Monday, November 08, 2004

I'm sorry that there has been such a gap between posts. The past week has been quite an emotional rollercoaster. So much so, in fact, that the events will have to be spread out over several posts. This one is called...

My Heart Is Full

The excuses for having such a large party for Halloween were as follows: Due to the kindness of my ex-friend, it had become tradition for me to have a large birthday party every five years, and this is the fifth year since my last. My now ex-friend Lydia had been instrumental in throwing surprise parties for me the last two times, but the breakdown of our friendship has been chronicled in this blog, and it is completely out of the question that she would ever be wishing me a happy birthday again. So, if a party was to happen, it certainly wouldn't happen if I was to wait for Lydia to plan it.

Also, my actual birth date falls in the midst of the end of the year holiday season, a time during which everyone, including myself, is running from holiday party to holiday shopping to holiday cooking, etc., and I felt as if having another get-together during that season was almost a burden for people, rather than a cause for celebration. There is nothing as awful as feeling that you are dragging people out to celebrate your birthday, or that they are being nice to you out of obligation rather than heartfelt good wishes. Once you get that whiff of 'I have so much shopping yet to do/My office party is that same night/Oh great, ANOTHER thing to do that week', blah, blah, blah, you almost want to have a little hissy fit and say, "Really, don't bother! I'd rather be in my pajamas with a good book at home if you are going to wear that puss all night!"

Taking all of those considerations together, along with the fact that Halloween was falling on the weekend and it is my favorite holiday of all, and the excuse for a large party became almost elementary, my dear Watson. However, since I was throwing the party myself, and I definitely did not want it to seem like I was trolling for birthday gifts (tacky!), I did not mention the birthday reason on the invitations, only the Halloween reason. I only mentioned the birthday part of it to a select few people, mostly so that they would know that later on in the year, they will be excused from saying "We have to try to find a time to get together for your birthday (stifled groan)", because with this party, we will have already done that. Except for my brother and three other guests, who still brought presents despite my protests, my efforts were completely successful, and the party did not turn into the dreaded pseudo bridal shower - put the gifts on the gift table - type of embarrassment.

By the time of the official witching hour, all of the elements came together, and if my guests had nearly as good a time as I did, then it was a raving success. I could easily say that the Halloween party was one of the best nights of my life. Here are some details:

Decorations: After two evenings and a frantic morning's worth of decorating, the rental hall was decorated better than I could have imagined. I had been hoarding orange lights and pumpkin covered cups and plates and plastic eyeballs and streamers and styrofoam tombstones and plastic spiders and glow in the dark skeletons and ... for months, and it all turned out to be rather impressively ghoulish when all on display at once. I was extremely proud of the results, and thanks to two of my faithful friends and my sister-in-law, all of the work was done before it got to be too terribly late on the day of the party. People went nuts over the elaborateness of the dungeon-like lighting and the cauldron full of foamy eyeball sherbet punch, and the screech of the battery-operated flying bats amusingly filled in the gaps between songs on the CD or during the bands' sets. I think the two best effects were the hanging caldrons of fire that we placed around the fireplace, along with the red light that went behind the rack that holds the firewood (which was replaced by a realistic looking skull), and the cage, cut out of a refrigerator box and spray painted grey, that had a hanging skeleton and a strobe light effect on it. I mean, orange and black streamers and plastic pumpkins are cute and all, and people will comment on how sweet it all looks, but if you make it look creepy enough, people will really be impressed by the depths of your depravity, and will cast sideways glances at you for months afterwards. I'd rather be a cool ghoul.

Food:The food was great, although there was far too much of it, because (see my rant about RSVPing), I was not quite sure who would really turn up. I estimated on the high side, just to be safe, but luckily, I also planned for food overload disaster, and had purchased a truckload of those round aluminum "to-go" pie plate things with lids. You know when a hostess says, "Please take some of the [fill in the blank with some kind of food that is good enough that you might want some, but is messy enough that you just KNOW it is going to end up all over the back seat of your car on the way home]"? Well, when I said, "Please take some of the food home," and I had a disaster-proof way for people to do it, some of them actually DID take home food. [Insert picture of hostess looking quite pleased with herself for planning that part well.] Still, we have been eating the leftovers from this party ever since, and next summer still might be too soon for me to see any more sausage and peppers. One other little Suzie Homemaker detail to share with you: Those Halloween themed "Peeps" marshmallow ghosts and pumpkins look really cute arranged around a cheesecake or other dessert. And if you can find "Deadhead" Charms lollypops, with white skulls embossed on dark purple lollypops, all the better to shove into a pie or cupcakes. The dessert table was really amazing, if I say so myself.

Music: J. had arranged for his current band and the band that he used to be in years ago to both play at the party, and had been busy that week setting up and running rehearsals with both groups. I know that he got a lot out of it too, but I was so touched that he worked so hard to provide the entertainment, and that they were all nice enough to give up a Saturday night (a big night for musicians) to play at my party, for free. They seemed to have fun playing separately and jamming together, and I was especially proud of J's playing that night, as many of my friends had never heard him or his band before.

I had never been one of the cool kids in school, and I had never dated musicians when I was younger, so having a cool musician boyfriend and having all these rock and roll musician friends who would come and play at my party was something out of one of my teenage fantasies. I remember thinking at the party, someone really has to pinch me, because I cannot believe this. Luckily, I have not yet crossed over that imaginary and yet seemingly inevitable dividing line, the one which separates such an experience. On one side, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true; but on the other side, it could be a terribly pathetic, last ditch attempt to recapture youthful exploits. Some might say that chronologically, I am over into the pathetic side of that line. But as far as I'm concerned, it was a dream come true moment, so I was thrilled to pieces. I'll be too old to rock some day, but not today.

Guests: Friends I see every day, and friends I have not seen in months or even years, all showed up in inventive costumes, and I was a little bit overwhelmed trying to make time to talk to all of them, take care of my hostessing duties, and enjoy the bands all at once. A nice couple I used to work for drove all the way here for the party. My friend who owns a costume store and had worked his tail off for days and days during the Halloween busy season, dragged his weary yet well costumed self there. J's ex-wife, who was the singer in his old band, and who had been sick as a dog, came and sang her heart out, and impressed the crap out of everyone. ( She is so talented, no one could have guessed how awful she felt that day.) My now oldest surviving friend, in terms of the length of our aquaintance, not her age, made me so happy by coming to the party, making it the first time we'd seen each other in a few years. My one good friend came to the party dressed as me, with the shirt loaded with "in" jokes that gave away who she was supposed to be, and everyone got a hearty laugh out of it.

Partying: I made two attempts to eat some of the food, and all told I only made it through half of a stuffed shell and a portion of the chocolate mousse cake, what with all of the people arriving and talking and various introductions to make. Some dear person was trying to be helpful and kept clearing my plates before I could get back to them, but I have certainly had more than my share of the catering since then, so no matter. I was worried at first that people would only congregate with those they already knew, but some brave guests got around to introducing themselves to others there, and I was so happy to see all the parts of my life melding, laughing, and dancing together. Except for one real stick-in-the mud husband, who has been making his wife miserable for several I-wish-she-was-strong-enough-to-leave-him years now, everyone seemed to have a great time.

Miscellany: Since J. had not had an opportunity to meet a good deal of the people from all of the far flung parts of my life, I had to drag my poor shy one around and introduce him to many people that night. Luckily, there were also many people who were his friends, or who he already met, so it wasn't completely like being thrown to the lions. Still, I know that since he is rather shy with new people he probably doesn't make the best first impression, so I'm sure that some people came away with very little idea of what he is like, aside from the musicianship. Well, that's been the story of my life, since almost every person who has been important to me has suffered a bit of social shyness, and they all make either a neutral or poor first impression, which can only be righted when they meet up with people again in a smaller group. But honestly, the evening wasn't about trotting J. out as a trophy, or to worry about what my friends thought of him, since my feelings about him are not to be dictated by others. But it was part of my agenda to have the people I like best at least meet the other people I like, so that when I mention them in conversation, there is some frame of reference: "Oh yeah, the one who came as the spaghetti and meatballs to your party?"

Uninvited guests: Besides the revelers, there were ghosts in the room that had nothing to do with the decorations - phantoms of love and loss, the past and the future. The ghost of Lydia, the hostess of my previous birthday celebrations, hovered around the far corners of the party, trying to cast a jealous pall over the proceedings, yet not able to dampen the energy and enthusiasm present. The twin goblins of alcoholism and cancer slow danced in the corner, unseen by many, as they gossiped and cackled together, proud of their past conquests that had saddened those present, and conspiring how to best win over those in the room who had narrowly escaped them in the past.

The spirit of my father smiled down on us all, happy in the knowledge that I was blessed with so many good friends, and was finally able to see above the murky waters of depression. Far enough, in fact, to imagine that I was perhaps worthy of such a celebration. And yet the spectre of bad feelings to come laughed at us from behind the amplifiers, sending out an ominous hum and crackle.

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