Potlucks. I cannot say how many times in my life I’ve inwardly groaned at the thought of attending one. And not only because I’m too lazy to make a covered dish to bring, though I am. The thought of eating a mish-mash of food I generally wouldn’t serve at home, and making small talk with a bunch of people crammed in a room somewhere…well, you can tell from my description that I haven’t been much of a fan of the whole potluck experience.
That may be changing.
Today, my little house was filled to overflowing with people who arrived in a swarm (like a plague of benevolent locusts?!), set out food and condiments, made themselves at home and generally settled in for a good, old-fashioned eatfest. Except that the food included delicious salads, fruit, low-fat key-lime pie, and fresh corn dip (alongside the traditional brownies, better than sex cake, pulled pork sandwiches, and chips).
Ok, so I was actually hosting a potluck (to celebrate my own birthday, nonetheless). But as I looked around, at friends and colleagues talking and laughing, all jammed in the living room to be together rather than spread out in the small seating areas I had arranged throughout the main floor rooms, I had a moment of clarity. Potlucks celebrate community, and the community seated in my living room is one we have been creating for a long time.
We have shared road trips, disasters (both natural and of human creation), births, traumas, bike rides, weddings and karaoke nights. We have shared the range of human emotions, we have offered words of comfort and support. We have made each other laugh when feelings of anger, sadness, or hopelessness threatened to overwhelm. Not each person in the room has been part of every one of these events, but that’s how communities work: they share the load — whether that is the work of preparing food or the effort of finding a smile on a tough day.
Not to worry, I didn’t spend all my time lost in introspection — mostly I enjoyed the event and the moment I was in. But later in the evening, in Iowa City, Wendy and I wandered into a shop which sells a line of greeting cards that really appealed to me. One spoke to me in a particular way about the day’s events. It says, “Some people call them decades — I prefer to call them my ‘collected works’.” (Curly Girl Design/Leigh Standly) And it struck me that being a part of my community of friends, being one of the weavers of this large web of relationships, is a part of my “collected works” I’m both proud of and immensely humbled by. And I will take every opportunity to celebrate this — even if it means becoming a fan of the traditional potluck.