Friday, September 12, 2008

An Evening in September

John Koch, The Cocktail Party, 1956

Mr. Muscato and I gave a party last night. We hadn't thought about the date when we decided to have it, and it was only in sending the invitation that I realized, and just said "do come this Thursday," rather than putting in the date.

All day, getting ready, during those hours when thoughts of Clarissa Dalloway hover 'round as one buys flowers, discovers that one of the glasses is cracked, worries that the food won't be enough or won't taste well together or simply will be vile, on and on, I thought about about the day. Mr. Muscato is the cook, so front-of-house is my responsibility, and I kept stopping to remember, as I moved chairs around and tried to recall where I'd put the candle-lighter, the way seven years before had felt.

Of course, it was not encouraging. We cannot - blessedly - go back to the raw horror of it, the visceral fear (I was in Washington, close enough to hear the boom and feel the shake a mile or so away even as we watched, puzzled, what was happening in Manhattan). In the years since, God knows, we've had enough additional nastiness, large and small, to almost obscure what seemed at the time the Great Dread Moment that would define us for a very long time.

As the evening wore on, the guests arrived, we waited - for this was a Ramadan dinner, an Iftaar, the breaking of the fast at sunset - for the evening prayer call before starting, and I looked, as one does, at the rooms full of people brought together (with the flowers and the candles, the polished silver and even the cracked glass), and did feel encouraged. Here we were, mostly far from home, one way or another, from half-a-dozen countries, almost as many faiths, 8 to 70-something, eating and drinking (juice only, for we are very proper this time of year), Koko buzzing excitedly around scrounging scraps, talking and laughing and carrying on with our lives.

Call it a Whoville Moment, sentimental, foolish: they tried to take all this away, and failed. So there. But it's so. And tomorrow it's back to work, and on with life, and perhaps, if we're lucky, come November the Greatest Nation will make decisions that will prove helpful, and we shall see. In the meantime, we have flowers in the dining room and the poor dog, replete, will likely sleep for days.

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