Every once in a precious while, a person enters our lives that leaves such an unmistakable and indelible impression, that you know with great certainty that the mark they have left is uniquely permanent. My friend Jane unreservedly falls into this category. I have written several accounts of past dinner parties that were inevitably punctuated by Jane's always entertaining tales. This past Sunday, we returned to Jane's fabulous home for another gathering and soon, found ourselves under her spell once again.
The usual suspects arrived and exchanged hugs, filled wine goblets and caught up on each other's lives. We nibbled on assorted cheeses including group favorite Boursin, a soft Camembert, and some excellent spicy Indian cheese that Ronnie and Jeff brought. Linda and Jane were constructing their much-adored Shrimp Scampi on the stove. The ladies graciously gifted me with an antique vase and a copy of The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama for my birthday. We gathered at the table, digging heartily into a light and citrussy salad, warm bread and the bright, lemony Scampi. K and I provided dessert which became another excuse for us to make homemade ice cream. The ice cream maker hummed on the deck while we enjoyed dinner. We made Petite Fudge Cakes from Beyond Parsley, the Junior League of Kansas City cookbook that my coworker Julie lent me. They were little, sugar-dusted bundles of chocolatey gooeyness and we served them with homemade mint chocolate-chip ice cream. The ice cream recipe came from fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, of all people, and can be found online at Epicurious here. It was a wonderful meal throughout.
As we sat back in our chairs in expected fashion; filled with great food and gratitude, we were once again directed toward Jane at the head of the table, sipping from her Big Lebowski glass, as she proceeded to weave her sometimes jaw-dropping and always hilarious tales. One was prompted by me; about the very first time I would meet her... setting up our bookstore for its grand opening a few moons ago, when Jane swept in, her robust voice capturing everyone's' attention with a ribald story of encountering an apparently well-endowed zebra at a zoo. I was mesmerized by her and told my new friend Jo that I must meet her. We've been fast friends since. On this past Sunday night, she would carry on with other tales concerning a variety of subjects, including what is an obvious distaste for massage therapists.
So far, this Sunday night dinner party did not seem, on the surface at least, to be unlike any previous one. Even the most casual reader of this blog would know that the food is quite often the highlight with me and while this dinner was typically delicious, the truly cherished moments with this particular group revolve around the conversation and companionship that always evolve, and this night was no different...an evening with this group is like a security blanket for me and I cherish each and every one. However, this particular dinner party did indeed differ from previous ones. Our Jane has some challenges ahead in the coming months. We tend to look upon Jane as a somewhat indestructible force of nature and we have all, especially Jane, gotten a strong reminder of her humanity in recent days. During the course of this dinner, there was an unspoken but inescapable thread of concern that coursed through all of us but this night was not meant to dissolve into grim waters but instead keep afloat with the humor that these dinner parties are known for.
It is not Jane's style to wallow or even draw attention to herself. In fact, she will probably be displeased with the fact that I am writing about her at all. Jane seems to feel much more at home with hosting wonderful parties that highlight a friend or coworker and she has hosted them all: parties for engagements, farewells, baby and wedding showers. Now that Jane is foremost in our minds, our fierce devotion to her has us all inclined to surround and smother her with all of the powerful love we can manage. Those of us who truly know this great lady, though, know that it is not her inclination to be doted on. So we hover but don't impose, and keep a watchful eye on her. Linda will stay with Jane for some time and we will all remain ready to do whatever is asked. So allow me to once again simply offer a reminder of the delicious joy it is have Jane in our lives...
One of several tales Jane told on Sunday night was a recounting of when she and a group of her friends were asked a question: If you were only given one person to spend eternity with, who would it be? One by one, everyone in her group answered, "Jesus". Finally, it was Jane's turn and she answered, "Oscar Wilde. He could just read The Importance of Being Earnest over and over to me and I'd be just fine." Another gale of laughter boomed forth from us all and as we eventually quieted down, Jane said,
"You all have to go home now."
Shaken from our reverie but chuckling once again over Jane's signature wit, we cleaned up, gathered our belongings and bid our farewells. We all felt and continue to feel a bit reluctant to let Jane out of our sights, but her astounding attitude alone will most likely carry her through whatever is coming. Whatever she can't carry, we will all most assuredly carry for her.
We love you, Jane.
The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were and modern literature an impossibility!-The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde