Last Sunday at 9pm, the text came in. “Darling, it’s Belle. Are you coming tomorrow?” I was just about to sit down to watch what promised to be a grotesque debate, but the text distracted me completely. It could only mean one thing: that the following day was the Channing Daughters’ harvest party…and I was caught unaware, upstate, six hours away from Bridgehampton.
“We need you,” Betsy wrote. “You must come,” Marina asserted. It’s rare for adult friends to pressure quite like this, now that we’re in our mature decades of rationality and responsibility.
“It’s a bit crazy,” my sensible friend said when I told her I was considering it–taking a 6:58am train to an 9:15am Jitney, in order to get to the festivities. But then, she’s never been to the almost annual harvest party that takes place in a field at the base of Walter Channing’s vineyards, anchored by his sculptures of upside down trees rooting into the heavens and forests of 10-foot high asparagus; she’s never wound her way through the tables covered in wood slabs of fire-grilled sweet breads, morcilla and bloody skirt steak next to bowls of chimichurri and parmesan; she’s never seen Jaime, Emily and Antonia through a crowd of autumn revelers and ran open-armed and gaping-mouthed for a full body embrace. I have.
The Channing Daughters harvest party is more like a wedding than an annual feast. Everyone who is lucky enough to be included understands. You don’t miss it. If there’s any feasible way for you to be there–to celebrate the patriarch, Walter, who oversees us now from the wide skies; to drink the farm wine that’s more elegant than any other local tipple; to bask in the awe-inspiring and unequivocal love of those four daughters, Francesca, Isabella, Sylvia & Nina, who grow more gracious and gorgeous with each year, more sure of their place in the world that they make better by being in it–you go.
So I went. And by the time I’d arrived the asado fires were up and the meat had been splayed, thanks to Chris and Catherine and Marcelo, Belle’s exceptional Uruguayan groom (the guy who gave me a new lease on life by hiring me as his #CevicheGirl in José Ignacio). I’m rambling, sure, but this is what the day is like: rambling through a sun-soaked field with a glass of wine in your hand; rambling from one great friend to the next; resting your head on their knee for a moment while dogs nuzzle your sausage-scented cheeks. I could measure my life by these parties. No love. Young love. Big love. Brutal love. Self love. We, the girls who haven’t settled down yet, laugh about the boys that have been visitors at our harvest fires. Each boy an age line in a tree trunk, a scar on a shin, a haircut that we loved but outgrew.
We nestle together when the Channings invite us. Jon opens his doors to our motley crew. Molly Channing in head-to-toe ecru. We drink sparkling rosé, dance and laugh and usually cry for a moment, hands clasped at the beauty Walter made, the land beauty, the girl beauty. There’s always a circle, whether there are drums or not. There’s always a fire. And this year, there was a new baby, a new Channing, a new daughter to complete the circle, to dance by the fire.
And, you Channing girls, make us always feel we are a part of something greater. And for you, we are so grateful.
The next day our hair still smells of fire. We move slowly. We meet around the kitchen island laughing and nibbling. It’s like being a teenager again and having a sleepover with all of your favorite people, except that it’s not. There are no riffs or cliques. We are old enough to know how precious these moments are. We are not afraid to say that we love each other. We all know how important it is to tell the people we love while we can.
As we drive through Southampton to return to the city, Marina, peaked from drink and cheeks hurting from such wide smiles, says she doesn’t feel so well. Rick, a new friend who feels like he will stick, offers to stop and get her some food. “I can wait,” Marina says. “But, Marina,” I say from the backseat, “It’s the last chance for something delicious for a while.” After all, it might be. We have to grab the good stuff while we can.
Thank you Molly, Francesca, Isabella, Sylvia & Nina. Thank you so much. All my love, T.