Friday, November 7, 2014

this night is sparkling, don't you let it go.

On Halloween, I dressed as a flapper.
       This would be highly unremarkable, and even embarrassing, except for the fact that the party I was attending (the one I was, in fact, hosting) took place in a house that originally was built in 1890.
In European terms, 1890 is yesterday, and in human terms, it really isn't that long ago. But it's certainly the oldest house I've ever lived in, and it's the only house I've lived in where you can feel the oldness of the house in the creak of the floorboards, in the narrowness of the hallways, in the mangled mess of the kitchen. The past is very present in our old house.
       I had never dressed up as a person from the past in a house that was such a beacon of the past. I had cobbled my costume together of a dress I'd found in July at a thrift shop (and thought, in a rare burst of thoughtfulness: wait. I can totally use this for Halloween. When I manage to plan ahead, I am always surprised at myself.); shoes I bought for a play senior year of high school; and my grandmother's pearls. Perhaps it was wearing so many little pieces of the past that did it. Perhaps it was too much F. Scott Fitzgerald, or too much Mrs. Dalloway. It certainly wasn't the hot apple cider punch. Many things in life can be blamed on too much hot apple cider punch, but this wasn't one of them. Somehow, I had gotten into a kind of enchanted moment.
     I stood on the stairs, and looked down into the ho-polloi of the mass of people dancing in the living room,  and I thought of how many other hostesses had stood on these stairs, holding onto these railings and watched many crowded parties wrangle about on the main floor. I wondered if any young girls had peered over into the crowd of people they weren't yet allowed to join. I imagined all the other young women who had walked down these stairs, feeling the glow of activity and rush of life wafting up from downstairs. I felt such a kinship with them, these ghosts from the past.
       I sat on the stairs, talking cozily with friends, thought of that quintessential Daisy quote from The Great Gatsby: "I like large parties. They're so intimate." I sat on the stairs, my white dress spread across my lap, and laughed and chatted and chirped and flirted and felt that my eyes were dancing, like the strings of lights in the backyard tree. And I experienced the cozy sort of fun that is Sitting On the Stairs at a Party, When There's a Crowd Downstairs. You feel like you are really Experiencing Something, when there's a party downstairs, and you're upstairs. There's a delicious sort of illicit intimacy, except you have the great joy of knowing that you can do whatever you please, and that, according to the Rules of Party-Going, this is perfectly allowed, just not often taken advantage of. If anyone intrudes on your little coterie on the landing, they will either become members of your little tete-a-tete, or they will naturally retreat, sensing themselves intruders.  Sitting on the Stairs at a Party, When There's a Crowd Downstairs is one of my favorite things in the world.
     As I sat there, I felt a delicious glow of timelessness: we would go on sitting on these stairs, as the party continued on downstairs. And forever, as long as there are crowds, and stairs on which one can escape from them, there will be girls in white dresses and pearls sitting on stairs with friends and laughing, talking, and feeling slightly dazzled, like an animated and vital star among the twinkle-light constellations.

1 comment:

  1. Just yes, to all of the above (although college parties might be a little bit different -- there's no delightful melancholy to sitting on the fringes of the campfire crowd while somebody does a keg stand just off campus in the national forest).

    Also: WAIT. Are these the P&P shoes?