The reading at church last Sunday involved a big party and a lot of wine. You may be familiar with the passage about how Jesus was at a wedding celebration and they ran out of wine. So, as the symbolic story goes, his mother prompted him to do something to help with the problem, and he changed water into wine. And not just any wine – really good wine.
As our pastor put it, he did everything in his power to keep the party going.
I like that. I like that a lot.
And the timing was perfect. I’d been to parties the two previous nights. Both times, I wished the party could have kept going.
The first was a birthday party celebrated at the local VFW hall. Someone brought a Mounds cake – coconut, chocolate and almonds, just like the candy bar – and a German chocolate cake that was delish. You were encouraged to get a little of both – the sampler platter.
Folks ate their cake and told stories on each other for the umpteenth time. Stories about silly things they did while growing up. Stories about silly things their kids did while growing up, although they didn’t seem quite so silly one generation removed. A few could tell stories about their grandkids.
The conversation lapsed into work at one point, and a couple of people got into disagreements over the necessity of banking regulations and HIPPA rules. What’s a party without some dust-up, right? Others soon directed the conversation back to more fun topics, like how in heaven’s name any of them got to be bankers or health care professionals.
The party went on for a few hours before everyone decided it was best to head for home because snow was moving in.
The following night, I drove to my landlords’ house for another small get-together. A couple from India owns the house I rent. They moved to the United States to be with their extended family more than a decade ago. They have a darling 10-year-old daughter who loves to write. When she learned I’m a writer, she went to her room and retrieved a notebook with a 20-page story she’s written, complete with dialogue.
Later, we sat around the dining room table, the seven of us, eating southern Indian food and telling stories. I asked the couple how they met each other in India. He said their families knew each other. It was an arranged marriage. They didn’t know each other very well at the outset.
Can you imagine?
I wondered how they made such a relationship work. Their answer is with a lot of respect, patience and acceptance. And laughter, plenty of laughter. They started telling stories about each other – fond, funny stories that showed how much they know and appreciate each other’s peculiarities. He told how she can’t figure out how to put air in the tires or check the oil level – or, at least, pretends that she can’t. She winked back.
She told how he likes electronic gadgets and goes to Best Buy and asks the staff about various products, but leaves without making a purchase. To repay the workers’ kindness, she invited some of them to their house for a meal recently.
How cool, huh?
Of course, they eventually got into a whole series of funny stories about their parents, which got everyone else around the table telling stories about their parents. And their kids. And each other. For six hours, we shared self-deprecating tales about how we’re all amusingly frayed around the edges. We laughed until we had tears many times.
As I left their house shortly before midnight, I thought about how people from such different cultures and upbringings and religions – basically, from two different sides of the planet – got to share a meal and stories about our sameness at the core.
It reminded me of one of my favorite Anne Lamott lines: Laughter is carbonated holiness. Moments when the little divine bubbles rise to the surface.
I have a feeling that a certain Jewish rabbi would ask to join the party and tell hilarious stories about his family, too. And bring the refreshments, of course. Not the cheap stuff, either.
Only the best for a party that never ends.