“I’m not risking the lives of my wife and child… we’re not coming!” was our most dramatic rejection. We were having a party for our four-year-old and hadn’t planned on killing the guests before the treasure hunt. It’s our road in. People have slid off it before and dangled over cliffs. But not very often.
Bob wanted a train party and as the Skunk Train, one of Mendocino’s favourite attractions, happens to chug right through camp, his invitation boldly declared: Party On A Train! This was also my hook to the mothers’ of his school pals–most of whom I didn’t know–to drive for an hour to our house. Our first born needed some friends to attend.
I was going to make a fantastic impression on the organic, hemp-latte-drinking, Mendocino moms. Pahweet.
Specially named boxes were sorted with train stickers, balloons and other tootin’ paraphernalia. Fresh fruit kebabs and home-made granola cookies would be pre-train snacks. A treasure hunt would be post train, post cake entertainment. Everything needed to be Just Right. For Bob.
Lunch for 32 guests was punched into a spreadsheet and ordered with the train crew. Nice and neat. No slip ups with me organizing the party. Nosireey. Perrrrrfect it was going to be.
Two days before the party, a mighty storm blew in and a cliff decided to kamikaze onto our road. No way in, no way out. Ug. No fresh, healthy food. Not perfect. Not great impressions.
Thank goodness for the prison at the end of the road (didn’t mention this to the mothers), as a bunch of orange-suited men tackled the mounds of dirt, however I fretted there would be more slips.
The Dimple kept humming, ‘Don’t worry. Be happy,’ in memory of Bob’s namesake. It didn’t help.
The storm continued to snort rain, which turned our driveway into a mud wrestling pit. Emails were flying in: was the party still on? Yes, family were coming up from San Francisco. Was the road safe? No. Go slow.
Poor Bob. I was caught between feverishly wanting him to have friends at his party and not wanting to kick start the event with an accidental death. Then, ten hours before kickoff the Skunk Train was cancelled–too many slips on the tracks. Crapola. There went our theme for the party and there went lunch for 32 guests.
Not perfect. Very not perfect at all.
People used to tell me I looked like Courteney Cox when Friends was on television. Usually it was a compliment, until one drunken night, one of my dearest told me I also behaved like Courtney’s character, Monica. What, you mean the anal, control freak one? The discussion didn’t go well; I was peeved she could see through my easy-going veneer. On the inside, I care a ridiculous amount about What Others Think. Especially in a new community.
There was no choice. I had to do something Monica, ahem, me hates: ask for help.
Party guests would have to bring in food. But what if no-one got in? Or the person bringing the buns for the burgers didn’t come? And what to do at a train party with no train?
Try as I might, I couldn’t control the storm and Mother Nature forced me to do the other thing I find really hard: LET GO. The woods don’t care What Others Think; they are what they are. Naturally impressive.
On the day, the people that mattered got through, alive, some did a few donuts on the way and others admitted they were darn scared in parts. Gifts flew around Bob. And grins. He had friends at his party. The children stomped around in mud and blew bubbles to the trees. They sang him happy birthday. And hunted for treasure inside and outside the house, in the rain. Everyone pitched in; hands, plates and ingredients got tossed around the kitchen. Burgers were eaten and lips were smacked.
People stayed all day and in the end, nobody cared about the train. Or the rain.
It was the best party in the woods because it was very very very perfectly unperfect.
Au revoir Monica.