eight humans spending the night
Saturday, August 3 2013
Earlier this week the weather forecast for late this week and into the weekend was rain, which would have been a tragedy with all the guests who were supposed to be coming. But in the end, the forecast changed and today was sunny and cool.
After the usual delays (and people with kids always move very slowly), our guests started arriving at around 6:30pm. They consisted of two familes: David the Rabbi and his wife Lynne with their two kids, and Gretchen's childhood friend Dina, her husband Gilaud, and their two kids. That's right, we'd be hosting eight people in our house overnight. The adults would be sleeping in the two guest rooms and the kids would be camping in sleeping bags on the floor of Gretchen's big basement library (which is between those two guest rooms).
As always, our dogs (particularly Ramona) were very excited at the arrival of our guests, but little kids are often freaked out by Ramona initially. She comes charging up and all she wants to do is lick you in the face (if you're a kid, she doesn't do things she does with adults: rear up onto you and take your arms in her mouth). David and Lynne's kid Sam, who is maybe three or four years old, was reduced to a screaming, terrified, blubbering mess. So primitive was his reaction that I actually found myself assuming he hadn't yet learned how to speak. But then his mother Lynne asked him to articulate his fears and he listed them in a series of complete English sentences. His main concern was that Ramona would lick him, and this turned him into a demanding little tyrant for much of the evening. He would demand to be carried on the chance that Ramona might come up to him. Later, whenever scream-crying could be heard in the distance, it was probably Sam throwing a fit because Ramona had come down to hang out with the kids.
Not unexpectedly, Gretchen had prepared a wide range of vegan foods, including two fermented cheeselike spreads. We ate these out on the east deck. Initially we were drinking Lillet on ice (thanks, Susan the German translator), but later moved on to what little beer was in the refrigerator. Considering all the people who had descended on our house, a surprisingly small amount of food or liquor had been brought. David & Lynne had brought a bottle of chipotle-flavored vodka, but that's not an easy thing to incorporate into a beverage that anyone would actually want to drink. After the beers had all been drunk, I kept mostly to SporTea spiked with a small amount of 160 proof Devil's Springs vodka.
Before dinner, Gretchen had us all go outside for a fun country activity, the picking of beans from our garden. We had lots of Provider Bush Beans and Northeaster Pole Beans, the latter of which I'd carefully trained to grow in an elaborate web along the north and west sides of the main garden patch. The kids mostly harvested the bush beans, which they did at a very slow pace with surprisingly little destruction. The pole beans could only be harvested by adults, who ended up destroying a good bit of my careful vine training. I'd say it was due to klutziness and agricultural ignorance were it not for the fact that I destroyed as much of the vines as anyone. The result, though, was a huge pot of beans that Gretchen immediately cut up and cooked. Our dinner consisted of those beans, French onion pie, salad, and probably other things.
Once they were done eating, the kids all disappeared into the basement and played completely unsupervised. At some point Dina expressed concern about this and Gretchen reminded her of how she and her used to play unsupervised at that same age and nothing bad ever came of it. I know I'm not the only person who has observed that American culture has gotten more anxious and helicoptery about children, but it's a trend that both Gretchen and I find unfortunate. In any case, house rules seemed to apply, and the kids did whatever they did in privacy, babysitting themselves and not dumbing down our conversation merely though their presence. When necessary, they used scream-crying as their safe word, and an adult would hustle down and see what could possibly be the matter.
Once darkness had firmly established itself, a few mosquitoes started appearing and it was possible to hold them off a bit by lighting candles around the perimeter. But it was also a bit chilly to be outside, so eventually we moved indoors and I ran a hot cardboard fire in the woodstove.
After several attempts, the kids were finally all put to sleep (and by that, I do not mean it as a euphemism for euthanasia) and it was adult time. We were drinking port and Jameson and talking about grown-up things, including what it's like to have a parent in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease (and I wasn't even talking about my crazy mother). One interesting thing I learned in the course of all this conversation was that Chelsea Clinton and her newish (now rumored soon-to-be-ex) husband had, for several years, attended all the services for the high holy days at the synnagogue where David is the rabbi.
[This is the first full entry typed on a new keyboard. My old one had become a little unreliable.]
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