In some ways the neighborhood where I grew up as a child, Snedens Landing in Palisades, was very fancy and posh, and in some ways it was just a collection of friendly neighbors. Over the years there were parties that happened regularly for holidays where we could all go and be together at special occasions. Some of them were open to the whole community, and that felt so good to imagine that everyone in my neighborhood was a friend. Some of them were more exclusive, and some of those exclusions felt mean. In any case, they were always the source of much entertainment!
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Good morning friends. Good morning from Greve in Chianti. I still am at my second residency, and so happy to be here. It is actually a wonderful day out today because it’s a little overcast so it’s not quite so warm and sticky as it has been. And this evening, we are going to a wine tasting event. That’s also exciting. We’re going to go down to the town square in the piazza in the middle of town, and they’re going to have all of these representatives from different vineyards that are all around here on the mountains that are going to be showing us their wine and letting us taste it. So exciting! I’m looking forward to that. And hopefully only going to take small sips, so I don’t come stumbling home.
But I also had a bit of a upsetting episode already this morning. Because every single day that I’ve been sitting here, I think I’ve mentioned that the bees come flying in from the fig tree outside and the open windows with no screens. And they fly into the one window that does have a screen. And I’ve been saving them like 5, 6, 10 bees a day – trapping them under a cup and putting them back outside. And today I got into a car when I went to the post office with my friend Jodell. I sat down and immediately got a horrible shooting pain up my leg! I got stung by a wasp. And I was like, “Wow, of all the fucking ingratitude, you people.” I really felt betrayed and really angry. Besides which it’s burning, and it’s killing me. So hopefully I don’t pass out in the middle of my episode. Not that you can come and save me anyway. Oh, well.
So I’m going to continue and actually finish 2001 which was a long marathon. 2001 ended with a bang. Yes, that’s a pun also, given my Match.com adventures, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Everyone needed reminders of how our community was resilient and it would carry on, so a huge community wide holiday party was being planned by a few of the older generation residents, my mom’s compatriots. They had been around longer than I had and they remembered the joyous Christmas caroling parties that we had in Sneden’s Landing once upon a time, and they were proposing to renew that tradition in a way.
When I was a kid growing up in Snedens, I lived down the block from an enormous mansion that overlooks the river from the cliffs above. I think I talked about this family at one point. But Palisades is so named for the Palisades cliffs, a dramatic outcropping of rock along the western shore of the Hudson River that stretches from the George Washington Bridge to the border of New York State right at our little town of Palisades, where it kind of dips down for a while, hence the name Snedens landing, because it was here at this inlet that the ferry could actually come ashore. The cliffs then rise up again further down the river at Hook Mountain in Nyack. In any case, there are a few majestic homes that take advantage of the best sites in Snedens for the views, and this house was a jewel among them. The owners were also gems, generous and friendly members of community. When I was young, they also had young kids. Therefore, they felt that they were perfectly poised to open their hearts and homes to the entire community once a year, and celebrate with us all together. This glorious event usually took place about a week before Christmas, and it was warmly anticipated by one and all since everyone knew that everyone was invited. There was no guest list, just an open invitation to come and enjoy hot buttered rum, or warm cider for the kids and free flowing goodies of all sorts. Naturally, we all brought cookies and holiday favorites of our own, so the tables were always overflowing, and everyone left that party well satisfied with good cheer of all sorts.
In stark contrast, there is another yearly party that is held in another of the grandest homes in Snedens, but the anticipation of it is much more anxious. It is more of a posh affair – no children allowed – so for many years, I only heard about it. When I was a proper adult, I was finally put on the guest list. Along with the no children rules, there are other exclusions, which sometimes are applied suddenly and with no explanation. Many resident had been cut from the list one year only to be reinstated years later, after a period of attrition for some unknown crime. One friend I know had the gall to bring her quietly sleeping newborn one year and she was cut from the list forever. There are also boundary lines of acceptable geographical areas, addresses that qualify one for an invitation, and those that don’t. The lines seem randomly drawn, as if by some gerrymandering expert.
Nevertheless, I did attend this party many times as an adult, mostly as an occasion to socialize with my neighbors. But one year, I thought that my daughter was finally an actual adult and that it should be okay to bring her. However, knowing that these hosts were very particular, I did the right thing, and I called ahead to ask if it was okay to bring a date in the form of my adult child. I was told that no, in fact, my invitation only encompassed one person. I was stunned. Not only because, over the years, I had seen so many other neighbors finally bring their adult children as a rite of passage, but that this assertion also meant that, in the eyes of this hostess at least, I was a single woman, and doomed to be so forever as far as her guest list was concerned. At the time, there were a number of older women in the neighborhood who were persistently single and happy to be so, but I wasn’t ready to join their ranks quite yet. My dismay, turned to bitter resentment, and I shunned that gathering that year, and I have never returned since. And actually, I’ve never been invited, because since I was invited and didn’t come, that was a strike against me.
So I was curious to see what this new party would be like. After all, there was already talk of it’s becoming a new tradition. Would it be a true community event, or a reinforcement of some kind of imagined status hierarchy? I was okay with the no kids rule, since that allowed the adults to be more relaxed, and it seemed that everyone I knew would be going so there didn’t appear to be any kind of exclusions. I was very much looking forward to it.
On the night in question, Dave took the kids and I realized that this was a very nice, valuable perk of joint custody. I did not have to scramble to secure one of the babysitters that many of us in the neighborhood shared. And the party was an easy walk from my house. What could be a more auspicious start? On the way into the party, I met my friend Michael and his new girlfriend. He had split from his wife recently, with two young children caught in the fray. Again, I’m sure it was that weird end of millennium energy that had affected so many of us. His girlfriend told me later in the party, that she had been really nervous to meet me and my brother since we were some of Michael’s oldest friends, and she feared our judgment. But who am I to judge, we are all just making our mistakes, choosing our new paths, and hopefully learning so much along the way.
The party was a grand success from the first moments. Everyone showed up right from the beginning, not wanting to miss any of the action. There was fabulous food, free flowing drinks, and even various forms of curious entertainment. One of the hostesses was carrying around a small grey monkey wearing a tiny diaper. You don’t see that every day. Then there was an excellent pianist who was regaling everyone with all of the old familiar jazz standards, favorites of the older generation who were the primary hosts, and my happy place as well. I ended up standing by the piano and singing quite a few – even taking requests, like from my new friend Marjorie, who asked for “These Foolish Things.” I confessed to her that that was one I didn’t really know as well, but I tried to sing a little bit of it. But I have learned it since and every time it pops into my head, I think of her, and that piano player and that party.
Singing: “…these foolish things remind me of you….”
Always true. There was also a tarot reader. And y’all know how much I love that. He was doing very quick readings for as many people as he could manage, and I jumped in there somewhere. In my reading, he seemed to be getting the vibes off of others in the room who were passing me by, as connected to me. He would glance up and say that person is in your reading somehow. It was funny. I remember him at one point talking about men who would come into my life who were going to be trouble. But he looked up quickly when my friend Jim walked by and randomly said, “No, not him. He’s a true friend.” And I had to look around and see who he was talking about. So interesting, as he was a new parent in the Children’s Shakespeare community, and had already proved to be quite an asset. Then, as the evening wore on, it got a little rowdy in different places. A fight broke out over the food table, when a jilted wife came in to accost her husband, and she ended up throwing the spiral cut ham right in his face – the entire thing, launching it at him over the table! It was quite dramatic!
At the end of the evening, I ended up going home with a man that my hostess had introduced me to. I think maybe he was the only single man in the entire room perhaps, besides all of those men that were married who still flirt anyway. He was nice enough. And I was like, Yeah, sure, why not? Let’s give it a try. We had flirted, we walked back to my house together, and we spent a lovely couple of hours in the bed, and then he went home. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen him again.
That kind of thing happened to me a couple of times in this whole period of my life. But we have to try people on, right? Even for friendships, we have to try them on, give them a try and say yes to some of the occasions that will let us meet those new people. That’s where I was at that period, and 2002 is on the horizon. I’ll see you then.