The greatest of all social activities (according to yours truly) is the dinner party. I love throwing them. I love attending them.
All good dinner parties go something like this: you arrive early--as one of the first attendees. You offer to help. Sometimes you cut things up. Sometimes you just pour a glass of white wine and eat bread or veggies and you keep the hostess, or the other guests, company. You tell some amusing stories. You listen to some amusing stories. You catch up with other people who tell you how things are going at work, or about their recent kitchen remodel. You pour another glass of white wine.
At some point you, and all the other attendees, move around the table. You all ooh and aww (sincerely) over the spread that has been prepared for you with love. You move onto red wine. There is confusion over which way to pass the bowls and platters. The hostess flits around and everyone tells her to sit down. The food is interesting and delicious, and there is too much of it. You make a mental note to ask for the recipe for the spinach and chickpea dish.
People start to migrate outside--smokers first. But everyone eventually. People break up into smaller groups, and conversation turns to larger topics. Everything seems more serious, more important. You begin to ask personal questions of the guy-you-don't-know-well, and he answers them without seeming self-conscious. You drink more wine and think about how much you like this person.
Someone brings you dessert that you can't possibly finish yourself, so you share it. And you begin to wonder where the person you came with has disappeared to.
Eventually you see someone stretch and yawn. She needs to get up early tomorrow; she's had a long day. There is a little exodus, and you are sad to see people leaving, but you are sort of happy that the party has become more intimate. The remaining guests gather together, joined by the hostess, who, finished with serving dessert, just wants to rest and drink a little. Conversation becomes more general again, but not trivial. Everyone is comfortable, and beginning to get sleepy.
The last remaining couple gets ready to leave--but this is your favorite part of the night. You can't leave the hostess with a mess. You, and your companion for the evening, bring in empties, scrape plates, fill the dishwasher. It doesn't take long. Your hostess seems pleased. You feel accomplished. You tell her what a pleasure it was, how much you enjoyed it, remind her that you want the spinach and chickpea recipe.
She walks you both to the door and turns off the outside light when you get to the car. You drive your companion home and you debrief. You talk about conversations you had, who you enjoyed, what dishes you really liked. You sit outside his house and talk about his recent dating life until he's ready to go to bed.
You drive home--tired (but no longer drunk) and full and happy. You listen to a mix of mellow, end-of-evening music (Sam Beam singing "you're the only shape I'll pray to") and you begin stripping. You take your hair clips out, your earrings out, your sweater off. You stumble through the door and throw keys down, turn out the lights on your way upstairs--kick off shoes and pull your dress over your head and fall into bed.
You close your eyes and see the climbing vine entangled with Christmas lights on the deck at your hostess' house.