The Eternal Welcome
When I ring my grandmother’s doorbell, I can hear her start running to the door from the kitchen — not like a breakneck sprint, but rather a swift trot fueled by sheer excitement.
“Comiiiiiiiing!” she yells repeatedly, as if I am anything other than patient. She pops open the door, but takes great care not to release her bichon frise, Murph (the fear of losing Murph is all-consuming for Mum) into the wild of suburban Atlanta. She giggles through squealing “Hi! Hi! Hi!” while wrapping her arms tightly around me, flinging me side to side and kissing the side of my head over and over. She insists on taking one if not all of my bags and then she waddles ahead and into the living room, waving me to follow her in and says, “Come in, come in, come in.”
It never matters whether she expected me. I don’t have to text. I don’t have to call. I just show up. Even when I arrive without warning, it feels like she’s been waiting for me there, hoping I’d show up. By no coincidence, her shelves are stocked with my favorite foods, and a bed is made up in the case of my stay. For Mum, a warm welcome is the epitome of affection.
When he was still alive, my grandpa would go to the airport to greet soldiers as they exited their terminals at Hartsfield Jackson, homeward bound for R&R. The eternal patriot, Papa believed a homecoming welcome to be the ultimate expression of gratitude.
I met a family on top of a mountain this summer, during an adventure with one of my best friends. We began a conversation with them, told them we write about food and farming in the Southeast, and they invited us to come to the native plant farm they own, run and live on, Overhill Gardens in Vonore, Tennessee. We arrived the next day with expectation of taking a few photos, conducting a short interview — our normal order of business. We were met instead by their three darling boys, who led us into their home. Their mother, Alissa, had set out a spread of drink options in preparation for our stay, and she was defrosting trout they’d caught to offer us for dinner. She told us how she met her husband — it was love at the sound of his voice. She spent the day sharing with us every detail of their truly beautiful existence and sharing her dreams for the future. It was the warmest reception I’ve ever received, and it will forever change the way I treat strangers. But for Alissa Askey and her family, welcoming us into their magical lives was a chance for friendship.
There used to be a time when neighbors just knocked on your door — when friends dropped by on an impulse. Time wasn’t structured by Google calendars or Skype dates or controlled by the chirping of an app. This week, the world watched as people in dire circumstances were met with brutality. While this sharp contrast may be an oversimplification, I’d like to champion the idea that there is always room for other people in open arms.