Women learn, at a tender age, that luncheons are the anchors of our social lives. It is at those blue-ribbon functions that we shine. We are among our own. We dress as smartly as we can, we laugh and, occasionally, maybe after a small glass of wine, we tell a story or two that has not been heard before.
Of course, at times, these social happenings are held in public restaurants, and they are grand. However, the ones held in private homes are the ones that truly kindle our most cordial feminine charms. There is always much hugging, sweet cheek kissing and compliments on our dresses, shoes and jewelry. It is a time of making one's friends' feel absolutely marvelous about themselves. Even if their ravishing appearance is a trifle exaggerated, it is the sweet thing to do. No one ever believes they are as lovely as their luncheon partner says. However, it is a moment of delight when one lady says to another, "I declare, you are just beautiful." You, the complimented, for a moment, believe her and are grateful for all of the charm and beauty you possess. It is an unequaled jolt of vitamins to the very center of you. It does not last for days, just seconds. It is used up quickly and is the pure illumination of one perfect moment.
We, women of this world, must have luncheons. Not those minutes met on a lunch hour at the local coffeehouse, but seated in a chair owned by your mama and her mama or a big old imposing table that served some grand distant relative.
Such a luncheon was held last week. A small group of women gathered to say farewell to their friend. A woman who was born in Chester County, who married, raised her children there and made her presence known through writing and participating in the important moments of her family, church and city.
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That person was Caroline Marion Dawson, a quiet, soft-spoken, gentle, Southern lady, who is moving closer to her daughter and to a place where she will not have to fight the hassles of preserving an elegant old house, worrying about pigeons or weeds taking over her sweet lawn. The boxwood that has stood in such glory will be cared for and worried about by a new owner. Our very own Caroline is off to another wonderful and exciting new adventure.
The luncheon, held at the home of Phyllis O'Connell, was elegant. Crisp asparagus and rich healthy slices of tomatoes held cheese, thin slices of red onions and a cucumber or two, along with a chicken salad that made us forget all the other renditions we thought we had enjoyed. Then came dessert, Southern wild key lime pie and homemade angel food cake graced with fresh strawberries and cream, whipped in a bowl, not out of a spray can. Of course, there was our internationally known sweet tea and all the charm and grace of a South Carolina afternoon, served by Phyllis' stunning husband, Dan, in his new role as self-appointed butler.
None of us took Caroline by the hand, looked sadly into her eyes and said goodbye, for none of us could. We did what we all do in a time of overpowering emotion. We laughed and jokingly said, 'We'll be down every week, Caroline, and we will get your letters posted at the Arbor and published in the newspaper." All of these social fibs were told while we kept smiling. If we hadn't, there would have been tears, and, after all, luncheons are the happiest moments of our lives.
But now that we are alone, all of those four guests and the hostess can say au revoir and tell our friend that she will surely be missed. That her charm and grace will never be forgotten and that all of us have prospered from knowing her. And when there is something of importance is happening in her hometown, one of us will journey and pick her up for a night or day in Chesterville. For, after all, it will always be her home, and we will always be her true-blue luncheon buddies.