A HELLUVA PARTY
It all began in July, when I mentioned casually to Tracy that our next wedding anniversary, on January 3, would be our 70th.
Her response was anything but casual. “Oh, Mom,” she said with high enthusiasm, “I’m really glad you mentioned this early. Usually you tell us the day before. Now we have time to do something.”
The something turned into a production that was so above and beyond, that Bob and I will revel in it forever. Everyone in the family played a part—and indeed it took a family army to make it all happen . . . which in total produced an extraordinary event.
The overall Captain was Tracy. Together she and Paul located a caterer who created pulled pork, roasted chicken, beans and salad—most cooked in a spectacular oven on his property. But that was just the beginning. She found a special bakery and ordered a cake. From then on, the rest of the family geared up and the event began to swell, like pancake batter spooned onto a griddle.
While initial plans were for “family-only,” to be held at Betty-Jo and Chris’s, our kids decided (thank heavens), “Hey, they see us all the time. Let’s include friends,” and with that the party grew beyond the confines of anyone’s house—and instead Tracy secured the social hall of Tustin’s Presbyterian Church. (A little side note here: One of my good friends confessed, “If you hadn’t included friends, I was going to crash it anyway.”)
The rest was done by elves who worked semi-secretely, mostly out of sight of Bob and me. One of them was Dane, now head of Video Resources, who gathered various family seniors to come and speak for a short, but professionally-edited video. Since Bob and I had not been given a preview, it was as much a surprise to us as everyone else. With most of our immediate family up there on a huge screen, mainly talking about us, we loved it.
Dane also brought a professional sound system for that night, when various family members provided “off the cuff” remarks directly to the audience--including Bob and me, who were anything but unprepared. Unlike everyone else, we’d both written our statements weeks earlier. Bob did his sitting down, adding so many fascinating-- but additional--details about his early life (before me), that some of us wondered when, if ever, he’d get around to mentioning his marriage.
As for me (who preferred to stand so I could see all the faces), some divergence crept in, but I mostly covered the conflicting aspects of the smartest, but most unpredictable personality I’ve ever known. And trust me, I should have been prepared for a surprising life. Bob was never ordinary, but a brilliant oddball right from that first dance at a Stanford Jolly-up.
The next day he invited me to go on a "beach party."--which, as it turned out, consisted of him, me, and an acquaintance with a Model T who was persuaded to drive us-- while he, like an English butler, drove staring straight ahead, but saying nothing. When I protested about this screwy arrangement, Bob said, "Of course it's a party. I've brought grape juice, cheesy crackers, and we're going to the beach."
Who else would summon you from your dorm by standing under your window and whistling--like he was calling his dog to come out and play? .
I’m not sure either of us offered keys to the success of a long marriage—except that, despite the tragedies that everyone knows about, and some mostly-hidden conflicts between the two of us, here we both are, still married. And we couldn’t be happier that we’ve still got each other.
And glad we are—that the members of our immediate family, for reasons beyond just us, are terrific people, all married to winners . . . who in turn have produced their own winners, and ultimately some great grand-kids whom we cherish. And hey, in that fourth generation we’ve got as wide a variety of disparate personalities as you could ever gather in one spot—including a twelve-year old who knows ten times more about world geography (and other stuff), than I do, and a four-year-old who willingly passed out little dishes of cake to the guests—until someone observed that she was first taking a bite out of each serving before she handed it over.
As a family, and as individuals, so many contributed to the evening that I will surely leave someone out. Beyond General Tracy came Chris and Betty-Jo, who, almost secretly, gathered table settings, but also little pots of flowers, and most remarkable still, small photos of us for each table. Their grand-kids must have spent hours wrapping silverware in napkins and tying each of 120 items with a ribbon and bow. Only later did we learn that Betty-Jo woke at four a.m. that day, worried that her little pots of flowers, left outside, might freeze, so she got up to bring them in from the cold. Thus ending her night.
Tracy’s Paul, plus his two daughters, plus friend Peter, spent the entire evening in the church kitchen, warming the dropped-off food—four kinds—ladling it into serving dishes, mixing two kinds of punch, arranging the serving table, and making sure the food never ran out.
Ken’s Melanie did so much extra cooking of various canapés—most of it out of our sight—that she earned, once again, the title of hostess with the mostest. (We’ve been to her house in Virginia many times, and can vouch for her quiet but spectacular success with anything edible.) As another gift to us, Melanie and Ken also secured the evening’s steel-drum music.
It was Dane again who gathered four good photos of Bob and me, carefully chosen by Tracy and granddaughter Christy, to massively enlarge into stand-alone posters, which helped decorate the social hall.
And speaking of Christy . . . knowing that Bob and I love crossword puzzles, she somehow found the time and expertise to create a long crossword solely devoted to events in our lives. Though it was both clever and difficult, (the leading clue was, “The trip they’d agree was their favorite,” while the answer was, “impossible to say,”) numerous guests proudly showed us they’d managed to complete it.
Meanwhile, the day of, Tracy, Betty-Jo, Chris, Christy, Melanie, and various great grand-kids, turned the social hall into a magic kingdom, with every detail covered. I remembered waking one night, days earlier, and wondering if they’d forget silverware and paper napkins. What a joke! Our kids were dozens of steps beyond such mundane concerns.
The evening itself was beyond anything Bob or I could have predicted. Our kids dictated that we should sit like royalty—make that a king and queen--at a head table where our subjects could drop by to visit. Which nearly every one of our 110 guests did.
Meanwhile, how were we to get food? Two of our great grand-kids, Nora and Malena, not only parked themselves at our table, but kept jumping up to go fetch us servings of dinner. They seemed fairly anxious that we were well supplied.
As I come to the close of this longish story, it needs to be said that relatives and good friends came from long distances to be part of the event. Among them were Geoff and Amber and great-grand-kids from Eureka, long-standing family friends from Tucson, our son Kenny and Melanie from Virginia, granddaughter Juliette from Raleigh, North Carolina, and farthest of all, Tracy’s daughter, Jamie, husband Mike, and the baby of the clan, Eva, all the way from Amsterdam.
In some ways, you could call Eva the mascot of the evening. Only seven months old, Eva has a crown of dark hair (more than I've got ), and was the evening’s pass-around pack, never crying, but sometimes offering her Queen Elizabeth wave.
The best I can say is, it’s not always easy being 91 and 89, respectively. But the anniversary party—at least for that night—made it all worthwhile.