Sunday, January 2, 2011

Finding the Center

I used to entertain a lot.  Back in college, I was one of the few guys who lived off-campus, in my own apartment.  So a few times a year, I'd have a dinner party, and generally speaking, I'd wow my friends with a good meal.  That pattern continued after I graduated, hosting a small-ish group of friends, and sharing food I'd prepared for or with them.  And again, the reviews tended to be pretty favorable (except for that time I made a squid risotto which might be best described as intense).  I used to cook for dates, too, and that was a good look for me. And when I got married, the pattern continued, with dinner and cocktail parties hosted on a pretty regular basis.

Eventually, though, all of that ended.  My ex-wife and I had our first child, which meant that dinner parties weren't really practical anymore.  Adding our second child made that even more the case.  And somewhere in there, our relationship started to degrade, and I/we didn't really want to collaborate, or share my/our disintegrating home with friends, anymore.  Then came the collapse, and while the rubble was falling, opportunities to even consider entertaining were few and far between.

But eventually the collapse stopped, and I started getting out of the bunker again. Mostly, I'd meet people out, or go to their place.  But without really thinking about it, over the summer, I had my sister and her husband over for a nice Tuscan dinner, and I had friends here and there over for breakfast.  Then at Thanksgiving, my oldest friend was in town, and asked if I wouldn't mind hosting a bunch of his friends (mostly acquaintences to me) and their kids for a brunch. I hesitated at first, and was even a little put off, in truth. But he's my oldest friend (since we were 9), and I said yes.  It turned out to be a great party, with over 20 people in attendance.  And I think maybe Dan knew more about what I needed than I did.  I spent most of the time working in the kitchen, but people filtered in to chat and help out, and I ended up having some great conversations with people I don't know well or haven't seen in a long time.

I gave that experience a lot of reflection, in the weeks after.  Then this holiday season, I found myself facing a holiday without a partner, without my kids on Christmas eve or morning, and a much shorter list of family members who would be around than usual.  Honestly, I was a little worried about how this Christmas was going to feel, given all of that, so I decided to try using the role of host to expand my holiday a bit.  I held an open house Christmas day, inviting friends and acquaintences to come by any time to share food, drinks and holiday cheer.  Then a few days later, I hosted a friend and his family for brunch.  Both were really satisfying, and after the brunch in particular, I felt I'd reclaimed a part of myself I'd lost. Now I'm thinking about hosting friends for dinner, cooking for dates, and even about what kind of kitchen/DR layout to seek in my next home, once I finally sell this place.

I'm sure rebuilding my social life isn't going to happen overnight -- my life is pretty complicated and busy, with the dog and the kids and a new job and trying to move and finalizing the divorce.  But it feels like I may have found my social center again -- maybe rediscovered the tools I need to make 2011 a better year than I've had in a long time.

All for now,


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