Guest Books…Walls…Chairs…to Spark Memories

I recently came a diary of sorts that I kept long ago: notations of dinner parties, what we ate, the wines we drank and the guests that were there. I’d bought it on a trip to Venice —a handmade book of days, no year — which I filled in with pencil, interleaving it with thank you notes, wine labels, recipe notes, and polaroids of dishes improvised for the occasion. Leafing through it SPARKED memories of sublime evenings at table with friends.

The book itself is not important — it is the recording of those times that is the valuable practice. 

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

Such a record can take endless forms. Mine was a take on the classic Guest Book, in which guest’s sign their name and write comments. The inscription doesn’t have to be words. Dig Jean Cocteau’s inscription in legendary chef Fernand Point’s guest book:

guest book F Point Cocteau

And the “book” doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a chair like the one a reader upholstered in white fabric so her guests could write on it with colored markers (there are some mighty famous names on it)…

autographed guest chair

A friend who was a serious party giver asked friends and the visitors that inevitably accompanied them to write and draw on the walls of one room. In a similar, but less expressive fashion, a Japanese restaurant we went to dedicated a wall for their guests to mark memorialize their visits.

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

Simple photographs, Instagrams and Facebook entries create digital records that seem to lack the power of an inscription, of particular words chosen in the moment…

Sally Schneider (click to read)

Sally Schneider (click to read)

My Venetian book has many blank pages still. Perhaps I’ll start the notations again…

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

One Response to Guest Books…Walls…Chairs…to Spark Memories

  1. Louisa 02.20.2015 at 9:24pm #

    This reminds me of the year I threw myself a medium sized party to celebrate a minor milestone birthday (a 5 year, not a 0 year). I passed around blank cards and pens and asked my guests, as a gift, to write a brief story about me. The story could be true or invented, it didn’t matter, but my request was to be mentioned as a character. It was a revealing exercise, and one that led to some unexpected results. My favorites were the invented stories, where I made only a brief cameo appearance. But quite a few people wrote of true incidents when I had stood them up! I always thought of myself as a solicitous, considerate friend, so the true gift of the exercise was the chance to see something about myself that I had missed and to make changes in how I treated my friends.

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