He said he would come around three, after his class was over. He’d bring pastries from Andres. What a treat! A visit from Hossein was like a celebration. Although they were 50 years apart in age, Hossein and my husband were like age mates, in love with the same discipline – sociology.
By three-thirty our table was set and graced with my husband’s signature fruit salad. Four o’clock came but Hossein did not. Ernest, who had spent a year in Tehran on sabbatical, reminded me, “he comes from a culture where time is not precise.” My life ran on English/Irish time in which 3 o’clock is teatime and 3:10 is late.
At 4:30 pm the doorbell rang and we opened the door to Hossein’s warm twinkling eyes, ear-to-ear smile, and bags of goodies. The whole house filled with sounds of delight as we settled in to stimulating discussion, pots of tea, plates of pastries, and fruit salad.
There was no lull in the intensity of conversation, but the clock was striking 6 and my cultural clock announced that it was dinnertime. We had a guest and no dinner preparations. I signaled to my husband who was oblivious. Sigh! I didn’t want to say something and hurt Hossein’s feelings.
Sigh! I didn’t want to say something and hurt Hossein’s feelings.
Baking powder biscuits can be made and cooked in 15 minutes. Cans of sardines can be opened. Yes! there were olives, and cheese and apple slices and a little green salad. Aha, white wine in abundance. By 6:30 dinner was on the table – they call it tapas these days.
At 10 o’clock, bedtime by my European clock, we tucked into more pastries, wine, and peppermint tea. Finally, at 11, reluctantly, Hossein and my husband simultaneously stood up and embraced warmly.
This was the first of many wonderful gatherings around our table. Three immigrants, an Hungarian, an Iranian, and a Canadian, creating joy for each other with their unique contributions.
My mother was the Irish woman who taught me the rules of proper social behavior: among them that a good guest never stays longer than 1½ hours for lunch, 1 hour for tea, and 4 hours for dinner. Yet, several years before her death, if I ever criticized or was disparaging of someone else, she would say “Everyone has their own way of going, Dear.” She had grown beyond her own upbringing to embrace the diversity of her new country and so have I.