Monday, September 6, 2010

Ideal party

We hosted an impromptu BBQ last night, for all of the very very smart people who didn't schlep to the Cape this weekend.

The idea for the party was started when a girlfriend and I, while enjoying a workday lunch in Somerville's Union Square, realized our grad school gang had not seen each other in a while. She said she'd host a party, but then agreed to let me and Jeff host so we could invite other friends. The vision I had was a backyard filled with people, playing badminton while laughed echoed off the porch.

About 90 minutes before the party, while reflecting on the nine definite RSVPs which included Jeff's parents and godmother, Jeff asked me how I was feeling. Only one of my grad school pals was on the "yes" list for the party. One never even replied in spite of an email and a follow-up phone call. He then said, "I feel bad that you put so much energy into planning these parties, and then always end up being for my friends and family. I think you need to plan around them better."

My reply, "I give up too much of my own desires already. I don't want to plan parties around people who are inconsistent. I think what I need to do is adjust my expectations of the people I call my friends, particularly those with young children. Between their obligations to their children and their own families, and the alleged difficulty of traveling with kids, I can't count on them to be present when I want them to be."

Jeff countered, "I think many people don't realize the point of dragging yourself out of the house is to spend time with people you care about. If the venue is less than ideal - maybe you don't want to go to that golf tournament, or concert, or bat mitzvah - but you do want to see the person who invited you. So just go and be with the people you care about."

With that as the reflective thought for the day, we headed into the party. Jeff's best friend from childhood and his lovely wife were the first to arrive. Followed by Jeff's godmother and his parents. We sipped water and wine and caught up with one another. Then our neighbors arrived, the wife a friend of Jeff's, with their 15 year-old son, who promptly got to work setting up the badminton "court" and exploring the bocce set laid out on the dry grass. We started cooking, laying out the meager but delicious potluck. Then, to my surprise, two friends from graduate school arrived. One sans her 3 year-old daughter and the other with her two young boys in tow. We all got food and drink and settled into the grass to reconnect. When the badminton set was fully assembled we popped up and played three or four horrible but fun games while Jeff's dad took photos from the porch. As the end of the party the neighbor and her family were still here, along with two friends - sweethearts - Jeff and I have both met through social media. We did a little trash talking, poked around on the Internet and generally relaxed with one another.

It all felt nearly perfect. What would have made it perfect? If my family had been there too, and maybe a relaxed board game or card game at the end of the evening.

And, because there was such a tiny crowd, clean-up was a breeze.

The lesson for me? It's not entirely who's in the room but how you use the time that makes the ideal party.

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