Thursday morning I stood in the center of the living room and looked around. It was a grey, rainy day but the house, with lights twinkling and candles flickering, seemed festive and welcoming. The lights from the Christmas tree and fireplace mantle added a warm glow. The table, actually tables, were set with silver chargers and matching cutlery - since we were going to be eleven people I was happy we'd picked up the extra set of silverware this summer. Cut glass water glasses caught the light of the candles. Christmas music rang through the air. The dreary December gloom was banished like the wolves around a fire.
I had just said "I guess that's everything", when the dogs started madly barking from the front bedroom. They were banished from the festivities - their pokey noses and insistent nudges were not welcome today. I peeked out the front door and saw that my first guest had arrived. Nicole, in true French Canadian tradition, had a platter of ham, a crock of beans, and a bottle of wine, balanced in her arms. I ushered her over the threshold and relieved her of the bounty.
No sooner had I gotten her settled when another flurry of barking drew me to the door again. Don, looking remarkably like Santa with a hat to match, handed me a crock pot of bubbling meatballs. Ummmm. I was starting to get hungry.
Guests started arriving in groups, having car-pooled to our slightly remote location. Our laneway was muddy and the rain was coming down. No dirty footprints on the floor Carm had carefully washed the day before!
It was a blur of arrivals: Helene, Marnie, Judy, Diane, Mona, Mary, Marthe, Della. All arrived safe and sound bearing copious amounts of food, and right on time. Shoes were piled by the garage door and coats laid out on the spare bedroom (no, not the den - that is still filled with stuff from the camper, cages, and other detritus). That taken care of, drinks were distributed and we got down to the important activity: visiting. Oh, but first Grace had to be admired. Of course she didn't say a peep with all those eyes on her!
It was soon time to eat. Platters of food were arranged along the counters of the kitchen - they stretched over almost all surfaces. With plates piled high we took our seats at the long table - 12 1/2 feet long! - and started new conversations with our neighbors. I think everyone had seconds.
Coffee and sweets ended our time at the table. Mary had brought a game so we split up into groups and tried to guess the Christmas carol from the amusing sketches. Some were obvious, but others were tricky. Our group came 2nd. We migrated to the sofa area, crammed onto chairs and balanced on the futon for the next game. Diane passed us each a card with a 5 word writing prompt written on the top line. I wrote 5 more words of the story then passed it to my neighbor. The cards travelled around the circle, with everyone adding their 2cents worth to the story. When our own card was back in our hands we read out the results. There are some pretty bent people in this group!
It wasn't long after the stories were read out when the party broke up. I was sad to see everyone go - it had been such a lovely time. No rest for me though - a mountain of dishes, silverware and glasses had to be washed. The dishwasher swallowed the plates (all 22 of them), and water glasses (11) and finally the coffee cups (11). Wine glasses and silverware had to be done by hand. I did the silverware while on speakerphone with Kirsten in NZ and Carm helped me with the wine glasses. Our world was back together (mostly - the extra table was disassembled, and the extra chairs were disbursed around the house today.)
Every house where love abides
And friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home, sweet home
For there the heart can rest.
~Henry Van Dyke