August 27, 2010 § 2 Comments
The best part of the party is the food, although there is no fancy catering, not unless you count the pig-roasting people with their huge iron roaster. Everyone merely brings a dish with them and there’s always more than enough to go around. It’s a day to meet up with old friends; to participate in a sack race and an egg toss with a 5 year old and lose because while there’s over two feet of height separating us, there’s not that much difference in our coordination. For this party, I know to leave my stylized outfits at home and spend the day running around in jeans and sneakers. My feet get muddy because we always end up kicking the soccer ball around and I don’t care. Kelli, Bernadine, and Matt coerce me into entering a pie eating contest and I bravely smash my face into the vanilla pudding layers, regardless of mascara and lip gloss and cameras. There’s no high society standard here, no happy hour cats with spiteful comments and poison-green martinis. No one at this party air-kisses my cheek and exclaims, while their eyes rake me up and down. I can clamber onto the rope swing like the children and jump off into nothing; let the wind rush past my face and snarl my hair. I climb a tree and get sticky sap on my hands; I walk in the woods and feel the air in my lungs when I breathe and the strength in my muscles. Matt cooks me a hot dog on the grill and burns it black, just the way I like it. I douse it in ketchup and mustard and eat it slowly because I’m too busy laughing with friends, dancing like a goof, or holding Jeanne’s baby girl, seven months old now. She gurgles at me and wraps her fat little fingers around my necklace.
Later, Paul and I sit with his younger sister Maria on the two gliders on the porch and he tells us about his years in Rome. Darkness is falling as I wrap my arms around my knees and listen to his stories of the seminary, of touring the great basilicas, taking siestas, and hunting octopus in the warm sea. Of seeing St. Peter’s Square, walking across it in a line with four hundred other men, all of them with one desire in common: to bring Christ’s Presence to us all, every day. He’s being sent to Detroit now and I make it clear to him that under no circumstance is he allowed to become a Red Wings fan. Well, maybe for the purpose of evangelization, I tell him, but nothing less will do.
I finally leave the party around ten o’clock at night, with more than one plate of desserts on the car seat next to me. I ran through the day in my head, like mental snapshots, trying to pick out my favorite moments. I find one thought that stuck out in my mind from the entire day. I was playing with Abigail, Jeanne’s baby, and talking with my friends. This is what I want in life, I had thought, as I shifted her baby weight in my arms and gently untangled her fingers from my hair. Family. Friends. Sincerity and warmth.
Kindle Update: Reading the complete set of Father Brown mystery stories by G.K. Chesterton on the Kindle right now. Very good, and a steal at only $1.49 on Amazon!