The countries of Belindaland and Brendaland border on one another, but they are as different as Holland is from Germany. Holland and Germany are two perfectly wonderful countries individually, but different; although, as with Belindaland and Brendaland, their proximity to one another makes their distinctness quite remarkable.
Belindaland is a very placid place with pockets of hilarity. Its climate is mostly sunny and its inhabitants are generally pervaded with a sense that they are well loved and cherished. The population is known for its extreme fondness for apple pie, chocolate zucchini bread and pumpkin nut loaves with occasional cravings for shepherd's pie.
Brendaland's population is animated, gregarious and highly social. They are noted for the perfection of their manicures and pedicures and tattoos in concealed places. They eat out a lot at The Keg and ritualistically engage in the sports of squash and baseball.
This past weekend, through an unusual and rare shift in the tectonic plates of the earth, the borders converged briefly and temporarily, thus throwing the inhabitants of the borderlands into confusion and disorientation.
The first hint of something strange afoot began on Friday, when Brenda, expecting a normal weekend, went to work at her part time job at the church where she is the secretary.
The Christmas International Pot Luck lunch was on Sunday and Brenda had been calling people for several weeks to see what each person was bringing to the lunch. People had been slow to commit to their actual contributions and she was already worried about the quantity of food, but her job would be done when she went home at lunchtime.
But then Pastor arrived and announced that Johanna, who was in charge of the kitchen, had moved house that week, and therefore would not be in the kitchen this Sunday, and Brenda was crowned Queen of the Church Kitchen.
This was when Brendaland began to implode. Brendaland and Kitchenland are very far apart. She also knew that Johanna had not got up on Monday morning of that week and decided to move on a whim. This thing had been known for a while, but the Pastor had held the information close to his chest, or perhaps in a remote cranny at the back of his mind, until the kitchen was unavoidably no longer a future issue to resolve but a present crisis with a hundred hungry mouths depending upon its resolution; and, handily, he passed the crisis over to Brenda.
On Saturday morning, Brenda visited for her usual Saturday morning cup of coffee. She didn't mention anything about the kitchen crisis, but she did confide a worry about heart palpitations.
In the afternoon, Brenda, who would normally be out playing squash at that time, was hard at work painting the trim in her girls' bedroom. She'd been working hard on the bedroom for weeks, after work; not a favourite activity, but it was almost done. I was just about to leave to go shopping when I thought I heard a bump and a muffled cry downstairs. I didn't hear anything more, but went down anyway, just in case...
Brenda had fallen off her ladder--it must have been during a shift in the tectonic plates--and the paint had spilled all over the new cherry laminate floor. She was on her hands and knees, scrubbing while sobbing, surrounded by a sea of white paint.
"Don't worry," I said, in my best ultra-calm voice, quickly mustering paper towels a mop and clean water, "It's going to be all right." And, about ten minutes later, it was.
It wasn't until Sunday morning as I was getting ready to leave for worship practice with my 3 apple pies and vegetable lasagne for the lunch that I heard the unbelievable news that our Brenda was in charge of the kitchen. This was a mismatch of the highest degree! Brenda, our Un-Domestic Goddess was about to be initiated--and at a dinner for the whole church--a dinner at which she was not sure there would be enough food and where she had no idea who would be there to help--except for our trusty friend Susan, who had mercifully said she would be there for her.
When Pastor arrived at church that morning, in sanguine mood, he was met by some unhappy young ladies. The mantle of the church kitchen seemed to have slipped, however reluctantly, to the next generation.
Between worship practice and morning service, and during the offering, I popped down, and gratefully saw people gathering in the kitchen to help. When the service was over and we all lined up to go downstairs, we found tables lined with steaming slow cookers full of all manner of delicious specialities. There was curried chicken; Boston browned beans; lasagne; spicy noodles; rice; macaroni salad; carrots; Brussels sprouts; corn; roast beef and turkey--more than we could possibly eat in fact. And an equally vast quantity of desserts stood on a side table.
After the lunch, her equilibrium returning, Brenda glanced over at our guest speaker, a missionary, Rev. Ken McGowan. Noticing that he was sitting alone at his table, she said, grabbing her coffee, "I'm going to go over and chat with Ken." I saw her slip easily into witty banter, putting him instantly at ease.
"Ah," I thought, "The plates must be shifting back to their normal position."
Not, however, before Brenda spent an hour and a half at the kitchen sink with her impeccably manicured nails in water, insisting on washing all the casserole dishes in which people had brought their food.
"You'll have dishpan hands," said Ann.
"It's too late," said Brenda ruefully, holding up her shrivelled extremities with a smile.
Sue, Johanna and Brenda at the church pot luck (note slight vestiges of dissipating tension in Brenda's normally carefree expression. )