Three Weeks

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

Edith Sitwell

Pemetic Trail, Acadia National Park

Last night, I helped some new friends throw a benefit party for their 17 year old daughter who is taking the huge leap of moving to Italy for six months, all on her own. We decorated the Neighborhood House, a huge old building dominated by flying buttresses of darkly stained wood and semi-Tudor looking windowpanes, a large stage, a room with couches and a fireplace, another room with a wrap-around window seat and a fireplace, and a few porches thrown in for good measure. Strung in the buttresses are many white Christmas lights, and along the dark paneled walls are sconce lights: both of which you can dim.

Hamilton Pond, Norway Drive (and my fingertip!)

We set up tables and chairs and I put many tiny red chrysanthemums into old glass bottles. Teenagers covered the tables with white paper, set candles inside jam jars and decorated the tables with fir boughs and tiny pine-coned branches that wrapped, perfectly, around the jam jars and the bottles with flowers. We set up a kids’ room with coloring pages and chairs and comfy pillows and made sure there were games in the closets. I watched as my new friends cooked for 100 people: no small feat. I watched as antipasto plates, bruschetta, pasta, salad and tiramisu all came out of that kitchen; all made with love by 4 people for 100 people in their community who loved that girl and wanted to send her to Italy for six months, maybe more.

The Old Dairy Barn, Norway Drive & The Crooked Road

I did my best to help where help was needed: pouring wine and running errands, grabbing bottles of wine and tiny boxes, setting up the silent auction, wrangling little children hiding in corners and making sure they all ate something. I made luminaries with sand from the beach at Clifton Dock and taught three little girls how to use a barbeque lighter to light them without lighting the bags on fire. As we finished, the youngest said to me, “I want to light a bag!” and so, that wonderful spirit of pyromania is born.

Lichen and Reindeer Moss on Tree Branches

I ran home and raided my cabinets for jam jars and tea lights and whatever else would be useful. I tried to stop my friend from working too hard at her own party by taking wine bottles out of her hands to serve people so that she could visit. I bussed the tables and re-organized the silent auction as it got steadily messier throughout the evening. I occasionally stopped and visited with people, including a strange woman who is writing a book on inappropriate baby names, met some neighbors, saw my landlords and met their grandchildren, who, earlier, I saw driving their minivan across the driveway and it reminded me of kids in Texas driving trucks as soon as their feet could hit the peddles.

Seal Harbor, Incoming Tide

At the end of the night, though, was when it happened. There was a kindergartner in attendance, and her name was Olive, and earlier we had played that age old game of lifting her up in the air and tossing her a little bit before catching her and plunking her down on the ground: we did this four times. This was apparently the key to her heart, because at nine o’clock when the dancing started, she came up to me and started shrieking, “Conga Line!”. And so there we were, a 32 year old woman and a 5 year old girl, failing at starting a conga line during Blind Melon’s “No Rain”. And although we failed at a conga line, and I after a while let go of her little shoulders so that she could dance with other little kids, I looked around and realized that a year ago, I was living in a place that I had a lot of ill feelings about, and right now I was dancing in a darkened room, under a disco ball and red and green lights with a group of 20 near-strangers and I was the happiest I had been in who knows how long. In that moment,  I felt part of this community and I had to turn away from the person I was talking to just for a minute and look at the ceiling because I started to tear up at the thought of it.

A Poster in a Window on Market Street, Philadelphia

I looked around and saw teenagers being nerds and dancing to silly songs, and little girls in party dresses spinning each other around, and parents who were drunk and happy to be so, and a whole group of people who were there just to celebrate and send off one of their young ones to the next phase of her life. Watching them, I was so happy to be in a place that felt like home, after so long; a place where, if I want to, these people will take care of me and I them, where I will belong.

The Northeast Harbor Fleet

I walked home to my apartment, and went for a walk and danced and skipped through the streets, so happy that I could dance and skip through the streets and no one would see. I stared up at the stars and saw the faithful arm of the Milky Way that streaks North-South across the sky every night that it is clear enough to see. I walked out to the shore and stared at a lighthouse and realized…

It is amazing what three weeks can do. Home.

The Shelf Above My Bed

A Winged Heart – – – Neckpiece currently under construction

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