For a few years now, we've hosted an annual Christmas party, usually near the start of December because the month grows more hectic the deeper it gets. This year's gathering was all the more celebratory as it was the first held in our new home in the North Country, Xanadu
. Christmas for us actually started last March 4, the day we closed on the property. By Saturday, the 7th of December, we were more than ready to open the house to writer friends from the wonderful Nashua Writers' Group
and its offshoot here in our new home base. Being part of the Berlin Writers' group, like living in our house, feels like a gift, one I've enjoyed since five of us gathered in the downtown to read our writing so many months ago.
By noon, a monstrous ham was out of the oven and ready to be carved, homemade fruit punch filled the big drinks dispenser, and I had spinach salad in the antique bowl and cheese and crackers ready on the platter. As guests arrived, a scrumptious buffet materialized: chicken cacciatore, stuffed mushrooms, chips and dips, taco salad made famous from one of my friends from the southern part of the state, more cheese varieties and pepperoni to choose from, baskets filled with homemade cookies, peanut butter truffles rolled in coconut, pumpkin roll, brownies, a 'deconstructed' cherry pie that earned total thumbs up, sodas, coffee, and tea. It was, as usual, amazing. So, too, the spirited game of Yankee Swap (briefly, I held onto a year's subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine
|(the talented two: Judi Calhoun and Launa Keenan)|
After the sometimes hilarious goings-on, we settled down with beverages of choice to read. We were fifteen in all, and fit quite comfortably into the new living room (last year and the previous Christmas
in our apartment in Milford, we had writers stacked up like cords of firewood). Unlike 2012's theme, in which attendees chose a sealed envelope months and weeks earlier to know their individual topic, this time around I urged folks to write based upon the time of year. Basic, I know, however what resulted was anything but, and offerings ran the emotional gamut from light poetry and short stories to heartbreaking holiday tales. There was mystery and murder, speculative takes on ancient mythological figures, and visitors from outer space. My original short story, "Homeless for the Holidays", is a visceral and grisly tale about two men who find themselves on the streets and taken under the roof of a couple they assume are concerned friends, only to learn that once inside their house, facades don't hold up, and lives are in jeopardy. It's not an easy story to listen to (it wasn't easy to pen and left me visibly shaken when I reached The End). I felt liberated, however, once I concluded, and will shop the story around when appropriate markets appear.
The first guests arrived at 10:30 in the morning; the last departed just after 6 p.m. After cleaning, I moseyed upstairs with leftover cookies to snuggle with the cats and husband, and to watch a movie, one of our Saturday night weekly joys. The tree was lit, the house bright and energized with good emotion, and we basked in the fun from our third big writers' group(s) party in our home since the move. Our next gathering is scheduled for May of 2014 when the snow has melted and our beautiful corner of New Hampshire dons its greenery once more.