Stuff and Things

I love to entertain.  I am crazy about it.  And when I first moved to New York, it was a hard adjustment, because in Washington, people entertained at home.  In New York, it seemed that people entertained…out.  Or they did “drive-bys” of parties.  They didn’t come to stay.  They stopped by before or after going out to dinner.

Or something.

I think I was the only person in the world who was secretly thrilled when the economy crashed, and people started entertaining at home again.  And the year that the world exploded, there were 80 people crammed into my one bedroom apartment in Tribeca for my Christmas party — the party that lasted until well-past dawn.  The Christmas party that year took place on the night of the first snowfall, and it marked the end of the beginning, and the beginning of the end, and the start of the hardest, most wonderful, awful part of my life.

But it was also the start of entertaining at home again.

I grew up with parents who entertained, and there was always cleaning on Saturdays with the Doors playing until the house shook.  And when the sun went down, there was laughter from the wet bar downstairs, beneath the spiral staircase.  The music would float in from the patio, sometimes, with light flooding the backyard from the gazebo, where the men would sit shrouded in cigar smoke.

But with entertaining comes the trappings of hosting — the plates and glasses and napkins and All Those Things.  And when I was married, Andrew and I had reached a sort of Critical Mass of Kitchen and Bar Accoutrements.  We had both come into the relationship with complete households of our own; had received numerous wedding gifts, and purchased things along the way.  We’d gotten to the point where our miniature-but-large-for-Tribeca-kitchen was completely overrun with Stuff.

How many melon ballers do two people need?  How many spoonulas do we have? Do we really need two food processors? I want to buy another roasting pan, mine’s too small. I think we should get more dessert plates. We need to complete our set of china.

We finally had to make a pact not to buy any more stuff.  Places like Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table were off-limits. We were…all full up, as my Pittsburgh-native father might say.

When Andrew and I split, it was handy to have collected all that crap over the years.  We had at least two of everything, and then some; as if our collecting the bits and pieces of a household was meant to feather a nest.  But no amount of spoonulas and melon ballers was going to make that happen.

I recently went into a Williams Sonoma to look for a gift for someone, and realized how long it had been since I’d been in one of those stores — it had probably been years.  It seemed strange to be in an accepting place; to be standing in the middle of Williams Sonoma, thinking needs and wants, and contemplating the reality of my post-marital home.

It’s strange, you know.  You think that once you’re married, there’s a sort of end — no more first kisses; no more romantic beginnings, at least not in that same first-timey kind of way.  And I can’t really say that there are many good things about divorce.  Heaven knows I would not recommend it to anyone.

But one good thing — one clear positive — of all of this, is that I’ve realized that my house is a home not because of the things I put into it, but in spite of them.  And the space I’ve cleared for the spoonulas and the melon ballers and the appetizer plates and cocktail stirrers…that’s all incidental to the nest that I’ve built with these hands, and this heart, and this will to survive this crazy time.

And I suppose that makes for just as good (if not better) a foundation for entertaining as anything Sur la Table has to offer.

1 Comment

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  1. Have you noticed the content of your dinner party conversations changing, or improving, in some important quality following this major change-period of life? Do you remember the content of your parents’ party conversations well enough to compare them to yours? As I think about the way you described your home, nest, and foundation I wonder how that manifests in your entertaining.
    I think I already know how it will affect mine, whenever I finally have a home to entertain in again.

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