The world around us seemed caught in a whirlwind of destruction and excitement for the past few weeks. I know that this is always the case if one looks far and wide, but Sandy and the elections brought the whirlwind closer to home. The monster storm mercilessly pounded the East Coast and we worried about our family and friends. We spent hours watching television.
Then came the election day and the built-up frenzy made us all a little crazy. Again, we spent hours watching television. The kids kept calling or texting from various parts of the country (Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois and Alabama) anxious and impatient at times, then celebratory and joyous. Obama won!
I had stayed up until two in the morning and was exhausted on Wednesday, but was happy and hopeful for the first time in many months. Someone in our family suggested that we have a victory party. Why not?
So, my nephew Sasha came home for the weekend, and we invited three old friends to spend the evening with us.
The weather has been balmy, in fact it has been ridiculously warm all week, so Jeff decided to barbecue. He and Joe slowly cooked chicken, Italian sausages, sirloin steak and hamburger meat on the grill, while talking and sipping beer. I made salads in the kitchen: potato salad with onions and fresh dill; shredded cabbage with radishes and cilantro.
My sister Branka spent the day baking. Every once in a while, when things seem to get especially out of control and we all need extra love and nurture, my sister reins us in with the flavors and the aroma of her baklava, walnut and jam cookies, or flat Serbian peasant bread (pogaca.) And so if was on Saturday.
By five o clock the large dinning table had been set with my sister’s delicate bone china, the lights dimmed, and our friends started arriving with bottles of red wine, desserts (apple cake and blueberry pie) and a lovely side dish of cuscus and roasted vegetables.
The evening was ahead of us.
My favorite part of any gathering is the early hour of the evening, before dinner even starts.
This is how it usually is at our house: everyone sits in what feels to me like a magic circle of the sofa and the soft chairs of the living room, adults holding glasses of plum brandy or wine. We sit and we talk, and we have all the time in the world. Conversation meanders here and there, easy and spontaneous and the three generations of our little group are as comfortable and interested in each other as only dear old friends can be.
And as I lean back into the sofa, relaxed and content, sipping red wine, I marvel again at how impossible it is to force the kind of atmosphere that envelops the people in this room. It has taken many years to build up the trust and understanding between us. What we give each other on this ordinary Saturday evening is something magical, precious and unrepeatable.
It gives me strength to face the week.The Dinner Table, Henry Matisse