As I write this, I can hear my husband and his buddies talking and laughing. Their muffled conversation travels through the duct-work and fills my office with a familiar comfort.
His friends are here to hang out in the basement – talking cars, strategy and speed. My husband reminds me as the first guest pulls into the driveway that this is not a dinner party and no, there is no need to use pretty napkins or to serve a nice salad with the pizza.
The door opens and the guys thank me for allowing them into our home as they wipe their feet on the mat, smelling faintly of cigarette smoke and aftershave.
By ones and twos they arrive, arms full of toolboxes and snack foods. Hours later, when I deliver a thermos of hot coffee to a cluttered, well used table, someone asks if I’m Italian; another groans that they don’t need any more desserts. Every one raves over the gloppy coconut cupcakes and slabs of chocolate cake.
I love having a house full of people to cook and bake for. I love cleaning and making vats of coffee and sweeping the deck in anticipation of their arrival.
A crowd is so easy to spoil.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to spoil anyone and too long since the house was filled with that happy kind of noise.
I grew up with siblings and friends and friends of siblings. There was disorder and laughter and running through the house before getting into trouble and being sent outside to play.
Ecstatic dogs jumped into the lake with us as we swam to the island to pick hot blueberries that exploded in our mouths. On our slow walk home, we searched out every mud puddle to squish and slurp and schplush through our toes.
But that was years ago and now even my child’s childhood is a quiet collection of photographs and family memories.
Every evening my husband and I talk and read and watch TV. On the weekends we kiss and argue and laugh.
But it’s all so terribly subdued. So oddly still.
That is, until Race Night is upon us.
Then with certain glee, I plan the menu, capture the cobwebs and buy the napkins that I know won’t be used.
And finally, as the pizza is devoured and the coffee is poured, I listen as I work in my office. I listen for the music of loud talk and robust laughter.
And I am at home.