A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bottle Chandelier?

I am very interested in found objects: hubcaps, for example. A hubcap on a car is a utilitarian object; a hubcap on the side of the road is trash. A hubcap on a wall is art, or is at least making a claim to be.

Bottles are another such item. As a container for wine or some other liquid, a bottle is a useful object. After that, it's a recyclable at best; junk at worst. Unless it's reclaimed to lead another life as an object d'art.

Perhaps because I'm the lucky steward of a fifteen-foot-square stained glass window, I'm particularly interested in colored glass these days. I'm finding it hard to throw out any but the most uninspired clear bottle lately. I'm seeing visions of rose windows made of bottles, like the one I read about in The Most Beautiful House in the World. Or a patio surfaced with bottle bottoms. Or a bottle tree, like the ones that catch evil spirits down South. Or mulch made of fragments of tumbled glass, like some I noticed in Worcester last spring.

Here's a funky re-use for bottles, spotted at the Hampden House Café the other day. Unfortunately, it's kind of ugly. Not to mention a bit unnerving to sit under. I'm still not sure what the destiny of my collection will be, but it won't be a bottle chandelier.

Crucial Xgiving

I don't want to be the kind of mother or hostess who has to twist people's arms to get them to sit down at her table. With my kids grown and everybody spread all over the place, holidays can get stressful. Just the part about where to spend them, that is. Cordelia doesn't drive, and is pretty much at the mercy of whoever is willing to transport her. Ali has been cooking holiday dinners at Lindsay's house to discourage what he considers an abhorrent tendency to spend them in a restaurant. Amir is a member of the Crew, who are known to throw memorable bashes from time to time. So we keep it flexible at the Emory House, choosing a day every holiday season when everyone can be together without having to give up another gathering.

For the past three years, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been the lucky November day. It's vegetarian and beyond amazing, so we call it Crucial Xgiving.

I had invited a lot of people this year, but I wasn't sure who'd actually show up. My own kids, definitely. My houseguests, who had nowhere else to go, definitely. Joanne and her houseguests, who had come 3000 miles just for this, definitely. But beyond that, I wasn't sure. Joanne and I had pretty much the same guest list, and it was possible that everyone would show up at her house for Thanksgiving, and then decide they had had enough holiday, and skip part deux at my house. Or maybe they'd not be able to make it to her house, so they'd be sure to show up on Saturday. Or attend both. Or neither.

I love parties--tea parties, cocktail parties, dinner parties. I don't mind going to a buffet supper or a potluck, but I don't like to give them. I like to do a sit-down dinner and make all the food myself. I don't want a guest of mine perching on a loveseat, trying to saw though a piece of something with a plastic knife while gravy dribbles onto my Persian rug. I don't want people eating standing up in the kitchen, juggling plates, napkins, and cups, while surveying the cluttered sinks and countertops.

It's hard to plan a rather formal dinner when you don't know how many people you're having, and when you haven't got a butler, a serving maid, and a couple of scullery hands. But at least I had energetic and talented houseguests. So I opened the pocket doors, put all the leaves in the dining room table, opened up four of my drop-leaf tables in the parlor, cooked up a storm, and hoped for the best.

I ended up with thirty people, and it was lovely. All the guests behaved, sitting down at the tables to eat, then spreading themselves evenly throughout the first floor in cozy groupings. Some lingered around the dining room table, within easy reach of the pies and cheesecake. Some gathered in the kitchen. Some lounged in the library, where the men kept a fire blazing all afternoon and evening.

A house as spacious as mine needs thirty people milling around in it from time to time. It really was the perfect setting for a holiday as New Englandy as Thanksgiving. Now the question is, do we do it again next year, or challenge one of the guests to take it forward? Thanksgiving in the desert, anyone?