The occasion for the dinner party was simple enough: our friend Hakan Zor, a rug merchant from Turkey, was visiting. However, the implications were more momentous.
“We aren’t in the market for more rugs, but we’d love to see you,” I wrote in response to the text message Zor sent letting me know he was in town.
A few nights later, seven of us — two couples from the neighborhood, my husband and I, and Zor — were sitting around my dining room table, eating and talking and laughing. I noticed a foreign feeling in my chest, one I hadn’t felt for some time: joy.
After 15 months of hibernation, going out only when necessary and steering clear of humanity, hosting a dinner party felt insanely brazen. And I did it with impunity.
We were all fully vaccinated, relieved and ready to put this era behind us. We were also grateful for what, up until 15 months ago, we had taken for granted — the simple act of gathering.
“This period reminds us that creating art, being together, engaging in ritual is something that humans will always need to do,” historian Keith Johnston said in a recent radio interview that rang true to me. “We do well when we figure out ways to do that well.”
Johnston was comparing the recent pandemic to one that swept through Naples, Italy, in 1656. “Neapolitans lost their connection to social life and civic traditions.” But, after the shared experience of the pandemic, the town celebrated with a 10-day festival. “Art played an important role in the lives of Neapolitans during this period, not just for its aesthetics but also for its believed capacity to heal people.”
Heal indeed. Perhaps that’s why an impromptu dinner party with an ancient art form as inspiration felt so on point, as exactly the way to put a period at the end of the pandemic.
As I took in the table and those around me, the candles glowed more magically, the crystal had more sparkle, my friends felt dearer. Of course, the fact that we were also talking about art — in this case area rugs — as home décor brought the evening to the peak of perfection in my mind.
We raised our goblets of wine and took turns toasting:
After dinner, Zor, who always brings a van full of rugs, unrolled some of his wares and talked about the ancient art of Turkish rug making, a tradition that dates many centuries and many generations in his own family. He taught us about the fineness of the weave, the intricacies of and legends behind the patterns, the origin of the dyes and the trained hands that tie every miniscule knot. Hungry for connection, we all listened closely.
As the evening wound up, a small rug somehow found a permanent home appropriately by our front door, where it marks for me a symbol for the post-pandemic moment in time when we opened our front door again to the world.
The moment the pandemic moves from present to past differs for everyone. For some, it might be the first day back to school or to the office. For some, the pandemic might seem present still. But that was my moment.
Marni Jameson is the author of “Downsizing the Family Home — What to Save, What to Let Go,” “Downsizing the Blended Home — When Two Households Become One” and “What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want.” Reach her at marnijameson.com.