Friday, February 25, 2011

Never Ever Not In A Million Years

Two of my granddaughters, both turning two this month, are celebrating their birthdays together tomorrow. The excitement runs high, furious cleaning, moving, painting, arranging and decorating is going on at my daughter’s who is hosting the fete. Elmo invitations are sent, a jump house is rented, multiple highchairs and booster seats are gathered and cloroxed to within and inch of their (if they had them) lives. Balloons, bunting and banners proclaim and adorn the day in bright primary colors, colors of joy.

My daughters are wonderful mothers, perfectionists with unbelievably high standards in all areas they feel are important to the health, happiness and well being of their children. I am sure that this will be a total joy to attend, that the toddlers will end the day happy and exhausted and everyone will go home saying what a wonderful job they did.

Watching them gear up for this important day I can only remember the various parties planned and hosted by me for my children….

Most of their parties were small simple family affairs. My first child’s first birthday went totally unmarked except by my saying Happy birthday Sugarbear to her and promptly bursting into tears. Her father was somewhere on the island of Crete shooting missiles from tanks, her Grandparents were literally in other countries. I was six weeks away from giving birth to my second child and that was about all I could muster. I was sad and lonely and clung to her much more than she clung to me that day. Her second was more exciting, having her uncles there to teach her how to say “Wassup?” and giving her change from their pockets. She had presents from her father and I, from her grandparents, her great-grandmother. We all moved outside after cake and ice cream to watch the uncles, one 12 and one 14, blow up model cars with firecrackers and whoop like wild things as they played with my baby girl in the Indian Summer twilight.

For my children born in the heat of summer parties were more elaborate even if still almost criminally simplistic. The heat in June and August in Georgia made it possible for us to celebrate out of doors. We played water balloon volley ball, and smear the queer (don’t be angry, please, that was the name of the game 30 years ago) with the water balloon, and went swimming. We had potato races and danced in sprinklers and went to the park and cooked out, eating second and third slices of cake while we watched adult relatives row lazily around the lake as their offspring threw hamburger buns to the ducks, skipped rocks and told secrets on the benches under the pines. On a rare occasion a friend was invited but there were just so MANY of us, of the family, that 30 was a normal number so who needed anyone else?

As my kids got bigger the parties began to take on more importance to them. They realized that they should be events of a caliber worthy enough to mark their birth. Luckily for my oldest, unluckily for the rest, she had 6 years on the next in line so she got to try everything first. The end results were so often irritating (on the up side) or down right disastrous (on the down side) that the others rarely got but a watered down version of the event if they got any version at all.

When Anna was turning 12 she wanted a slumber party. This is a normal request for a 12 year old girl. I had had many myself. Long nights filled with too many sweets, giggles and tearful arguments. Many a best friendship had gone up in flames and many a new, tentative friendship rose up in it’s place. What could be the harm? I knew the girls, knew their parents. We lived in a complex which had townhouses (called condominiums) and no one had more than a five minute walk there or home if need be. My husband had gone home to Belgium for a visit so it was just me and the kids. I thought it would be a blast.

Getting ready for the party was a hoot. We went and rented movies fit for tweens, “Princess Bride” being the group favorite, and bought potato chips, brownie mix and soda pop. Lugging these treasures home from the store my daughter started worrying that the three movies we had chosen would not be the RIGHT movies, and if they were, would not be ENOUGH movies for the party.

When we reached home she promptly went next door to her friend’s (twins!) house and after much secret deliberation the girls decided to raid their (at work) parent's stash of movies. I heard the trio come in, making big plans for a fun filled night. I heard them turn on the TV and the VCR opening. I asked them what they were going to watch, wanting to save the movies (a truly rare treat for me and my kids) for the actual party. They had borrowed a movie they said, called “Brown Eye” from the neighbors. “Uhm, girls, don’t turn that on!”
“Why not?” they asked in unison as the door slid shut.
I tried racing to the player but felt my feet go exponentially slower as the tape went fast forward through the opening credits. I felt like a cartoon, heard my voice in low slow mo crying “Noooooooo” as I tried in vain to reach the off button before they could see what I had only guessed at. As a woman’s quite large, curvaceous and gelatinously jiggling bare butt filled the screen (thankfully obscuring the split second but definitely THERE shot of a large male member) all three girls shrieked in horrified glee and my hand slammed into the TV control panel, sending the unit sliding across the table, my heart into my mouth and brain into shock. OH. MY. GOD. Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod. Shit!

In my head I cursed the neighbors, cursed the kids, cursed the VCR, cursed the damn slumber party. Out loud I heard myself say “Well, I don’t think that looks like a good movie” as I slapped at the buttons, wrenched the tape out, put it in an envelope, wrapped around the entire package 50 times with duct tape and marched outside to leave it like a foul smelling dead thing on the neighbors front stoop.

At this point the party was a success as far as the girls were concerned. For me, it was a portent of the evil that was to follow. Sitting in my room about midnight I heard the house go ominously still below me. The sound of the Princess Bride floated up quite clearly in the silence. Not even my other kids, banished to the upstairs in various states of mutinous anger (This sucks! Why does she get everything she wants? I HATE YOU) were silent. As every mother knows, silence is not golden, silence is freaking scary. I crept downstairs to find them all out on the patio, standing on folding chairs and tables and motorcycle seats (their dad would KILL them) peering over the fence at the OTHER neighbor’s house. Sounds of great revelry permeated the night air, loud music, glassware tinkling, ice cubes jingling against each other muffled by the slightly viscous  sound and smell of cheap bourbon. I slid in amongst them, they were too engrossed to notice me, and got an eyeful of the spectacle they were so enjoying. A woman who could very well have been the star of “Brown Eye” was dancing, sort of, on the kitchen table. Clothes half off, eyes half closed, glass half full, the 3 men who shared the unit looked on in slightly sickly silent greedy lust. “OH FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!!” My outburst startled every single one of us in the tableau, the kids stumbled back trying to keep their footing on their various shaky perches, the men turned their heads with snaps slowed by inebriation, the woman fell off the table backwards into the wall with a whoop, a hiccup and a giggle.

The babes were marched back upstairs and I could hear them trying to define what they had witnessed… “I don’t think that was dancing, you don’t dance on a table!” “You do if you are a grown up” “Mom and dad never do!” “That’s cuz our tables too shaky” “I don’t know…”… the big girls returned to the tale of princesses and honor and love, definitely pale in comparison to what they had just witnessed and tried to NOT talk about it. I spent the rest of the night on the couch smack in the middle of the gaggle eating potato chips out of the bag and thinking of how I would never, ever not in a million years host a slumber party again.

I did, of course, but that's another story.