I like to entertain. It’s not that I like to be the center of attention or that I want to show off or that I’m such a good cook that I want to share the greatness with friends (because I’m really not). I’m a homebody at heart but I like to be surrounded by people I enjoy, so having those people, in twos or threes or greater numbers, at my house seems just about right to me.
I’ve been doing this for a while — I used to have big Christmas parties with a friend in high school — but it wasn’t really anything unusual. Growing up in North Carolina, I took it for granted that lovely parties would be thrown to celebrate happy occasions. My mother and her friends very generously open their homes and iron their napkins to celebrate birthdays, brides, babies and anything else that requires a glass raised. I remember my own bridal shower very fondly for both the lilies on the table and the pitchers of whiskey sour (thank you Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. McKeever!). We knew some incredible hostesses in Washington as well. Matt’s boss served champagne with crabs and potato chips next to the Chesapeake Bay — an improbable yet perfect pairing for a sunny afternoon.
Vermont is, in nearly every way, very casual: denim, fleece and their party equivalent: potlucks. We’ve really enjoyed both hosting and attending casual gathering of all sorts and sizes with friends here in Middlebury. And what I’m about to say next should in no way be read as a denigration of those terrific afternoons and evenings. But sometimes — maybe it’s the North Carolina in me coming out — I just think it’s time to light some candles, shine some silver, and have a real party party. So Matt and I do that every year around this time.
In addition to giving me an excuse to wear high heels and things that sparkle, having a big party is my way of celebrating the community that we’re lucky to be a part of here. And of saying thank you to all the people who make it special. It’s a way to reconnect with friends that we haven’t seen in a while, and to chat more with new friends than there’s ever time for on a regular day. Life changes a lot in the span of a year, and it’s nice to take a minute to celebrate all that’s happened. It’s also nice to load the table with too many good things to eat and too much to drink and to stay up too late, even though we’re all going to be up early in the morning. A party (if it’s a success) is like a gift that you give to your guests. A gift of time and fun and food and drink and friends and an excuse to get a babysitter and let someone else put the kids to bed. And who doesn’t like presents?
Decking the halls does take some effort and there’s always a moment of chaos the afternoon of a big shindig that makes me question my sanity. (Why have I invited so many people to my house?) There’s always a moment that flirts with disaster. (Last year I charred the nuts I was trying to toast and nearly burned the house down. Seriously.) I usually end up opening the first bottle of wine about three hours before the party even starts. But in the end, having a houseful of happy, laughing (tipsy) people makes me very happy. And when we’re mopping up in the wee hours of the morning, I know we’ll do it all again. The sooner the better.