastatingly popular with the grandkids. Ethan, 2, was calling him “Puppaw” on the last visit. That has morphed to “Peepaw” maybe because “Puppaw” can’t be repeated fast and loud to such great effect. “Peepaw Peepaw PEEpaw!”

We were all too busy to think about taking a family picture. Drat. Next time.

Between and during these visits, Vic began working on the landscaping, or, rather, the preliminaries to landscaping the large, neglected lot around the Pink Lady. That’s a story for another time, involving the city forester, arborists, more applications to the Historic Preservation Commission, and–yikes–poison ivy!

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