It’s just past 10 pm on Sunday night, and I have just finished cleaning up and putting away the platters and last remnants of last night’s annual gathering of ladies at my home, otherwise known as THE GIRLY PARTY. I have been hosting this for many, many years, as an excuse to kick off the holiday season and celebrate together, but, more so, as an excuse for those who put others first, to take a night for themselves, during what is often the craziest time of year.
Many years ago, I attended a gathering at a neighbors home that changed the way I see things. I had a newborn, and could barely get myself out on a Saturday night after commuting, working a long week, taking care of things on the homefront, trying to get a sitter, etc. It was out of the norm for me to remove myself from such responsibilities, and I hesitated to attend; My neighbor wouldn’t take no for an answer, and so, with a blown glass candy dish in hand, I went. It was a lovely evening, with a houseful of women, who brought beautiful gifts of Christmas from around the world, one more exquisite than the next. I had no idea there was a theme. They mingled, laughed, drank, and then played a game, politely at first, and then all of them let loose! As the night went on, they chastised each other, but lovingly, as it became apparent that they had known each other for years. I was one of two newbies, playing along, and learning the ropes. Of course as the only one who didn’t celebrate Christmas, it was certain that I was going to go home with something “Santa extraordinaire”, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Like I said, the gifts were exquisite, and picked with care. The evening flew by, I met some lovely ladies, ate well, thanked my hostess, and headed home with mon Pere de Noel. I was invited the following year, but couldn’t attend for some reason that I don’t recall. That spring, that same neighbor’s 14 year old son took his own life, and all of the lives in our little neighborhood cul de sac were changed forever. We remained friends, but grief brings great change, and though life goes on, it does so somewhat more dimly.
I decided that there aren’t enough moments of laughter in between all of the responsibility and seriousness that life causes, and I couldn’t have been more right on the money. I think, often, of all of the things that happen over the course of a year…all of the intentions to get together, the lunches that never come together, the dates that conflict, the distance, the busy seasons, the priorities, the cancelled plans, and the medical emergencies, and worse. We women are the CEOS of our households and the hours are tough and often long, but if we don’t take a break, no one is going to tell us to. We are super women…we do it all, and we put ourselves last. Therefore, we owe it to each other to be the ones to take care of each other, and sometimes that takes a push to not accept no for an answer. Over the years, the crowd has dwindled from over two dozen women, to roughly 17, to about a dozen. Even some of the faces have changed, as relationships have, but what doesn’t is the laughter that comes from these women who all work as professionals, and have families and households. They all care for others; Some who need great care, and all of them have been through trying times with their own families, relations, and even themselves…victorious because of whom they are, and how they keep on keeping on. There are a few rules that go along with this evening …Dress in what makes you comfortable, bring something edible to share, or don’t. Bring a gift, but it is valued at $20, and please don’t spend more (this has never changed, even though it’s been decades), no spouses, no children, and no curfew. Anyone who wants to crash for the night is welcome to as well. Allergies and intolerances are accommodated, and I shop and cook for days; hors d ouevres and dips and spreads only, but lots of them, so everyone can mingle, refill, and sit comfortably. There’s been punch, or sangria, the room is lit by candlelight, the decor is festive and shiny (afterall, I love glitter) and no one has EVER left early. I believe the record stay is around 3:30 am, or a bit later, which is pretty amazing when one realizes that it’s talking with others that keeps the girls there, and everyone leaves with a heart full of laughter, great memories, and a gift “that any girl would love”. We barely have room for dessert and coffee, but that’s provided as well. I love the care that goes into what each of my friends choose to bring, as we are the Queens of our own kitchens, and the best shoppers in town, but there’s no pressure. I have many that still turn me down, year after year, or won’t commit on an ongoing basis, and those that cancel the day of, which, I admit, drives me absolutely and completely nuts for so many reasons, and just stinks after all that preparation, but there are a staple of about 10 that always come, and know the date that same night for the following year, but, they are the ones that “get it”, and know that their souls will be nourished by the laughter, when the others just haven’t caught on. These fabulous women know, firsthand, that laughter is THE BEST way to feed the soul and they know they can count on their souls being well fed.