Somewhere along the line, though, I began to think about how being sad affects the way I view the world, and it occurred to me that happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive emotions, and that, in fact, each of them magnifies the other in ways that aren't always obvious on the surface. Walking down the street, peering into shop windows, in itself, has no meaning; but spying a little china cat in a shop window, one like my great-grandmother used to collect , well, that changes things entirely. A little tug on the heartstrings or a remembrance of past happiness has the power to change things altogether -- if you let it. So, as I planned my party, I let it.
We had two tables of food: one for appetizers and one for desserts.
When I set up the dessert table, I thought about the meaning in each thing I placed on it. The flowers, the china, and the table runner were given to me by Auntie. I've had the china the longest; Auntie bought it on one of her overseas sojourns and Mama and Papa Barber brought it to me when they visited us in West Virginia in our first year of marriage. It is one of my prized possessions and I never miss an opportunity to show it off. Auntie gave me the table runner much later, along with a chest that has a scratched top. The chest is in the other room and the runner usually stays on top of it, but I put a different runner on the chest, so Auntie's runner could add a little meaning to the dessert table for the party. Auntie also gave me the gorgeous pink poinsettias for Christmas this year. The sterling, which I spent hours polishing to mirror-perfection, originally belonged to my grandmother's sister El. It was given to me a couple of years ago by her other sister Mackie, and it is also one of my prized possessions. In addition to assorted cookies, petit fours from Neiman Marcus, and a fondant cake from a New York bakery, the table contains some culinary treasures baked by DH: his famous biscotti, the yummy lemon cake that he bakes for my birthday, and the chess cake that my other grandmother, Bonnie, used to make for Christmas each year.
The appetizer table, which I didn't have time to photograph, contained all sorts of wonderful tidbits, including some that also had meaning. There, we used the rice china given to us by Auntie, and we had more of DH's delectables, including his amazing meatballs and corn muffins made from Mama Barber's buttermilk recipe.
The party was wonderful and it was also meaningful – I made a point of mentioning the origins of the dishes, silver, and recipes whenever anyone commented on them. Each time I did so, I felt a little tug on my heartstrings and each little tug added a layer of meaning to my life. Each time someone asked about the roll-top desk that belonged to my great-grandfather, where we'd set up the bar, I thought about the history of the desk and I added a layer. Each time someone commented on the china and the silver (and nearly everyone did), I talked about their history and I added a layer. The corn muffins were popular and I explained how my grandmother made them for years and years, but she only wrote down the recipe so my grandfather could make them when she was visiting Auntie in England. And I added another layer.
After everyone had gone, I looked around in amazement. Our house had turned into a vision of light. It was almost as if each layer of meaning had also added a bit of extra glow to the room!