Saturday, August 29, 2009

another birthday


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?

11 comments:

Lynilu said...

Awww, Betty, I'm sorry it didn't work as you wanted. I have a suggestion for next time ... AND, YES, MISSY, THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME!! .... arrange for a precooked dinner, pick it up and serve it at home. That will alleviate your stress and the confined area. Many good groceries have a deli that does dinner, and it is usually is about the same as buying the ingredients for special dishes. Again, I'm sorry it didn't go well, but your guests seem to be smiling, so I'd guess they had fun. The important thing is spending time together, after all.

Happy Birthday, sweetie!!

WaterLearner said...

Happy Birthday! It sounded like quite a party really and you were really one serious host!

Personally, I like quiet, hassle-free birthdays. Even if there were to be a party, I would order food. Birthdays to me, are better spent in quiet contemplation as I reflect how the past year has been and how I hope to sail in the year ahead.

Anonymous said...

Oh Honey...I so wish I was there
to be the shoulder for you...

Lynilu is right...Most good grocery
stores do have a place that does
dinner for you...Some alls you have
to do is throw in the oven and set
a timer...A good one also has a
few people who will show you what
you need and how to fix it yourself
if that is what you want...

So I will leave you with this one
little number that I like to sing
way off key...Are you ready?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU...HAPPY
BIRTHDAY TO YOU...HAPPY BIRTHDAY
DEAR SWEET BETTY...HAPPY BIRTHDAY
TO YOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!

Loves ya Girl!

HUGS!!!!

Laurie

Betty said...

Dear Lynilu,

That's a great idea. I'm sure the cost couldn't be much higher than the way I did it, which was not cheap.

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear WaterLearner,

You are so right! I was one serious host! Your idea of the ideal birthday sounds much more appealing than what I just went through.....

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear Laurie,

Ha! Thanks for the song! It didn't sound off key to me!

Wow- everybody but me seems to be on board with these prepared meals- I'll have to look into it!

Hugs,
Betty

Monogram Queen said...

So sorry it didn't happen exactly the way you wanted but at least the worst didn't happen....
as in nobody showed up!

Happy Belated Birthday!!!!!!!

Big Dave T said...

Let me offer my own belated birthday wishes. Looking at the picture before reading your blog, I thought to myself, great looking living room. Then I see how hard you worked to clean it up. Good job.

When things don't go as planned, as often happens, I'm always reminded of the Jimmy Stewart line in Shenandoah: If we don't try, we don't do, and if we don't do, then what are we on this world for.
(Something like that)

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Betsy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B.S. said...

thanks for the comments