We had a housewarming party yesterday afternoon We were careful not to bill it that way, we didn't want people to come with gifts, the point was to see them, to get them all together, and anyway we have quite enough stuff already, thanks.
They came bearing gifts anyway, of course, their arms full of food and flowers. They came with a carrot cake from Ohio, a pink hydrangea, peppermint brownies, chocolate covered cherries, four bottles of red wine, a pot of delicate purple bell-shaped flowers, a birthday card of a chicken playing an accordion, a pear tart, gourmet cookies, a fruit salad.
They came and got comfortable and stayed, mostly out on the screened porch in the backyard, which I confess is a magical oasis of peace and birdsong and flowers and shade that charms absolutely everyone, even the most uncharmable. We kept bringing out more chairs until the porch was full of friends and food and both spilled out onto the patio when Josh fired up the grill.
We'd hung a note on the front door--Come On In!--and in they came, showing up out back and handing over gift bags and platters of food. The ranks of friends swelled from five to twelve to eighteen to over twenty. Bratwurst smoked on the grill, we replenished the Mexican beer in the cooler, people got to know each other over cookies and conversation and guacamole.
All the while our backyard magic kept working: the birds sang and flew back and forth, the squirrels ate the mulberries on the mulberry tree, the wind whispered soothingly in the pines, the neighborhood ticked over. And inside that everyday magic something even more magical was being born of these people, of this coming together. Fueled by friendship with either me or Josh, people expanded and opened and came out of themselves, and the small friendships swelled into something far bigger that roared through the crowd like a prairie fire, laughter and life stories blowing out ahead of it, sowing the seeds of new relationships.
I watched this companionable force flow and hum through the crowd and thought of the gifts everyone thought they had brought us, all the flowers and the food and the wine, and then thought of the gifts that had followed quietly in on their heels, the gifts of laughter, stories, warmth and wonder, noise, smiles, loneliness, news, history, themselves. The real gift they brought was friendship, and it warmed our house, our hearts, and our world.