To all those concerned that the table in the last post was a tad tight, I offer this image. Seems everyone is having a good time and no one's elbow is in his neighbor's soup.
But the concern reminded me of a charming book, The Party, by Sally Quinn whose name has been on the tips of many a stylish tongue of late. My sister-in-law, Lucy, worked for Ms. Quinn for a while and gave me the book for Christmas one year. The sub-title is "A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining." It was back in the day, during a time when Mr. Blandings and I had an annual Christmas party. It all started innocently enough.
We were married in October and as a way to show our appreciation to the people who had entertained for us during our engagement we threw a cocktail party. Between the two of us we did not own a Christmas ornament so I went to Wal-Mart and bought four boxes of gold balls in various sizes. We had been fortunate enough to receive many wedding presents from Hall's and their wedding wrap included yards and yards of wide, cream grosgrain ribbon which served as garland for the tree. We stocked the bar. Mr. Blandings cooked. It all seemed very grown up and quite fun.
The following year we decided it should be an annual event. Without the natural parameters of the previous year the list grew a bit. And the next year a bit more and, well, you can see where this is headed. It was a great mix of people, a few duds of course as there always are, but mostly a lively crowd with a cheerful disposition. Which was good because by the time I called it quits on the whole thing the guest list had reached about one hundred and seventy people. The Dream House is medium sized at best and while people came and went it was a crush. Keeping the bar stocked became an ongoing joke as we would buy based on consumption of the year before but never anticipated correctly. "Oh, darling, don't park in the driveway. I'm quite sure Mr. B will have to run to the liquor store."
It was the kind of party where you were not surprised to pass two gentleman trading ties in the living room. So when I came across Ms. Quinn's term "PRF" I knew just what she was talking about. The Blandings' Christmas party was a PRF.
Putting the Christmas party to rest was like putting down a beloved pet. All my memories were fond, but the reality was that the joy was gone. We held the party on the second Saturday of December. When we started having it we had nothing but our pesky jobs to distract us. I was giddy to pour over invitations. I was thrilled to order parrot tulips by the truck-load to fill the Christmas stockings. I wanted to spend an entire weekend trimming the tree as my ornament collection was now something of an obsession. Once the boys started showing up things got a little trickier. The second week in December is a popular time for school Christmas programs and parties and oh, by the way, I was no longer that fresh young bride, but now Santa Claus as well.
The first year that we didn't have it we would run into people, people who normally would have been invited and you could see that wary look. "Hey, so, what have you guys been up to?" "No, no, you haven't fallen off the list. We're not having the party." Mr. Blandings, for the first two years, referred to it as a "break." It's been five years since the last one and every Fall he says, "What do you think about the Christmas party this year?" I think the PRF should RIP.
Image, top, Christopher Spitzmiller. Illustration, next, Susan Davis from "The Party."