Last night was Christmas party night, my friend Millie's annual dress up dinner party. It's a classic affair~ Millie and Lowell entertain 1950's style, with Lowell serving drinks from their sideboard bar, dressed in one of his many natty sports coats and neatly creased flannel slacks. Millie acts as gracious hostess, sipping champagne and relaxing with her guests while the caterers work busily in the kitchen from whence all manner of delicious aromas are wafting. Their home - a four bedroom colonial, circa 1962 - is richly decorated with greenery and candles. Millie's collection of Santa's, (many of them purchased during the couple's extensive travels, and each one with a story about it's procurement) is artfully arranged in nooks and crannies throughout the rooms. Christmas music plays serenely in the background - the choir of Clare College, directed by their friend John Rutter, or Kansas City Brass, their son's group.
There are many reasons I love attending this party, not least of which is that Jim and I are the youngest couple there! I feel a bit like a kid at the grown ups table sometimes, all these couples who have completed their work lives, raised their children, and are happily engaged in the work of being active retired persons. Most of them are world travelers, they serve on various volunteer committees, they pursue interesting hobbies and avocations. They are well read and well informed, always charming and forward thinking.
It's also fun to get dressed up in fancy clothes, although the party inevitably falls on the worst weather night of the year, so mincing across the frozen side walk in my little velvet shoes feels a bit ridiculous, not to mention scary.
But the best part by far is being with all these lovely people, folks I see only once a year usually, and so I hear about what's happened to them since the last time we met - the trips they've taken, the books, plays, and concerts, they've read, seen, and heard. There are, of course, the tales of illnesses suffered, tales which proliferate as the guests grow older. Yet they have overcome, and have gathered once again around the festively dressed tables at Millie and Lowell's to celebrate the season of light and hope.
So we sit 'round the tables, exclaim over the miraculous dishes created by Shanny and Bill, the caterers who have become a part of this circle of friends, and I study the faces in the warm glow of candlelight, faces of people who have been friends for longer than I've been alive in some cases, disparate individuals who come together as another form of family with love and faithfulness, deep caring and concern.
Here's the real gift of the season, I think. Here's the thing that matters. People, and our relationships with one another.
May this gift come to you with warmth and gladness during this holiday season.