This evening’s dinner party in Ottawa was unusual for a number of reasons. Among other things, my sister was hosting her own birthday party. As odd as this might sound at first blush, the truth is that it made a good deal of sense. To begin, my mother is getting too elderly to have to cater family dinner parties any more. In addition it does my parents good to get out of the house for a social event now and again, something different from going to the hospital for yet another check-up or examination. My sister also enjoys show-casing her attractive home especially now that her kitchen has been entirely remodelled at considerable expense.
All of us (we were eleven at table) contributed in one way or another to the evening repast, though my sister and her husband provided the central features of fresh salmon and filet mignon. The guests were, as should be the case for any proper birthday party, a collection of both immediate family and close friends (one of whom most of us hadn’t seen for almost twenty years or more, but the ties remain strong to the day). Balancing the group were people both young (24 years of age) and old (92 years of age), though I calculate the median age to have been 52.
The evening transpired very much as one would expect at such a gathering. Within moments of everyone having arrived, the subject of drinks immediately surfaced. There were martinis, Bloody Caesars and wine. Two of us (my abstemious father and I) drank nothing stronger than water and decaf coffee for the entire evening. Over drinks and hors d’oeuvres everyone got caught up with the others’ recent comings and goings. In these intimate family ventures the need to know is always more pressing than in more estranged social congregations. It is considered almost imperative to acquaint one’s self with the personal details of such close relations and friends.
Though the party commenced as scheduled at 6:30 p.m. it wasn’t until something approaching eight o’clock that we were summoned to table to dine. Once our respective plates were amply charged, we collectively got down to the business of eating with little delay (apart from the recital of a Latin grace, a less than serious family tradition inherited from my boarding school days). The red and white wine continued to flow fairly profusely at table. Everyone agreed that each particle of food was splendid. There was an especial run on the Caesar salad.
After dessert and coffee we retired to the withdrawing room for the ceremony of watching my sister open her numerous cards and gifts, all of which we then dutifully passed about from one to the other for further examination, inspiring various oohs and aahs along the way.
By ten o’clock people were beginning to get restless and the party broke up amidst hugs and kisses and profusion of thanks. As we had chauffeured my parents to the event we headed first for their house in the West end before returning to the country and the quiet streets and cool evening air. Altogether a thoroughly enjoyable evening!