Technology has effectively destroyed the intimate dinner parties that once were the core of a social life.
You fretted over whether the souffle would collapse, if the wine was chilled to the right temperature, if the entree was back timed sufficiently to allow time for the hors d’oeuvres and if the guests would arrive at the scheduled time.
Now it is a fear that Grubhub or Doordash will be late, that you must remember to hide the packaging from the heat and serve appetizers and if it will be nice enough to eat outside, or if you will need to check vaccination cards.
As a child, I only wanted to stay up until midnight, actually a bit after that time, to see in the new year.
I didn’t need to be at my parents’ party, it was too loud and the adults behaved more like my kid brother and sister as the magic moment approached.
And it was supposed to be a magical moment, although no one could tell me why that was, or what made it special other than turning a page on the calendar.
I no longer try to stay awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve having long ago learned I don’t’ want to be around adults acting childish, and knowing January 1 is no different than December 31, save that I will miswrite the date on checks for at least a month.
Today they gave a party. Today, so far, no one came. Today, so far and until some come, we will breath easier. Tomorrow they may give another party. We hope that no one comes. The same for Tuesday and Wednesday, although that was supposed to be our party, but we can no longer come, because they may come and we cannot be at any party they are attending. Maybe they won’t come either, and there will be no party at all.
It wasn’t exactly what you wanted, but you probably wouldn’t have been all that upset. It was all about you, but not for you, that comes later, and we know you’ll be pleased. This one was for some of us who needed this to be able to keep going, to keep from looking only back, into the darkness that is our shadow. He said it was a celebration, and it was that, and we put on our best faces, hid our tears as best we could, and as we stood in the cold air in the cemetery, we only wished it over, and when the sun appeared suddenly, we knew you wished that as well, but in your case, it was more likely that you wanted us working on the party we will soon throw for you and that one, too will be for us, but among the things we miss you for, was your willingness, you desire to share.
My uncle and I would sneak away from the seemingly endless party, no one wanted to attend and couldn’t leave. We go up to my room and turn on the radio. He’d want to look for the Senators game, but they’d left town and no radio could pull in Minneapolis anyway, but despite Killebrew, Arbitron sealed their fate and this was Yankees country as well. I try to pull in C H U M from across the lake. It played music the local DJs wouldn’t touch, in which never found their constrictive playlists, provided by dad’s pal, the local rack jobber come self-assumed all label A&R man. Still, Mel would listen with me until he was missed then try and sneak back to the party, while I listen Don into the night, hearing songs I have to hunt for at the record store, for one thing I knew was that it didn’t have a section marked Canadian Content Rule.
I received the invitation today, but I won’t be attending. I’m not inclined to RSVP, for that will only drive home the fact that I couldn’t afford to attend. They have to know this, and if they don’t, well… That really is their problem. My mother said you should always RSVP, yes or no, but she’s been dead two years, never said she’d attend anything again. And anyway I still believe the rule doesn’t apply to any invitation addressed to Current Resident
As the last of the wine glasses is put back on the shelf the Brut recorked and the dishes set in the tray to dry we take a slow walk after the meal hoping the arrabiatta sauce will be less angry, the pasta less weighty, when we arrive back home to the sofa and the purring cat distracting us from the beckoning of the bed.
What do you say on the loss of a child? We sat in the lounge drinking a vile potion from a hollowed pineapple giggling insanely for no reason. We wandered the tunnels faces painted, clowns in bedlam. We lay together on a mattress on the floor and listened to Aqualung my arms around you both, but sleep came slowly and we talked until night ran from the encroaching sun. I can feel her soft blond hair and see her smile as we walked hand in hand in hand along the abandoned railbed, dreaming of what might be. As I struggle with sleep and with a new day I can hear the tape end snapping at the end of the ever spinning reel wanting only to hold your hand and stroke your hair.
First appeared in RE:AL The Journal of Liberal Arts Vol. 23, Issue 2, 1998