Since mid-November, when I first received the invitation, I've entertained and discarded a few ideas: one fantasy was a prolonged evening in Paris with my mother, an evening in which I could ask her all the questions I've thought of over these past four years she's been deceased, all the memories I wish I'd shared one more time with her while she was here. I've been writing a memoir-ish piece of creative non-fiction this past year, all centred around her, and I'm so aware of what I never knew about her. I'd love, now, to see the Paris she visited with my dad, to discover the vintage shops I know she trawled, to hear the stories I never found time to listen to. But the topic's still a tender one for me, emotional, and I'm not sure I'm ready to write about it on the blog yet.
I also thought of a sit-down meal, either catered or potluck, which would gather together a friend or two from each of my decades, those friends who were so much a part of daily, circumstantial life, so close for a period but then lost to time in the big moves of life. I spent a few happy minutes imagining what it might be like to see all those disparate women together, to see them through each others' eyes, to see the different Me's that their many eyes reflected, to see what they might have in common, how they've grown, what they've done. But that one would get away from me so easily, an uncontainable topic, I decided, especially at this busy time of year.
The same would apply to my notion of a fantasy lunch set in the mid-30s, when I might have sat down with both of my grandmothers (where? in England, where one lived, or in the small Canadian town my other grandparents called home?). Maybe I could even manage to meet the grandmothers my husband never knew, both deceased when his parents were young, the great-grandmothers to my own children. I'm fascinated by the idea of this impossible lunch, an opportunity to flesh out, imaginarily at least, the two women whose stories have been almost completely snuffed out by history, even with their families. "If we are women," Virginia Woolf famously said, "we think back through our mothers". . . . and their mothers, and theirs before them, she implies. But too often, their stories silenced, we haven't that chance, and I did play with the idea of that table where I could ask questions of these four women who lived the turn of the previous century's changes and set my own family into motion. . .
Again, though, I let this one go, as an idea that might prove a bit too ponderous, perhaps unwieldy, and potentially too serious for this festive time of year.
So I returned to my initial impulse: a Moving Picnic on one of the trains Pater and I would be riding in the trip we were still planning when this invitation arrived. Rather than imagining a Fantastic Party -- gorgeous table settings, fabulously dressed guests, a jazz quartet playing while uniformed catering staff moved discreetly through the room offering to top up champagne glasses -- I thought I could use the word "Fantasy" to shift the party to a different track. Longtime or new girlfriends -- and, since it's a Fantasy anyway, why not invite blog readers to join as well, numbers aren't a problem on our fantasy train -- could join me on the train at any point from Paris to Zurich, or instead catch up with me as I rode the Bernina Express
The next morning, we'd yawn as we dragged our cases behind us to the station in the dark dawn, anticipation building as we boarded the regional train from Zurich to Chur where we transfer to the cheery red Bernina Express. I'll leave it to you to imagine a continuation of the previous day's fun -- perhaps you might share your version in the comments below -- would it involve mugs of thick hot chocolate you'd pour from a thermos you'd filled in Zurich? We'd all be ever so grateful!
Or might you skip the Bernina Express portion because you absolutely had to use some of your travel days shopping in Milan, filling bags with Christmas gifts you'd show us when you boarded, joining us for the ride down to Rome where you had one or two more items to pick up? Again, since it's a collaborative feast here, I'd love to read your imaginings in the comments below.
Entertaining this fantasy has been delightful, and it's left me determined to pull some of the fantasy into reality next year by reviving a social practise I started back in 2013 (when, if you read that post, you'll see that I was only peering wistfully in the windows of Fantasy Parties) and enjoyed sporadically for the last several years of our island life. I expect this will be more difficult to institute in the city, but I'm going to try. Invitations sent to a wide swath of girlfriends for a casual soirée chez moi. Ignore the logistic difficulties, ignore a temptation to shyness, just go all Nike on this one and Just Do It. . . I'll let you know how it goes.
Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy this Fantasy Train Picnic with you -- do leave a comment and let me know where you plan to board? I'll make sure the conductor holds the train for you. And what do you think you might bring to our feast? Maybe suggest a few tunes we could play on my little Jambox speaker. . . . We're going to have such fun!!
As well, while we're all in the festive mood, let's be sure to check out the other Fantasy Parties conjured up by the other bloggers who have linked to A Daily Plate of Crazy -- D.A. Wolf sets a delicious and glamorous scene at this post, and then sends us off in wonderful other directions via the link-up.