And like Mrs. Dalloway, the preparation for the party was probably more interesting than the party itself.
Most of the day, I was falling off things and dropping things and cleaning things and trying to remember what I was supposed to be doing and trying to convince myself to complete one task before I moved on to the next. I was a whirling dervish of activity, most of it probably pointless. The party was just a party compared with what went before.
Well, except when I lit the fireplace. I don't think I've ever forgotten to open the damper before, and the house rapidly filled with smoke while the fire alarms blared cheerfully. At least I know they work. One of the guests of honor threw the French doors wide, while others murmured with concern. Another guest ran down the hall and ripped open the bathroom window, nearly ripping the frame off the glass (it's an old window). The spouse beat impotently at the damper with a fireplace tool until I pushed him out of the way, and actually opened it. Possibly the best part of all (once the smoke had cleared. Fortunately, I have good cross ventilation in this place) was when the pyro expert showed up shortly thereafter and couldn't even smell the smoke. I can still smell the smoke.
But I have a good nose.
Really, it was very embarrassing.
People seemed to be in an unusually good mood, and I think it had a great deal to do with being diverted from what's become the stress of the every day. It was nice to see people standing in groups together, talking and smiling, though I found it interesting that they tended to stay grouped in two rooms when usually, they spread out and into the back garden. Last night seemed to be comfort in numbers (and food. Comfort food was definitely the way to go).
Though yes, I did find at least one person in with all the books.
Two members of the group were headed out to South America today on a job, and were getting razzed about what diseases they were likely to bring home. Chagas Disease seemed to be running high odds (and you thought I was the only one who talks about weird diseases at cocktail parties). One gentleman also has a penchant for grazing, literally, and came home from one job with a very upset digestive tract.
"What do you expect," I asked him, "when you just eat whatever you see growing on a tree?"
A CD of Mozart's divertimenti played in the background in stark contrast to my Keep Moving! Keep Moving! hard rock playlist of earlier in the day.
And wine! Everyone brought me wine, not for the party, but for me. Upon arrival, people were sidling up, presenting bottles like votive offerings.
(There is a dreadful misconception that I "know something" about wine. I don't, I swear. The guests of honor are oenophiles, so when the holidays roll around, I go to a bit of trouble to find a nice bottle of wine for the spouse to give them, and it's also why I constructed this menu around wine and vice versa. Just something fun. But honestly, all I know about wine is what I like (and equally importantly, what I don't), and that you never cook with wine you wouldn't drink. I'm willing to be adventurous, I'm certainly willing to learn and to take advice from those who are knowledgeable about it--for me, that's the fun of going to wineries and tastings, and talking to the people who run wine shops--and I've learned not to be intimidated by wine. But I definitely can't claim any special knowledge of it.)
One guest arrived a bit later in the evening, and apologized for his lateness, explaining that he'd been at an event earlier in the day, and suddenly the SWAT team had appeared in full regalia. The attendees had to wait until the team had cleared the building, and it had set him back a bit, timewise. I gravely told him that I understood and that I was sorry he'd missed my attempt to set my own house on fire, but that if he craved more excitement, I would be happy to phone the SWAT team to see if they were up to a repeat performance.
The merits of artichoke dip were discussed. CL had offered to bring hers (famous), and I told her that was fine, allowing hers to supplant mine (also famous). And it was fine. Also one less thing for me to cook, which was even better.
"The invitation said hors d'oeuvres!" said EM. "No one needs to eat after this!"
I know this group. I wasn't going to send them away hungry.
Speeches were made, the cake was cut, good wishes were offered, goodbyes said.
"I've really known you for 15 years?" I asked one of the guests of honor as she left. I knew it had been through 3 companies and lots of years. Fifteen sounded like so long.
"Yup," she said.
Having this party felt like the right thing, and usually if it feels like the right thing, it is.
Except for the fire part, perhaps.
Go listen to some good music: "Burning Down the House" from the album Speaking in Tongues by Talking Heads. By the time everyone left, I WAS speaking in tongues. And then today, it was all the clean up and helping the daughter get her board ready for the science fair, which had been postponed from earlier in the month...