All of us who live alone although close to family and at times sharing seasonal celebrations know that we have a core of friends who are not just an alternative to relatives. They may know us better and even love us more!
In light of this fact, I gave a “Thanksgiving for Friends”—about thirty of them—at my house on Saturday night. This is a wonderful heterogeneous group of people; my piano teacher, the terrific interviewer from the local radio station, the man who owns the best furniture store in town, the couple who run the mail service center that is essential to my working life, and old friends who have been with me through thick and thin and a good deal of things of late—all were gathered together at round tables covered with bronze-colored tablecloths, with the previous generation’s silver candlesticks, which I almost never use, polished and set out for the occasion. And I had a “party dress”—there’s never any use for that kind of costume here in Santa Fe—and a hair-do and make-up job all of which helped to quell the inevitable jitters attending giving a party alone.
Something my mother, bless her, would never have considered doing. I think she would have viewed a host-less party as a sort of blasphemy. She always dreaded being asked to include a single woman, divorced, widowed, or never married, because such a person would make an uneven number at the table, a sure cause of bad luck. It didn’t have to be the number thirteen; unevenness was the problem.
I think I may be uneven by nature—I rather like the idea! I certainly find myself most at home with others who live on the fringe, by choice, friends who are too original, too outsiderish, too non-conforming to fit into the social dance. Of course we sometimes feel uncomfortable, as though our unevenness is a badly fitting pair of shoes, pinching our toes, but on better days, and nights, we rejoice in being “weird” and in living in a city that is sometimes (although rarely now) called “different.”
Santa Fe, which has doubled in size since I moved her almost 22 years ago, is probably inevitably losing its differentness under the merciless pressure of development. It seems inevitable as more and more people crowd in that they bring with them the odor of ordinariness, in the form of huge houses in “gated communities.” I doubt if a community can ever exist, gated; the essence of a community is unpredictable inclusiveness.
I photographed the tables before people began to arrive, at least to give a sense of the scene as it was set up to receive my precious friends.