December 19, 2004
(The day and date noted above suggest that I am composing this piece and typing it out only hours after the events described. That is certainly not the case. This is being written a few days after the party and is being backdated to give the illusion that you’re getting dispatches from the front lines of my life. You’re not. You’re getting emotion recollected in tranquility. If it was good enough for Wordsworth . . . )
Five years ago I looked up the dates of Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent) for 2000 to 2004, wrote them on a snowflake-shaped sticky note, and put it on the inside cover of my party planning notebook. Lynn was in ninth grade then, and I’d had a hard time getting focus about Christmas and having the party at all. Seasonal depression had hit me hard that year and I was coping with some physical problems as well. When I finally pulled myself together and decided to go ahead with the party, I committed to having it for five more years at least, until Lynn’s first college semester break.
By last night almost everything was in place. Two pans of lasagna were prepared to the point of baking, the ham balls were thawed, ready to be heated up with the peach preserve-chili sauce, the pear tart and red velvet cake were finished and in the refrigerator, and the dips, cheese balls, and cookie trays were assembled. Just finishing work and last-minute arranging was left to be done.
I got up at 6:00 and came downstairs to find that the orchid bouquet I’d had a local florist copy from the Calyx and Corolla catalog had wilted, even though it had looked almost perfect when I picked it up yesterday. I figured, well, something was bound to go slightly wrong, and since the hole in the ceiling had gotten repaired without much trouble, I’d stayed healthy despite one or two days when I thought I felt a cold coming on, and the bad weather was holding off till late evening, wilted flowers were a minor annoyance. I mean, nobody’s going to say, you know, her party would have been much better if she’d had a fresh orchid bouquet on the sideboard.
The florist offers an eight-day guarantee. I discovered that their west shore store (about twenty minutes away) opened at 10:00 on Sunday. I had enough time to get over there, have them apologize profusely and replace the bouquet with something not quite so spectacular but fresh (and give me a credit), and still get to church in time to sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” my favorite Advent carol (which I can still sing in Latin). After that things went smoothly — the supermarket had my fruit and sandwich trays ready, I didn’t nearly set fire to myself trying to light the sterno (as I had in 1997), and the first guests (church friends on their way to caroling at a retirement center) arrived precisely at 4:00.
About half the people I’d invited came. (No, I don’t know what I’d do if everybody showed up.) Some regulars couldn’t come because of other commitments, but some who had never been here before dropped in. As usual, people I didn’t know from the same milieu knew each other from elsewhere, and people who didn’t know anybody but the invited guest they came with made themselves comfortable and seemed to have a good time. My friends from grade school joined with me to sing the poinsettia song, and one of Lynn’s friends took as a personal challenge the task of making a folded paper star.
The food held out. All of the fajita wrap sandwiches from the supermarket disappeared, there was one serving of ham balls left, and half the second pan of lasagna. I judged all of my guests cookie worthy, but there were enough cherry dot cookies and cardamom Lucia rolls to make for snacks all next week.
Snow had begun falling by the time the last guest left. It was beautiful but treacherous. As far as I know all my friends got home safely. Lynn helped me open the hostess gifts people had brought (some of them quite elaborate) and make a list for thank-you notes. (As usual, some lost their tags or never had one. If you brought the Russel Stover chewy centers, you won’t get a personal note, but they are yummy!) By 10:00 the dishes were done and the food was packed away and I was able to sit down for the episode of Cold Case we’d taped earlier.
People I love very much were here. Others who couldn’t come were thought of, and presumably are thinking of me. Christmas has come to my heart, and I’m ready for the new year.
To be included on the notify list, e-mail me:
margaretdeangelis [at] gmail [dot] com (replace the brackets with @ and a period)