When we were young, and our parents were so big and loomed large over our every landscape, it was with curious jealousy that we watched as they descended the staircase on Saturday nights in bright orange dresses, green shirts, artificially stiff hair. Their usual pointed attention was lightly diffused as the cologne and perfume that mixed in our nostrils, like some foreign food market, shocking our systems into caution. Their usual eagle eye now blind to our indiscretions. Why weren’t they telling us to stop eating the cookies that we were munching on leaving crumbs along the carpet? We weren’t even in our pj’s yet. The truth was – they were looking forward to something. They were going out and we were to stay in… Life was so unfair. We wanted to go too!
As a kid, I often fantasized about picnics. Especially if I was in school and the day was dull and life felt monotonous. A soft pretty blanket, a bright red maple tree, maybe a meadow. Definitely a big basket full of cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches, several frosty bottles of root beer with swirl straws, and slices of chocolate cake with high frosted peaks. Me and a friend, a sunny day. Best of all, under that maple tree sipping our soda drinks, we would be laughing like hyenas. Did a dog just scare a flock of geese into the sky? It was some little occurrence that we both caught, that we both recognized. My cheeks would get hot and red the closer and more detailed the images rolled through my head.
Picnics seemed to be a big metaphor for friendship. The same way the air was charged with anticipation when the parents were going out in the evening with friends, was the way I felt about picnics. The basket of food was window dressing for the possibility of laughter, secrets, a few shared dreads over bottles of root beer. It was the potential of the story unfolding, the relief of laughing at it all…
To me, the dinner party is the ultimate expression of being cozy in a community of friends. But for many years, up to my mid-30’s, I lived all over the place. My community was the person I met that day. It was excellent fun even if my friends & family thought it was crazy that all my belongings could fit into the back of my car. I never felt that need to settle in with nice sofas and real bed frames. So I roamed around and spent a year here and a year there. I lived with a musician in a studio apartment in the Back Bay of Boston and took writing classes. In L.A. I lived with filmmakers and worked on commercials way out in the desert. In Maine, I lived with a local family and roamed the coast making photos and making friends of lobstermen and novelists.
So, now, here in my 40’s, with the devoted husband and young kids, we’re back full circle. The Republic of Dinner parties. Not much changes. We all want to be invited to the party. We all want to be in the warmth of the glow of glamorous friendship and the effervescence of the dinner table conversation… The ultimate fun is being invited, is getting to go out, and often it’s making the party yourself.
Dinner Party Blog On!