A few years ago, realizing that we had celebrated so many New Years together, David and I thought it was cause for a big dinner, especially since we had skipped the getting married bit, so we have no anniversary to cling to.
I assured Claire, our Top Banana, that we would be 20, maybe 25, people at the most, so she planned accordingly. Planning is essential when you live on a small island, as everything has to be flown or shipped in. Anyone who has lived on a small island also knows that numbers swell, as everyone has an extra guest or cousin they want to include.
Just before New Year, I plucked up the courage to tell Top Banana that the 25 guest-thing, well, that had changed a teeny bit. We were now 70.
Whenever we can, we always want to include our children, and everyone else’s as much as possible. This is especially true now that our children are a bit older and don’t necessarily stab anyone with a fork.
Now with 70 guests, we had to beg, borrow and steal chairs from all over the island. We rented folding tables from the church and I carried two gigantic china fish platters in my hand luggage back from a New York trip. “Anything to declare?” asked the customs officer after I landed on the island. “Nope” I said, as though it was perfectly normal to carry fish platters on a plane in one’s hand luggage.
Catering to 70 instead of 20 meant the only place we could seat everyone was down our driveway. It also meant borrowing the fridge from the school and arranging for two extra pairs of hands in the kitchen. It meant my complete set of white china now had to mingle with different breeds. It meant the muslin table runners ran out and we improvised with local flour sacks.
Although we could solve most of the challenges of hosting such an event with limited resources, the two things we could not control were the location and the weather. By late afternoon it began to rain, so with all hands on deck, we dragged an old hurricane tarp from storage and rolled it out, with some insane panicked idea of hoisting it up and over 70 place settings. But just then…the rain stopped.
There was no Plan B for the evening- I simply sent out an email to all our friends and family, “Bring a brolly, it looks like rain.”
We were blessed, however, and the rain stayed away and in its place was a warm Bahamian night filled with candlelight and laughter. Oh, and one very pretty, young, enchanting wife of a friend who began celebrating a bit too early. By the end of dinner, and well before the clock struck twelve, her words were slurring heavily. David, sitting on one side of her, lent across to our friend Pavlos on the other side, and asked if that was Danish she was now speaking. Pavlos shook his head and said, “I speak Danish. That’s not Danish, that’s gibberish.”
As midnight struck, the church bell rang out and we let fireworks off into a clear sky and counted our lucky stars.