We’re giving a beginning-of-the-school-year departmental party tonight and are very excited with all our preparations. The Rat Whisperers will be arriving soon to haul out the traps, so there presumably won’t be any untoward scamperings and noises in the middle of our elegant presentations. You can see how fastidious we are about such things. It’s too bad that our lawn isn’t mowed and the house painters haven’t arrived yet, but you can’t have everything. Besides, Popeye’s Fried Chicken is catering our party and that should count for something.
My husband and I have given parties together for years now and we’re pretty efficient about it. Every time we do it these days, it makes me think of the parties we used to give when we were younger — parties that lasted till dawn, with overflowing ash trays, party guests who passed out or got divorced on our front lawn, spilled liquor that killed the plant that came to be known as our Late Schefflera (the plant died in a state of bliss, my husband always insisted).
Always, the next day after those parties, my husband and I would creep around the house, which reeked of stale smoke and alcohol, speaking in whispers. We would exchange stories about what had happened the night before that the other had missed. But mostly, we took a lot of aspirin and drank barrels of water and reassured ourselves we’d be feeling better the next day.
Time passed and we had kids who didn’t respect their parents’ need for a 24-hour party recovery period. So much for wild parties. I guess we always assumed we’d return to our dancing and night life days after the kids grew up. We were young and deluded then. We didn’t realize we would get older and want other things.
These days, our parties have beginning and end times (no more question marks about the end time). We drink wine, we eat hors d’oeuvres, we speak in more modulated tones. Nobody gets into nasty marital squabbles on our front lawn (although, a few years ago, a local poet did make threatening gestures toward my husband for a study he’d done about suicidal poets). Our kids are gone, but we haven’t returned to our wayward ways.
Funny how you outgrow things, eventually, even when you don’t plan on it. We’ll have a nice time and everybody will leave by 10 and probably nobody will vomit. Since the poet is no longer invited to our soirees, I’m assuming nobody will try to eviscerate my husband.
I think of the old days, the bygone parties, with fondness. I’m glad we lived through them. But, at some point in your life, you just move on to other things.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)