I hosted a dinner party this weekend. That feels like an odd sentence for me to write. It sounds so grown up. I generally think of dinner parties as being something that adults went to in the 50s and 60s. They were an activity that a wife was required to do to entertain her husband's business clients or co-workers, where everyone had one too many cocktails and people ended up involved in 'indiscretions' of one variety or another. In other words, they were something out of Peyton Place or The Graduate or maybe in today's venue Desperate Housewives. My life, truly, is none of those.
Yet, I hosted a dinner party. This is a small group of people that has come together in the past few years, 4 or 5 times a year, to share dinner together in each others' homes. In truth, I've been having people over for dinner for years - friends, family, people from work or church or some group I've belonged to. But these current dinner parties are different, whether I am the host or the guest. They are an 'event.'
There is preparation. Since this particular dinner party took place in early March, I used it as an excuse to do some early Spring cleaning - dusting and vacuuming and floor mopping. I turned off the furnace and opened windows on every side of the house to blow out all that winter air and bring in the fresh spring air. I added leaves to the table and put out a freshly washed tablecloth in spring colors. I filled vases with Tulips. I brought out extra silver and dishes to accommo-date the courses - drinks and appetizers, salad, main course, dessert. I filled a China sugar bowl and a creamer to go with the coffee and dessert. I brought out wine glasses and cordial glasses. And, this being Minnesota, I used the snow bank outside my back door as an extra beverage refrigerator.
There is strategy. You plan the work that needs to be done so it is spread out over several days before the party. That way you are not so exhausted by preparation that you are too tired to enjoy your company. You plan the menu so that the majority of the cooking can be done in advance or so that most things are done in the oven. That way you can actually spend time with your company instead of being in the kitchen slaving over a stove. You plan the music so that it enhances the mood of the evening and the conversation without overpowering it.
There is serendipity. This is the piece that you really can't plan. You invite the guests, but they determine the conversation. Yes, of course, you can do some planning here - not inviting this person, or at least not inviting this person and that person for the same evening. But then again, if you must think of those things, why invite them at all? This is your event and you get to spend it with people that you enjoy. This isn't your parents', or grandparents', dinner party where you're obligated to invite the boss or the obnoxious co-worker. This is your dinner party where you get to invite people you actually like.
And that's the reason to host a dinner party - the people and the conversation. During the course of our 6 hours together we covered it all -- or at least a good part of it. There was religion and traveling and health care reform and movies. There were aging parents and non-maturing children. There was politics and education and theatre and the judicial system. There was laughter and joking alongside serious discussion and thoughtful, measured opinions. It was nothing short of delightful. Evenings like these are special. And it isn't the food or the flowers or the wine. It's the people.
These evenings also bring home, in another way, the fleeting nature of life. We are all together this evening, but there is no guarantee that we will be again. Each of us has an end point, and none of us has a promise that it will occur when we're 102 and sitting in our rocker on the porch. It could be next year, next month, tomorrow. All the more reason to make each day an 'event.' We get to choose how to spend our time, and with whom. We get to choose our path. We get to choose happiness.
3 hours ago