Living Humbly and Happily

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist shares views on status and culture

Anyone who knows me will vouch that I am not a high maintenance type of gal. I don’t get my hair styled on a regular basis, nor do I suntan, or get manicures or pedicures. In fact, two weeks ago I got my eyebrows waxed for the second time in my life, and I only did that because, let’s just say that things were getting way beyond my control and the mirror was yelling at me each morning.

As far as shoes go, I own three pairs – my runners, a pair of old beat up Crocs and some kick-butt leather boots. Personally, I just don’t see the need for a gazillion pairs of shoes, especially when there are people in this world, in Canada even, who struggle putting shoes on their children’s feet.

We live humbly, my husband and I, and I like that just fine. Gone are the days when I would hungrily stare through storefront windows at china, crystal and other “must have” goodies.

Nowadays, for me, life is about simplicity and living each day to its fullest.

While I was taught perfectly good manners from the very day I could sit at the kitchen table, my folks ensured that I would never know the embarrassment of not knowing which eating utensil to use. My mother was especially keen about that for a good reason.

The child of immigrant parents, my mother related to us children on numerous occasions about a particular incident that happened to her as a young woman. It seems mom and a friend had, for one reason or another, decided to splurge on a fine meal in a fine restaurant. She had just left home several months earlier to join the service and with a bit of money in her pocket wanted to experience for the first time in her life, the pleasure of dining out at a fancy establishment.

Mom took extra care that evening before embarking on her adventure. Time and care was spent on her makeup and which clothes to wear to such an event. She was ready to join the world of luxury, or so she thought.

Here comes her embarrassing moment; mom had ordered something which required the use of her fingers to eat and so she was surprised when the waiter brought her a bowl of soup ‑ lemon soup. Not wanting to make a fuss, mom chose to ignore the mistake and just quietly drink her soup. Well, it turns out that the “soup” wasn’t soup at all. It was a finger bowl of warm lemon water for washing off her fingers after eating the messy food she had ordered.

I remembered this story about 20 years ago when I had the occasion to eat at a particularly fine restaurant in Vancouver. I was there on business and traveling alone when I, too, decided to splurge and see what true fine dining was all about. I got educated that meal, real educated. The restaurant was beautiful and full of crystal chandeliers and other such finery. After being seated by the maître d’ and ordering my meal, I realized that there was a man standing quietly behind my right shoulder. Feeling extremely uncomfortable and awkward I pretended that the man wasn’t there.

But he was there, and I really couldn’t ignore him, especially when, after I finished eating the bread that was served to me he handily whipped out a little whisk from his back pocket and began to sweep the fine tablecloth to rid it of the crumbs I had dropped. Never, in my whole life, had I imagined such a thing. For the whole dinner, I had a waiter at my personal beck and call. It was awkward, truly and definitively awkward.

I smile now at my ignorance, but there was a lesson to be learned there that day. I learned that I was who I was. I didn’t need finery and “things” in life. I’m a paper plate kind of woman. Yup, that and plastic utensils suit me just fine. Nor do I need the best money can buy. Being me, just plainly being me, is good enough for me and knowing that has helped me live my life in a way in which I hope would make my parents proud.

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