Saturday, August 29, 2009
Yesterday was my birthday. For some elusive reason, I decided to have a party, which in retrospect seems highly egotistical. Well, my stab at self-glorification certainly backfired.
First, some background. I was never one of the popular girls. I was no cheerleader. I was the dunce of gym class, wanted for nobody's team. Other than gym class, I was a geek, but fortunately, nobody made fun of me because I was ever aware of my goal of behaving in an innocuous fashion so as to fail to draw attention.
More accurately, I was innocuous until I discovered the wonders of alcohol. Liquored up, I could be the star of any party. That went on until I realized that I had a problem with alcohol and I stopped drinking. Rewind to innocuous.
Ever since my mother died, my birthdays have fallen by the wayside, unnoticed. My father, who has immersed himself in the family of his current wife, doesn't even mail a card or spring for a long distance phone call. Doesn't it make sense for someone in my situation to plan a birthday bash? It sure beats wallowing in misery for the 24 hours marking the date of my birth.
I spent every free moment during the past week cleaning my house for the party. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing forgotten corners with a toothbrush. I even cleaned the walls and ceiling, wondering how it is that dust can collect in such places. Seriously- where does it come from?
Then, the day before the party, I started cooking. Mind you, I'm no chef. I need a detailed map to find my way around the kitchen. I attempted to produce homemade gnocchi (delicate Italian potato dumplings). Something went terribly wrong, and the dough totally stuck to my hands, and eventually to my arms, face, hair and clothing. I stood there in my kitchen in tears, not knowing how to proceed, not wanting to even think about any plan B, never wanting to cook again for the rest of my god-forsaken life.
I looked like the Pillsbury dough boy, covered with a gooey potatoey mess (which I still haven't managed to completely remove from my hair). I was afraid to shower it off, for fear of clogging the plumbing. I went outdoors and hosed myself, to the amusement of the neighbors and passersby.
Hours later, I had finally put together a concoction defying recognition. This is why I had to start cooking the day before. I know myself well enough to be able to anticipate kitchen disasters. It turned out to be a casserole-looking thing, so I shoved it into my refrigerator intending to cook it just before the party.
Over the past couple of weeks I had spent a good deal of time analyzing this upcoming party. I had no wine glasses, so I bought a set. In case some people wanted water or soft drinks, I bought one of those colorful plastic beverage tubs to be filled with a large bag of ice from the gas station the next day. My house is small- too small for comfortable partying, so I decided to hold the party outdoors, and made arrangements to borrow extra lawn furniture. I neither cook nor eat meat, so I found a gourmet grocery where I could purchase high quality pre-made meatballs to add to the concoction.
Just in case the concoction proved to be inedible, I added tortellini to the menu- a double batch to ensure that I wouldn't run out of food. Everybody except me seems to eat bread with Italian food, so I found frozen garlic bread that looked somewhat appropriate. I had to write out an hour by hour timeline for the day of the party so that I would have a fighting chance of pulling off this party. Oh, and did I mention that I baked my own birthday cake? Not wanting anyone to feel obligated to bring a birthday gift, I didn't tell any of the guests that it was my birthday, and I made sure the cake didn't look birthday-ish.
The big day arrived, with rain. The interior of my small, ill-designed house would be the setting whether I liked it or not. The phone rang, and while I tried to untangle myself from tortellini, my favorite party guest left a phone message stating that he had been called out of town and couldn't attend. I still had some tears left even after the previous day's events, and I indulged in another crying spell.
The first guest arrived 3 minutes early, and I was not amused. My kitchen is the worst feature of my ill-designed house- it lacks space for more than one person at a time. I shooed her out of the kitchen and into the ill-designed living room, explaining that cooking required more concentration than I was in possession of.
But it was too late- things had started to fall apart, as I lost track of what had to be in the oven for how long. I managed to start a fire on the stove. I asked my early arrival to take over the kitchen before I ruined the entire production, and I just stood near the door, dazed, as people showed up.
After a few minutes I regained consciousness and took over the kitchen again. While everyone was eating, I cut the cake and started the dishes. I was too overwhelmed to think about eating myself.
Not one person took a bottle of water or a can of soft drink of the huge plastic tub with the 33 pound bag of ice in it. They all drank wine. I had told people that we'd go for a walk in the park or play Pictionary after eating; we did neither, with thunderstorms raging and Pictionary forgotten. When I finally went into the living room to attempt to converse with guests after the meal, I was too exhausted to be conscious of what I was saying, and I said things I later regretted- gossipy things having to do with work.
The guests left as soon as the lightening let up enough so that they could run to their cars, arms laden with leftovers which I begged them to take. As I entered the kitchen to resume the endless task of cleaning up, I noticed that the floor was flooded. (I noticed because I slipped and fell.) The huge plastic tub which was intended to hold ice and drinks during parties apparently had a hole in it. All 33 pounds of ice, now in liquid form, seeped into the floorboards of the ill-designed kitchen.
I'm not sure what line of thinking led me to believe that throwing myself a secret birthday party would be in any way enjoyable by me. It was a lot of work and even more stress. It consumed the day completely, not to mention the preceding days. That's what I mean when I say it backfired. Ironic, eh?
Posted by B.S. at Saturday, August 29, 2009