The perfect dinner party last night, after a cold, drizzly day. To be welcomed by a fire in the fireplace, a glass of wine, dear friends. The girls (three three-year-olds, still elated after a birthday party) took a bath upstairs and then almost behaved the rest of the evening. The babe was at home with the ayah. I was wearing M's blue sweater to fend off the chill.
Before dinner came out, I was on the veranda with one of the men. We talked, leaning against the veranda's side wall, looking in through the closed sliding glass doors. The girls (American/Norwegian, Danish/English and Finnish/Belgian)---with their delicate blond hair, like little elves in their cozy pajamas---were playing underneath the dining table. They were slinking under the chairs and disappearing behind the table's legs and emerging again. It reminded me of fish swimming through underwater castles.
Something crashed (muted through the doors), a wine glass, out of our view. The other guest swooped up the baby. The girls were guided back under the table. The hostess came out of the kitchen with the vacuum cleaner and after that with a box of salt. I gathered, in the back of my head, the wine must have spilled on the couch.
We were talking about aid in Africa---is it pointless? We were talking about the Kenyan government's sometimes stiff approach to aid. We were talking about our role as individuals, our conflicts of living here. We talked about Mia Farrow and her terming the Olympics in China "the genocide games", we talked about Darfur. We talked about the Rwandan government, and then the embassy bombs in 1998. We were sneaking a cigarette on the veranda and watching the beauty of the people we love moving about silently. The light was dim inside. With the fire and the clean girls and the dinner about to be served, I felt the warmth of a Christmas eve. Then it was time for dinner, and we rejoined the party.