English murder mysteries are my source of mental relaxation: all the better if they are set before WWII when the imaginary elegance of the English countryside was still a believable fantasy. Obviously one needs a corpse to get the story started, but the recently deceased becomes nearly irrelevant as the clues and suspects accumulate. Every good mystery needs at least one dinner party during which conversation reveals important hints about those sitting around the table. What about your own dinner parties? Are there still such things? What do they reveal about you? I wondered about that when six of us gathered for one last night. What might we learn from listening in?
We were all in the vicinity of 70, some older, some younger. We were all physically and intellectually active. Not a doddering old fool in sight (according to us). Professions always say something, but at our age profession can be a mixed bag. Mathematician, Physician, Nurse, Theologian, Yogi, Artist, Nurse, Dance Professor, Public Policy Consultant, Musician, another Artist, Wilderness Guide, Cosmetics Executive, Pharmacologist, Teacher, First Responder, good grief one more Artist, Writer, Cleric, and I may be missing a few. It’s hard to know what to make of all that. Maybe it’s that people and life are more complex than “what do you do?” Whatever those occupations are, or were, we brought to them an abundance of experience from the different places we grew up and lived in before finding ourselves here in the same small city out in the intermountain West. Add in our lives as spouses, parents and grandparents, and the soup gets pretty thick.
A motley crew to be sure. So, what came up as conversation around the table? What did it reveal? I made a list just for the fun of it: statistics, children, pharmacology, art, favorite t.v. serials, movies, books, politics, polygamy in Utah, nutrition, diet, exercise, federal budgets and appropriations, changing health care environments, suicides, entertaining for a local charity, obscure card games known only in Indiana, EMS, Scotland, France, French language, continuing education, Chautauqua, civics, travel, Abba’s greatest hit, Alexa, Pink Martini, wines, wind storms, prickly pear salsa, posture, screen doors, and I think that covers most of it. Oops, mustn't forget organ recitals. People our age have fascinating organ matters of interest . Siri, by the way, thinks Abba is somebody’s father and you can’t talk her out of it. No doubt she went to seminary. Need to check that out, but I digress.
What does it reveal? Without a corpse in the copse, or a detective knocking at the door, one is left with no suspect to ferret out, but still there must be something revealing in all of that. It showed four hours can quickly pass with a feeling that conversation had not yet been exhausted. It demonstrated that being interested in what the other has to say makes what the other has to say more interesting. A diversity of education and experience adds volumes to the list of potential subjects yet to be discussed. Intellectual curiosity makes learning about things new and strange highly entertaining. Modest portions of superbly prepared foods paired with excellent wines enhances conversation. 70 is just a starting point for getting the fullest possible enjoyment out of life. Even numbers of guests means no one is left out of the loop. Spouses will tolerate an old joke because they know the others haven’t heard it five-hundred times. It revealed that one cannot be stuffed into a pigeon hole according to occupation, age, or status. It goes against the tradition of most novelists, but we had a good time and everyone went home contented with the evening. It happens.