Most of our visits are just evenings, sparkling into the night, but last year we said goodbye to our beloved Diane, who moved away. Whenever she comes home, her visits are worthy of a sleepover. I had fun spiffing up the house, making up spare beds, planning the menu. Our gatherings are potlucks, but the hostess makes a little extra. I decided on a fondue, bread, veggies, and birthday cake for the fall birthdays. I threw gardening into the mix (for warmer meetings we always drift out to the garden of the hostess to admire whatever’s blooming). Inspired by my other Nancy in Indiana (different friend, similar bond) I decided to turn this reunion into a plant exchange. We would dig peonies to border my new path to the front door and for my friends to take home.
An overnight get-together has a different quality—more spread out. Starting in the afternoon, we take advantage of the daylight. Nancy and Diane arrived in time to help me with the last of my chores. Diane frosted her own birthday cake while Nancy made up the beds. Diane worried about the laundry on the line—we would probably forget about it and then the dew would come and wet it again—so she took it down while I looked for the leaves for the dining room table. Joan arrived as we were expanding the table, and soon it was covered with our feast. We pulled out wine glasses and popped corks, and Cheryl and Gretchen arrived. We took the party outside in the afternoon sunlight, and soon were broken into groups to wander around the yard. I told Diane that I had wanted to mow around the fire pit so we could have a bonfire later, and she said, “Go ahead and do it, then.” I went to the barn to get the mower, grateful for friends who didn’t mind my last minute chores.
For our regular events we tend to stick together—all hang out in the same room all evening, but for an overnight we weave in and out of conversations beginning in one part of the house and migrating to the yard to watch the deer grazing in the back field. Pockets of banter become part of a colorful tapestry. We ate and drank and laughed and wandered, and suddenly it was dark. I decided to move the party out to the fire pit. Sometimes you just have to take charge, and I delegated tasks (you bring the s’more stuff; you two go get chairs from the table; you take this newspaper and matches) and soon we had a little fire going. We roasted marshmallows and ate s’mores. Someone heard the coyotes start up, a sound beyond the range of my hearing aids. Someone started singing Beetles and Cat Stevens songs. Someone started with the gratuitous swearing, cursing like only middle-aged women can curse. The dogs joined us, Isis to lie just behind my chair, Ursula to circle hopefully, eyeing the graham crackers. I went inside for something, handing off the bag of s’more fixings to Gretchen. “Guard this with your life,” I said. “Why?” she asked, but it was already too late. Ursula slipped into the circle, grabbing the marshmallows and running into the dark. Chaos ensued. Eventually, someone caught the dog and retrieved the marshmallows. The singing and swearing resumed. Joan began scouting the yard for more firewood. She had one of those mini-headlamps, and would take off into the dark, and several minutes later we’d see the glowing lamp returning. Joan would be dragging a large tree branch she found somewhere. She called for a saw and kept the fire fed for hours until we had sung and sweared ourselves out.
The next morning after a potluck brunch, we began to disperse. Nancy and Diane stayed to help mulch my new path. We bordered it with Peonies and Nancy’s Sedum. I’m already thinking of excuses to have another sleepover. Finding time in these hectic days for community and friendship can be a challenge, but it is well worth it.Celebrate Beauty; Assemble in Peace; Blessed Be.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in social justice and community and her own back yard.