As Carmen stood outside her new home, she reflected on so much newness. Willow Creek was by no means a new neighborhood, but it was new to her. Here she was, in a two bedroom house, all by herself. She’d come so far from her childhood, when there were always too few bedrooms coupled with too many siblings.
Not enough money wasn’t that much of a distant memory though. She’d taken the discount and used the movers after hours. Who cares about one broken lamp due to darkness when you’re saving enough to buy yourself a dozen more lamps? Who needs light in their bedroom anyway?
Willow Creek at night was just… quiet. She almost didn’t want to go into the grand doorway to her cute starter home. It wouldn’t have her siblings. It wouldn’t have her parents. It would just be her. Carmen soaked in all the inspiration Willow Creek provided, even late at night, and a sense of gratefulness crept in.
She was grateful her family put together the money to help her with the down payment on this house, but for just a moment, she wished she could give up on her dreams to be an artist, and go back home.
She couldn’t do it though. She had to be strong. She had to make her family proud. And she had to go inside and cook herself some food because she was starving!
There was only one problem: Carmen couldn’t cook.
Carmen: Why did no one teach me to cook? Not Mama, not Nana, not any of my big sisters! Go draw Carmen, they all said. You need your hands to make art, they all said. You’d think someone would’ve snuck a cookbook into one of these boxes when they were packing me up and shipping me off.
She figured it couldn’t be that hard. She’d just whip up some eggs and toast. Easy peasy, right?
After she finally finished the cooking the food, then came time to eat it. It didn’t smell good. And it really didn’t look good. Nothing like what Mama used to make. She dreamed of the day, far into the future, when she would be able to make her Mama’s Famous Spinach Frittata.
She choked down the food, and got ready for bed. She didn’t really want to call it a short night, she wanted to go dancing. But she had an early morning at her job, so she wanted to be well rested.
Her dreams weren’t going to accomplish themselves after all. She was starting her career as a Painter from the bottom of the ladder, and she was ready for the challenge.
She got up early and headed out to seize the day. She was long gone by the time the welcome wagon arrived.
She returned home from work unaware that she missed the opportunity to make some new friends. She thought about going out exploring the neighborhood before facing her terrible food again when the phone rang.
The call was from a woman named Clara Bjergsen. She didn’t say how she got her name and number. What she did say is that she heard through the grapevine that Carmen Butler was a woman who loved good food. Carmen couldn’t argue with that.
Clara invited her to join a club called the Upper Crusts. To be a member was simple. You simply had to love good food, cooking good food, love good drinks, and making good drinks.
Carmen was NOT a good cook, but she loved good food and a good drink. She figured she’d pick up the skills needed at a later date. She agreed to join the club because she had a hunch for how they welcomed new members.
Clara told her they would start the gathering right away, even though she wouldn’t be home from work for a few hours. She said she was sure her family would be good hosts until she arrived.
And boy was she right!
At the Bjergsens’ home, fondly called the Lighthouse, she met her fellow club members. She also met the cute daughters of her club’s fearless leader, Sofia and Elsa Bjergsen. Watching them regale their guests with wonderful stories warmed her heart and made her dream of the day she had her own children.
Every time Carmen imagined having a baby, she imagined accidentally dropping the baby. But these weren’t babies, they were big girls. If only there was a way to skip the baby stage.
Soon Bjorn Bjergsen, Clara’s husband joined the dinner party. His banter was just as amusing and wonderful as his daughters. Carmen felt that if the Bjergsen family was an added bonus of being part of Upper Crusts, it would be worth learning to cook.
Clara arrived home not long after. Carmen thought she was so refined, even in her work clothes. Clara joined the party and they laughed, ate, and got to know each other until it was late at night.
They finally called this club meeting to an end, and Carmen headed home. The jog back to the path to head home from the Lighthouse was a trip! She didn’t mind the extra journey though because she felt like she gained a lot of new friends out of the deal.
If only those friends lived in Willow Creek instead of Windenburg.
Carmen made it home, very tired, but very well fed, thanks to the Upper Crusts.
She crawled into bed with a smile on her face. For Carmen, this was the perfect ending to her first full day in her new life.