As much as I may be breathing a sigh of relief that the holidays have come to a close, I do so enjoy them. They are such an opportunity to gift, fete and entertain those with whom one feels close. They make for a winter landscape that is warm. Though I am readily absorbed by the process of dressing my home and garden for the winter, sharing that outcome with others is the best part by far. Buck and I did host a fete for friends in late December. If “a fete for friends” sounds like a charity function to you-it was. We were all in need of some good natured hubbub, lots of laughter and fun, in each other’s company. Some friends brought appetizers; others brought cookies or wine. Everyone brought some holiday cheer. As I was the only person who knew everyone, there were people meeting for the first time-and sharing interests. I learned that the C’s knew the B’s long ago from a mutual vacation spot. That Cantoros Italian grocery store has this or that you cannot find elsewhere. That this friend was sure to become a friend of that one. At one point Buck was firing up the Harley in the basement for an equally enamoured friend; later he was showing super eight movies from the 20′s on one of his vintage projectors. One friend’s favorite moment? As Buck is showing his movies and talking about his projector collection, the 20-something daughter of another friend standing behind him is filming the entire scene-on her i-phone. The generation gap documented start to finish-in some 30 seconds. Put friends together-what shakes out is sure to paste a smile on my heart for days.
A colleague and friend has a gift for giving. He pays attention to who people are; were you ever to get a gift from him, you would understand how seriously he pays attention. My Christmas gift from him is invariably a shopping bag chock full of what must have taken him the entire year to amass. Every single thing speaks to what he has observed and remembered about me. There’s nothing big, or hugely expensive, with the exception of his lavish hand with great cheese-just clear evidence of respect and affection for me, the person. I do not get this from him only at Christmas. Valentine’s Day last year came midway through my effort to paint 100 little watercolors of auricula primroses; nine little auricula hybrid plants came by post on the 14th. I treasure his ability to put another ahead of himself; I am not nearly this thoughtful.
We have had friends over a lot this holiday season. Some bring treats and toys for the dogs. They fill the house with unmistakeable signs of life. They invite us back by return phone call; we have been to their studios for tour dinners. We planned a spaghetti cookoff with new friends-of course both dinners were the best. We had New Year’s brunch at a friend whose menu was as elegant as her salon style manner of entertaining. New Year’s dinner with neighbor friends featured the pub food they served at their pub in England many years ago. Their entire family treats us like we belong to them. Still other friends set their table and entertained us as if we were visiting heads of state. This treatment from friends feels good.
Friends took us to Sunday brunch today at a favorite restaurant of theirs in Detroit. The uniformly green building has no sign in front, just the initials LdV on the gate. Around back, in the alley, they park your car for you. This small Italian restaurant/bar has superlative food; my eggs benedict and prosecco was perfect. I could not keep my fork out of Buck’s pasta. A small band filled the place with music-jazz, calypso-everyone was laughing, talking, dancing and having fun. Add to this the spirited conversation with friends-a perfect afternoon. So many things got said that I was afraid I would forget-I took notes. I hear tell the second Sunday of the month is their pajama brunch. Yes, you are welcome in your pajamas. Some come in outlandish constume-and if you are still there at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, a group picture gets taken. I can’t wait. Who knew a Sunday could be so much fun?
Our friends independently came to the decision that they were done griping, whining, and fearing. As hard as it is to navigate in a gloomy fog, getting lost is a choice, not a given. They talked a lot about how as Americans, they grew up knowing about imagination, ingenuity, hard work, and goodwill-this comes with our culture. It is still part of the culture. Of note, a recent program to recruit volunteers to teach kids in Detroit to read had 2000 people sign up-incredible, and incredibly good for our city, said our friends. Something good for our city-within our grasp. Watching this very diverse group of Sunday brunchers fill a room with laughter, music and fun, I believed them. Why shouldn’t I? It occurred to me that but for these friends, none of this would be on my mind.
For 2010, I could take all the energy with which I have been gifted, feted, and otherwise entertained by my friends, and pass it along in some way. The simple science? From Newtonian physics, we know that anything in motion tends to stay in motion-unless acted upon by an outside force. Outside forces I can keep outside, should I determine they might stop me in my tracks. Inside forces keep the fire burning. Keeping the fire burning-a good goal for the new year.