This is the one that twirls through my mind when I hear the words Christmas party. I remember the room, which is meant to be the dining room. There is Tuscany-colored wall paper, with gold stars. Instead of a table, there is a pool table, and the “wall of fame.” Pictures of college chums; letters of acceptance; the first lire earned; pictures of notables and certificates. Each frame is gold, some are older, some are thin, and some are fat. But each frame is gold.
The transformed dining room is in the oblong room in the front of the house. A teak table, custom-designed, spans the 24 foot room. Cobalt blue lights swirl above the table in a single curved line. There are rustic chandeliers in every room of the first floor; each one wrought iron. Branches of evergreen lay atop each chandelier.
In the kitchen, there are faces, hands holding drinks, the brushed steel appliances, and off in the corner, there is a door. The door holds a voluptuous large crumpled red velvet bag – it looks as if Santa has dropped in and has left his bag hanging on the hook. This must be the last place on Earth. The last stop Santa will make tonight; and he’s here mingling in this crowd.
Food is passed on trays. Mulled wine is poured. There are no bartenders, no servers, we all help ourselves, and the host even serves as the coat checker. Two chocolate Labrador Retrievers roam the rooms, looking for pats, rubs and nibbles. I can’t remember the music; but if the song Let if Snow were a picture — this would be it. In the lower level are the baby grand piano, the sofas and the fire. Wherever your eyes roam, there are twinkling lights, bits of red velvet, and an abundance of Christmas cards, hanging on ribbons. Nothing here is contrived; everything falls into place as effortlessly as the way the snow falls and covers everything in soft cheery brightness. You begin to feel very small; as if someone bigger than you handled all the details tonight.
Since they moved home, across the pond, this party is the one I miss the most. Twice, I went with a baby brewing in my belly. One year, I even brought one baby along to nurse. In the pictures, I see now that I usually wore the same black furry sweater; I was never aware of this until now – something I didn’t plan. It was always so hard to leave this party. One night, with baby in belly, the snow started to fall, just as we were leaving.
In the silence of her absence, I can’t help but think I threw this friendship away. Busy with children, busy running to preschool, busy running errands. When I was on bed rest, she would stop by and take my dog for runs. What really was unfolding before me?
She tells me, now that they’re with their old friends, that they dance now. They pour champagne in their 18-century Monk’s home, cook dinners in their new Aga Range (which also serves as a furnace in their drafty kitchen) and they turn up the music very loud, and they dance like they did before they had children. I keep replaying this image in my mind. Maybe we’ll try it without them.