The email was intriguing.
“We eat in the dining room by candlelight every single night,” Sue Welty wrote last spring. “Candlelight can make even hot dogs and beans more elegant.”
I joined Sue and her husband, Terry, on an evening warm enough to leave the front door open at their Davenport home. The screen door kept the Weltys' golden retriever, Teddy, from slipping out.
As I arrived, Sue was putting pasta primavera into a serving dish, and Terry was setting the table in the dining room.
They sat down to eat and fell into an easy conversation about about their day and some upcoming plans. We struck a balance between ice-breaker moments and me trying to be a fly on the wall while they went about their evening.
They politely asked about my background, how I was liking the Quad-Cities, the project I was working on and, more than once, offered me a plate.
After dinner, the table was cleared, and Teddy got his treat.
The Weltys told about living in California and about their wedding in a Castro Valley church on Valentine’s Day in 1965, and how they returned for their 50th anniversary a couple years ago.
The dinner candles flickered as they told me how, in July of 1969, they were camping at Fallen Leaf Lake, just south of Lake Tahoe, California. They were sitting in an amphitheater with about 20 other campers as they watched the live broadcast of the first manned moon landing. The Weltys swear they saw a glimmer of light on the moon. They wanted to believe the light was from the lunar module, but they acknowledge it probably was just their imaginations.
A whole lifetime of memories came to light over the length of a few-hour conversation that began with dinner.
Dinner with the Weltys was my first night, working on an idea I dubbed The Dinner Project. I was astonished by how easily I was made to feel like a welcome guest, sitting at the dining room table.
I drove back to the office feeling confident that I had stumbled upon a unique and engaging project. I hope you will agree. The Dinner Project is this week's Big Story.