Living art

To improve the golden moments of opportunity and catch the good that is within our reach, is the great art of living. — Samuel Johnson

Lately we’ve had some wonderful conversations here about the arts — writing and the visual arts, in particular. But in my view, just as essential to “the great art of living” are several gifts and talents that we sometimes take for granted.

These include cooking, baking, nurturing our relationships — and occasionally pulling out all the stops to host a party for someone we cherish. All of this came to mind last weekend when I attended a tea party honoring my friend Norma, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday.

Since Norma’s birthday falls close to Christmas, her daughter Jan had decided to host the party on a quiet Saturday afternoon in January. Wise move. The tea was held at Norma’s church, and Jan, a talented caterer, made all of the tea sandwiches and baked goods. Everything was perfect, from the coral roses and deliberately mismatched vintage tea cups on the tables to the large gathering of devoted friends who came to celebrate Norma.

Clearly, a party can be a work of art. I’ve known Jan for years, and have always admired the creative sense of style she brings to everything she does. Aside from the pretty tables, Jan also arranged a small gallery of photos chronicling her mother’s life from her girlhood in New England to the present. The photos prompted conversation around the tables, and even those of us who’d known Norma for years got to know her better.

Norma looked more beautiful than ever at her tea party.  Seeing the sheer happiness on her face as she chatted with her guests on Saturday, I was reminded how important it is to celebrate our mothers — and our elder friends — while we can.

Jan is Norma’s only child, and since I’m an only child too, I understand the special closeness of their relationship. My own mother turns 80 in September. Inspired by Jan’s generous spirit, I’m already planning Mom’s birthday party in my head. — CL