Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A word picture from Sunday's suphra

Last Sunday I experienced the Georgian mega-suphra that is equivalent to our wedding receptions. While I was waiting for the party to begin, I sat in the lower-house living room with other ladies who had arrived early and were waiting as well. Since my Georgian is still pretty limited, the conversations that I had were pretty short. Mostly, I just sat and watched and listened. There was one moment when I wished that I had brought my camera, although I probably would not have taken the photo that I really wanted. Sometimes I can't bring myself to impose a camera on a scene that I find truly beautiful or deeply human. (This gets into the whole camera-objectification philosophy, but I won't go into all that....) Since I had no camera and can share no photo, I will do my best to paint a word picture of the moment that I found so emotive. 

The room was small for the number of people in it -- maybe 12' x 15' at the most. Every surface of the room - walls, ceiling, and floor - was covered with a heavily-varnished yellow wood that brought the sense of a "cabin in the woods" to the space. In all this expanse of wood hung only one picture. A small picture of Christ hung over the door into the kitchen. (The homes I have been in are not real big on art.) Along one wall stood a large china cabinet packed full of sets of porcelain tea cups and tea pots,  cut-glass decanters and tumblers,  painted goblets, champagne flutes, and cordial glasses in every shape imaginable. (The Georgians have a thing for sets of cups and glasses. Each household has more sets of glasses than I have ever seen in one house, anywhere.) Beside the china cabinet stood a piano - another piece of heavily-lacquered wood in the room. The rest of the wall-space was completely covered with chairs - cushy chairs, arm-chairs, kitchen chairs, dining chairs, and a sofa - any chair from anywhere in the house had been dragged in and crammed in line with all the others. And every one of these was filled with at least one person. I was sitting on the sofa with some of my colleagues. I think five of us were on a sofa that seats four, comfortably, and another of my colleagues was sitting on the arm of the sofa with her arm around my shoulders. We were packed in almost as tightly as in a marshutka. In the center of this ring of female humanity stood the lone dining table, devoid of its partners on which multiple ladies were presently sitting. The table, like every other piece of furniture, was gleaming in its varnished glory under the crystal chandelier hanging above. The only things sitting on the table were two cakes. One of the cakes was nothing special - just a chocolate cake. But the other one was gorgeous. It was a very large, round cake covered with a base of white frosting. A design of curlycues had been drawn into the frosting on the sides, and small, silver candies were placed at intervals in the swirls. Huge, pink roses sculpted from frosting formed a bouquet on the top of the cake and spilled over to ring the bottom as well. Little sprigs of green candy grew out from between the roses. It was a sight to behold; only, no one was beholding it.

That is, until a little girl came into the room. She was probably four years old, and may have come in looking for her mother when her attention was completely arrested by the wonder in the center of the room. I watched her step toward the table slowly, eyes growing bigger the closer she got to it. She was just tall enough to see over the table, putting the cake directly at eye-level. I can imagine that, to her, the cake seemed to rise up like a mountain of sugary beauty over her head. When she reached the table, she gently grabbed the edge of the table with both hands so that she could support herself as she rose up on tip-toe, nose perched over the table top, to have a better look. From her curly hair to her black flats, pudginess ruled supreme. Her chubby cheeks and chin matched her round belly. She stood there, transfixed by the delectable dessert beckoning to her. Her eyes gave away her longing, and I was half-expecting her to reach up and put her finger into the pink-frosting roses. But she didn't. She just stood there, wanting, wishing, and hoping. 

That was the picture I wanted to take: pudgy little girl staring down the cake with rapt adoration. But it will have to live only in my mind's eye along with the few other moments that I couldn't bring myself to photograph. Maybe it will be better preserved in my memory than on glossy Kodak paper!


  1. I feel like I was there practically (except I would have been in the man-zone of course). Awesome description - no need for a photo.

  2. James, it's funny, because I have no idea what the man-zone is like - nor do I even know where it was pre-suphra! Probably they were all standing around in the front yard and street smoking as usual!