On the mowing, in the play called “The Dinner Party”, I bring people together who I think will like each other, make a menu I think they’ll enjoy, add wine and sit back, watching them interact. Those observations of interactions formed my first entertainment; before that, observing was a survival skill. Why did father bellow at mother? Why didn’t mother yell back?
Ellen explains how the pollen of ragweed is windborne, while the pollen of goldenrod, a big sticky ball, is insect-borne, which is why allergy sufferers sneeze in ragweed season. I can see why you were a wonderful botany teacher, I say to her. Leslie says: you were? Ellen: oh yes; I taught at Keene State. I lived in Ipswich with my oldest son, who still lives there, the one who was diagnosed with autism. Her current husband, my landlord, says, I don’t see why divorced people can’t speak kindly to one another. Ellen is his third wife. Her ex-husband is a mean bastard. She says he won’t even pay his daughter’s way east from California to see her. . They praise my relations with my former husband. He has excellent taste in women; I say his current wife is a good friend. We became friends over his illness when between us we had three daughters to provide for and worry about.We agree that family trouble can make allegiances, and feel warmly toward each other, as three women now past tough times and happily reconnected to good men. Or happily alone (me). It’s true there were casualties of these wars: my elder daughter sought a connection to God, in a Rastafarian bass player; her cousin, my sister’s daughter, is going that route now with an orthodox Jew. A Jewish fundamentalist seems to me not as bad. What will Naomi’s Catholic father make of him? The fundamentalist, whom Naomi loves, came here last week, wore his tallis, raised his arms to the mowing, and made a congregation of us. It’s all about inclusion. But his is not my ritual. My ritual is the dinner party; my church the chicken, my guests my minyan.