Okay, it’s here! And, if you were among the 150 guests who were at Diana and Bill Conway’s annual Christmas party Sunday night, it was a reality check.
Holiday spirit was in abundance, although the Dec. 17 weather was so spring-like that many guests dined al fresco, both on the front porch of the near-century-old farm house on River Road and on the back patio, where not too far away, a blazing bonfire briefly roared heavenward.
"All year long we collect branches and sticks that have fallen from the trees on our property," Bill Conway explained. This is the eighth year friends have gathered around the bonfire to toast another Christmas season. Offspring of all ages accompanied parents to the 5-9 p.m. party and to partake of a buffet designed for all ages.
From succulent roast beef and smoked salmon to macaroni-and-cheese and mashed potatoes (not to mention turkey, shrimp, corn pudding, poached pears, and at least three salads, followed by desserts galore) it was an evening to warm the cockles of one’s heart.
THE DIVERSE CROWD included Diana’s friends from her volunteer work with West Montgomery County Citizens Association and her involvement for years with Potomac Elementary School (she is now president of the PTA) where their three children, Wil, Catherine and Alexandra, have all attended. Democrats and Republicans, town and country friends — several from Bill’s native New Orleans — including Mark Menezes and his wife, Elizabeth Megginson, and a number from Bill’s Washington law firm were all there.
"You know how we met the Conways?," Tony Barclay asked while talking to friends around the bonfire. He related that the Barclay address on River Road is one digit from theirs. "We kept getting their mail," he said. Barclay, there without wife, Gay, explained, "She has been fox hunting all afternoon. She wasn’t sure she would make it back in time." The Hoffmann family, Melane, Tom and daughter, Hallie, were there. The latter two also took advantage of the unseasonably warm December weather to get in some fox hunting.
Potomac native George Barnes arrived sans wife, Ginny. "She misses this party every year. Diana always has it near the winter solstice and it’s a time when Ginny and about ten of her friends gather to celebrate that event," Barnes explained. The winter solstice, in the northern hemisphere, is when the sun is farthest south of the equator. Although it takes place on Dec. 21, Barnes explained that his wife’s "circle group" celebrate on the weekend. "They cheat a little because they all work," he said.
Potomac artist Lori McQueeney arrived bearing a wonderful gingerbread house. Attached to it was a card with a picture she had drawn of the Conway barn. This conjured up memories of when the Newbold Noyes family lived in this house. Betty Noyes kept her horse in the same barn. Before that the "Reds" LaMott family lived here and stabled horses in the barn. All hunted with Potomac Hunt.
"The LaMott family lived in my house before they moved to this one," Dusty Slover, there with wife, Catherine, added. LaMott moved north when he became president of IBM.
Babette and Howie Denis came by as did Nancy and Ray Dacek, Jean Roesser, Bruce and Michael McConihe, Kitten and Mike Boyland and son, Michael; Maria and Jim Fusco and their daughter, Kathryn, and many, many more.
As the party progressed and Bill Conway’s "Hot Rum Punch" (one bottle rum, one bottle brandy, half-bottle sherry, juice of six lemons, two teaspoons ginger, cup of sugar, one-and-a-half quarts of water) helped loosen vocal cords, Carole Funger sat down at the piano to play the old familiar carols.
And a Merry Christmas to all was heard throughout.