Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The Whirl of Gaiety

The Little House books were for me as a child a story about a bookish but spirited young woman who was good at making things and embracing the world and managed to outshine blonde Nellie Olsen to marry Almanzo Wilder. Spirited girls everywhere take note: sometimes you get to win. I loved those books. My father made me a set of hoopskirts in his shop so I could feel as Laura did when she got her first very fashionable dress. I cut up fabric in my mother's drawer to try to make slippers for my father for Christmas, as Laura had done and even now I am knitting socks for special friends for Christmas.

As a child, one chapter from Little Town on the Prairie remained a mystery for me though. It was titled: The Whirl of Gaiety. Laura, now a young woman with hoopskirts and bangs finds herself exhausted after successive Friday nights out on the town. She is told by those wiser that she has simply been caught up in a "whirl of gaiety," and then spends a quiet Friday at home to stabilize herself. How, I wondered, could anyone ever get tired of parties? It was something I couldn't process.

Because, once upon a time I was not invited to parties, and on the rare occasion that I was, I had difficulty enjoying myself, so shy and baffled by people was I. I mean, I thought it might be nice to be the sort of person who was invited everywhere, particularly during the holidays when every advertisement seems to telegraph that no party invites=loser. Then I met my husband, a social creature, and the fun began. After our first Christmas together dating, I, too, had my own whirl of gaiety. I stumbled into January exhausted but feeling oddly cleansed.

I'm sitting here today nursing a small hangover after too much red wine (I know better, I really do) after an evening out. I'm looking ahead at the week where more commitments loom. I have stumbled into my whirl of gaiety. All these years later, and I can still think of no better way to describe what it feels like to be stuck in the eye of the holiday party storm.

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