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Posts Tagged ‘parties’

Oh ho.  Thanksgiving is the best holiday if you ask me, even better than Christmas. We do sort of a “progressive dinner” for Thanksgiving, as they call it.  Since so many of us live close to each other, we each host a different part of the feast at different houses. So, we start at my Aunt Jean’s house. Appetizers and snacks and the parade and football on tv. It’s hard not to get too carried away with all the good hot artichoke dip and cheese on crackers and the like. All the kid cousins get together and play games and put black olives on their fingers and pretend to be frogs. Then, we bundle up, get in our caravan of cars and trucks, and head over to mom’s house for the main part of the dinner. The kids and adults alike lift their noses, the turkey smells fill the house. We stomp the snow or rain off our boots and hang up a hundred wet, cold jackets and hats and mittens and scarves and they hang all crooked and dripping in the now-abandoned entry way. Everyone is talking and hugging and laughing at once, even though we already did that, but it’s like we have started over again and are all happy to do so. The kitchen is a tornado of people stirring mashed potatoes and getting more forks and pouring wine and slicing bread. Most of us have the good sense to stay out of the way and watch, or talk about nothing in particular, as we all wait for the moment that golden-brown bird comes sizzling out of the oven. Dad has to cut it up, it’s tradition. And furthermore, we all have to stand and watch. Heck, tradition is the name of the whole day. It’s funny how we all get such a kick out of the idea of doing the same exact thing on the same day every year. As if we are all tired of the ups and downs of life, so we pick a time and place and say, ‘This day will never change.’ Weeks before, we get excited just thinking about eating the same dishes, having the same conversations with the same people, feeling the same way as last year. Anyways, the kids get their own table, and the adults take turns keeping an eye on them. As forks and napkins and plates and cups all migrate to the tables, we follow close behind, knowing that the moment is near. We all hold hands. Matt says a prayer. He starts off with the ever classic grace before dinner: Blessusourlordandthesethygiftswhichweareabouttorecievefromthybounty. (Either it just rolls off the tongue like water over a dam, or everyone says it as fast as possible to get to eating.) He then says the same prayer committed to memory- a psalm about giving thanks. Some of us hardly listen because we can’t wait to take that first bite of a forkful of turkey dipped in mashed potato and covered in gravy. I look sideways at Calvin squirming and licking his little red lips. We shout amen! and the quiet calm before the storm is over, as we rush the plates of food, a chorus of oh mys and this looks greats and I’ll have some more of thats. During the dinner, we usually go around and everyone says something they’re thankful for. Steph squeezes my hand anytime someone says ‘and a roof over my head…’

And we’re not even done yet because after everyone has gotten seconds and thirds and whined about eating too much; we clean up and prepare to make one more journey. We shove into the entry way and grab for our coats and fight over mis-matched gloves and shove into those old boots and we all slowly pour outside. It’s a shock to the system- the difference between inside and outside. Grandpapa gets a little quiet to listen to the snow fall off tree branches. Adam and Molly stand holding hands, marveling at how the white covered lawns reflect the soft window glow of the neighbors’ houses. Everyone in this neighborhood is still inside their homes, absorbed by good food and traditions. It feels illegal to be walking outside- like we are the only ones who know there’s a world out here. We only have to walk about six blocks to my sister’s house. It feels great to stretch and breathe in new air. We link arms or hold hands as the kids run a little ahead. When we arrive, folk’s glasses steam up as they cross the threshold. Kate’s dogs bark and jump, excited to see us. We beeline to the kitchen, to see many shiny pies lined up. Apple, cherry, pumpkin, cheesecake, mince meat, pecan, merengue. It’s better than a bakery. We take slices of our favorites, pour strong cups of coffee, and revel in the goodness of the day, with the pie being the icing on the thanksgiving cake. The youngest ones get sleepy and end up in a big pile of blankets and pillows and arms and legs and puppies on the living room floor. Everyone I love and the best food you can imagine, all in one day. It’s the best. Even better than Christmas if you ask me. When it’s my turn to say what I am thankful for, I often feel overwhelmed because I have so much to list off. I make sure to say thanks for the cooks, the dish washers, whoever invented tryptophan because it works better on kids than cough syrup, and the seamstress who made pants that will fit all our expanding bellies! I probably couldn’t say anything too serious anyways.

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(I am sorry to say that in hearing the word co-op, and it’s description, I imagine a lifestyle similar to the kind depicted in a reality tv show- a la MTV.  Bad romances, wild partying, drama abound.  Please tell me you can dissuade me of this stereotype. )

Ugh. So many people think this.  But it’s not so much that they will ask (so thanks for your direct question!), but I can just see the slight repugnance and disapproval in their eyes. I’ll bet it prevents a lot of people from considering shared housing as a lifestyle, when the reality of it can be so much more rewarding.  In fact, when I spend time in other people’s houses, I often daydream about how it would change if it were a co-op.  The household is more efficient: one person doesn’t have to shoulder the cost of everything, so bulk foods, taking turns cooking, utility bills, all get shared- making it easier and cheaper!  The house is more alive: the rooms and shelves are all full, instead of seeing whole rooms go forgotten, unused, neglected because the house is too big for two people or whatever.  It always produces more well-balanced citizens: everyday is a chance to learn a different way of doing things.  Okay, so the picture I paint in my imagination is a little pie-in-the-sky…Of course, conflicts occur.  Sometimes not everyone wants a disco dance party at 2 am.  Sometimes a housemate of two will get irritated at the number of times they’ve eaten vegan casserole that week.  Sometimes a certain housemate will sweep their downstairs neighbor off their feet, in a very short-lived romance (due to the walk of awkwardness to the breakfast table the next morning).  But everyone’s life has challenges, and I think the result of struggle and strife in a communal and intentional setting results in much more considerate and capable citizens.  I really really do.

(How do you handle all the details and responsibilities of a home, shared between so many interests?)

We have a four hour long meeting every Sunday night.  It sounds intense (and it can get that way!) but generally, we eat dinner, we vote through any number of things, someone facilitates.  It’s like any board of directors; everyone has a different role in the house, we take turns doing chores, we take meeting notes and have an agenda.  That stuff usually goes pretty quickly.  It’s the New Proposals section that eats up the whole evening.  I find it fun and fascinating. Shayna proposes we host a GLBTQ movie night.  She’s a little shy and nervous because she never presents much to the group.  Most people nod, until she names the date and time and gets a few loud protests: Not the weekend before midterms!  How many people did you say you wanted to invite?  100?! And she quickly loses her shyness and her cheeks get flushed and she defends herself fiercely.  These are the moments people become leaders, become advocates, become nay-sayers, draw lines in the sand, get defensive, get offensive, find personal truths or find ways to tell lies for what they believe in.  It’s an amazing thing to watch people develop passion and beliefs.  It’s why I work in politics- because I see politics and government in everyday life.  We (human beings) are constantly forming groups, defining ourselves and others through exclusion and inclusion, asking for leaders to make decisions for us, making trades and rules and rewards and punishments and credos and mission statements.  Whether consciously or not, humanity will always magnetically move towards and with one another, and whether the result of that particular interaction is thriving or decay, we will work at working together tirelessly.  Every politician, economist, historian has a different idea of the best way for us to live together on this little planet.  To me, the point is not the methods or approach.  The point is, we are not like tigers in the jungle who live singularly and alone.  We are not even like bees who live in huge, organized colonies with one collaborative purpose.  We are this funny little species; we like to ask questions and share the answers with each other; we’d rather work together, for better or for worse; we form preferences for mates and friends based on inexplicable reasons; our whole history as a species is an inquisitive step towards each other, and a refusal to completely run away no matter what we see.  It’s illogical and beautiful.

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Yes!  It’s a celebration that doesn’t really make sense anymore, and  I revel in the senselessness of it- the disconnect from our daily identities, the impossible amounts of sweets, a night when it’s not only acceptable but demanded that we walk the streets in large loud groups, passing through the amber circles of street and porch lights. Finally, we all get together and party, like Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, where neighbors are family and everyone walking by your door is a close friend.  But of course, here it’s much better than there- we’ve got warehouses of costumes and entire buildings devoted to liquor.  Two essential ingredients to my night last weekend.  Actually, I usually find a party is best described by the state of the house the morning after.  
Red plastic cups populate the living room in crumpled quiet.  A light bulb burns hot, forgotten even with the sunlight streaming in. The couch trades a rigid upright posture for sagging tired springs, and a crisp white towel for a limp leopard print bowtie.  It served guests with silent stoicism, but is now generally regarded with disgust.  What is under those cushions and smeared into the material- no one wants to know.  Three high heels, all unmatching, have flung themselves into various corners of the house.  The owners have not searched for them.  The kitchen is devoid of any space on a horizontal plane- the counters, the sink, the stove, even the shelves in the fridge are hidden beneath half-filled cups of mystery liquids, empty bottles of cheap vodka and cheaper beer, pizza slices and cupcakes stripped of their toppings.  A group of us gathers sometime late in the morning and a decision is made: we need food and coffee.  Stat.  So we find something decent to wear (Kat proudly keeps her lion tamer top hat on) and head to the diner.  Robbie’s got the hood of his sweatshirt up, a couple of us have sunglasses on to keep the morning-after headaches at bay, I toss back a few aspirin with my coffee.  And we re-live the night.  Reminding each other of our follies and victories.  Poking fun at connections made, commiserating over drinks lost to belligerence, glorifying the events before they can hardly be considered history.  Dude, it was awesome to watch whatever it was you were doing on the stairs… Did I really say that? … Girl, you looked like a super star wearing those suspenders and I know that Jake noticed…  By the time we are done eating, every single scene from the party has paraded in front of us again, even brighter and more clearly than in actuality.  For a moment, everything is so fun and young and alive, we don’t even think about the work it will take to get the sofa back to normal.  
(Haha! Sounds like college.  So, here’s a question for you: You mention “glorifying the events before they can even be considered history,” and with today’s social networking and picture sharing, it’s easy to re-live events and experience nostalgia at a much faster pace than ever before.  Do you think this affects the way you see your experiences?  Do you think it will ultimately be a good or bad thing?)
Well, for now, I think it’s great.  It’s like intentionally creating permanent memories- you can’t really forget what is fresh in your mind.  So replaying the party in our minds, cemented by the pictures put online the next day, help us maintain a really vivid experience.  It’s like in my English classes, where if you just read something, you get some percentage of the information in your brain.  But after to talk about it in class or ask a question, a higher percentage sticks in there.  Like experience is strengthened by keeping it active in our brains, or something. You know how you look at baby pictures and suddenly you “remember” that day you first rode your bike down the neighborhood sidewalk?  Well, what do you think are the odds you would have remembered that without the aid of the picture? How many details do you remember from college, and how much is just a hazy blend of everything?  I’m not saying that it’s good to remember everything…(We’ve all got memories we’d rather have buried…), and I’m not saying I have any idea of how this will affect us in the long run.  I just think that, for now, it’s pretty awesome.

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