I believe it was Oprah or some other famous person who tells us what to think who proclaimed, “Love is in the details.” It has become my mantra over the years and has been a driving force behind my work, my gift-giving, and most importantly, my party-throwing. To make things perfect, I just need a good theme to latch onto. A theme, I tell you! A theme will always make things better.
Many years ago, my friend Colleen and I went to The American Club in Kohler for an overnight spa excursion. While we were there, she shared the news with me that she was going to be having a baby. I remember how excited we were, and we sat in that hotel room in our post-massage glow and talked and talked and talked and talked. In fact, if memory serves, we were so invested in our talking that we may have economized our time by taking a bubble bath together in the huge jacuzzi tub. Which sounds kind of weird when you write it in a blog posted on the world wide web, but it seemed perfectly normal to us at the time.
Having worked at two different jobs together, Colleen and I had a lot of history and knew a lot of the same people. I knew I wanted to throw her a baby shower, but it would have to be a different kind of party to include both men and women. I picked a Friday night in September, and invited a whole bunch of people – many of whom Colleen hadn’t seen in years and she had no idea I was inviting. I still remember the little ditty I put in the invitation, too. It went something like this:
The days are dwindling
The time has drawn near
Soon we’ll be looking
At a new baby Dier.
Your attendance is needed
A baby gift is not
But if it makes you feel better
Bring a book for the tot!
As the day of the party approached, I attended to every possible detail to make the party perfect. I purchased a lovely little bookshelf so everyone could place their favorite children’s book in it for Baby Dier. I purchased my own favorite book of all time, Free to Be You and Me. I hired Colleen’s brother-in-law Tony to do the catering and picked a fantastic array of delectable treats for the evening. To make it a little extra special, I ordered a specialty cake from Hartter’s Bakery – a delicious, double chocolate cake with a layer of raspberry filling. This was going to be one special night.
The day of the party arrived, and I took the day off of work to attend to every last detail. The house was immaculately cleaned and the backyard was prepped for a bonfire, because my house was really too small to comfortably fit the 25 people who had said they were coming. Feeling confident, I looked around and surveyed the situation. Final assessment? I was perfectly pleased with myself.
About 30 minutes prior to arrival of the first guests, there was a clap of thunder so loud it frightened the dog and then the skies opened up. Although Wisconsin is not known for having a monsoon season, we had one that night. It didn’t just rain, it rained sideways. It rained so hard you could not see five feet in front of you. I quickly sprang into action to bring tables and chairs inside and put them in places they didn’t really belong and didn’t really fit. It was going to be a cozy evening.
Colleen and her husband arrived, and soon after guests braved the unrelenting storm to come, too. Surprise after surprise was unveiled. Your brother-in-law is catering! Your co-workers from the homeless shelter you worked at ten years ago are here! Your baby is getting books, all kinds of them! Yaaay!
I took a break from the festivities to go to the kitchen and get things rolling. I wanted people to eat and I had to get that started. As I turned the corner and entered the kitchen, I could not believe the horror before my eyes. My 105-pound dog Jethro – a dog I liked to say was of the “big dumb yellow variety” – had seized the opportunity to lick the frosting off two full edges of my beautiful, expensive, decadent perfect Hartter’s cake. Dumbfounded, I stood and stared at it and for a moment I froze. Shortly after that, I panicked. Then I think I might have screamed. I quickly narrowed my choices in that moment down to only two: I could laugh, or I could cry. Truthfully, I probably did a little of both.
As tends to be true in life, everything about that night turned out to be perfectly imperfect. People who had not been together for years laughed and told stories and gave warm hugs to one another. Although we were short on seating space in that tiny house, we were not short on love. While Jethro was in some serious trouble that night, his shenanigans helped make a memory that would last. And in case anyone is wondering: yes, we still ate the cake.