It started off as an item on my summer bucket list, scribbled in haste on the back of a crumpled envelope hidden in the dark recesses of my purse.
Have backyard party!
I have since drawn a black line through those words.
And, for whatever reason — perhaps the stars were aligned just right and because of that — the universe was perfectly willing to smile on us all — it worked.
It was perfect; well, as close to perfect as humanly possible.
It seems lots of people go on summer holidays where they are handed huge chunks of time to do nothing but hang out and practice learning how to relax.
I couldn’t see that happening in my world, but I could, if I defied logic and common sense, visualize a party.
Of course “have a party” are only black and white words and I realized I needed to color them with bold strokes of passion, imagination and planning to bring them to life.
Besides, I didn’t want just “a party,” I wanted “the party.” I wanted the kind of party people talk about when it is winter and they are looking for a warm memory to wrap themselves up in.
And so along with the invitations I sent out, I visualized people; lots of people hanging out, laughing, sipping a drink, and lounging against my fence, which used to be white, but now is kind of grey and peeling.
And I imagined the music — the kind of music that is like wine for the soul and works really well to soften the edges of the harshest realities life often hands out with no particular thought to balancing the scales of fairness.
I wanted little kids running around and grandpas and grandmas hanging out, and parents keeping a watchful eye on their offspring — but not too watchful — because they were in a backyard, for crying out loud, complete with a fence!
And I wanted the gentle sounds of people’s laughter to be embraced by the muted softness of a magical night in summer.
And I’ll be darned if it didn’t all happen.
Holy cow! I couldn’t even believe it.
At 7:01 p.m. I was ready. The rented tent was set up, the tables complete with red tablecloths and centrepieces of fresh flowers were in place. A bottle of wine was carefully placed at each table, surrounded by crystal wine glasses.
And the silent auction, with all proceeds to go to the MS Society, that my sister had poured her bubbly enthusiasm all over, was ready.
I took a camera and somebody’s phone off the nearest table and surveyed the Better Homes and Gardens picture perfect page of perfection with satisfaction.
My satisfaction was short lived, however, and soon replaced by terror.
No one was here. It was now 7:02.
At 7:05, I began pacing in front of my house. At 7:06 I lit a cigarette, even though I knew at least one of my kids would probably see me and be disgusted.
Where were they? The guests. And the musicians.
Did I have the wrong night?
What had I done? Who was I to think I could put on a party, any kind of a party, even a small, little party? Of course, no one would come. I could feel hot, scalding tears falling over my Better Homes and Gardens party page, smudging it to a blurry mess.
And then, just as I inhaled another huge lungful of reproach, they came. The people. The musicians. The moms, the dads, the friends, the kids. They all came, lighting up the dark stage of the night just like I had visualized.
It’s over now. But, in my mind, I can still see and hear it all.
Wow It was good, it was better than good, it was great. But wait until next year.
Next year I’ll have a committee!
— On The Other Side