We couldn’t get the flier made up in color on time. Eddie spent hours pouring over CD’s selecting the artwork. Would the zoot-suited gangster shaking a martini over a sparkling bar promise too many libations? Was the flier even understandable? Would people really RSVP when they lived right down the street from us? Would our request for finding babysitters be ignored or cause guests to pass up the invitation?
Would corn fritters, crab wontons and sausages be enough to eat? It was going to take several hours to prepare the six sauces if we couldn’t find the right chutney or pineapple chunks. How many bottles of highland and lowland single malt scotch would we need? What other drinks should we have on hand if the scotch distilled with burnt peat moss prove to “angry” for some of the guests?
I never thought I would find the time to make the wine “identifiers” that looked so good in the Beads ‘n Other Needs window. The beaded rings adorned with different wine motif charms would help keep our stemware separate. (Shameless plug I know but if John Boston can do it why can’t I? They are located at 23416 Lyons Ave in Newhall 661-799-9595.) After that I even thought I had time to make candy party favors for the kids that I had forced onto sitters for the evening.
It took us a month to plan this impromptu party feeling for our party guests. But we knew the truth—no one was sleeping at the Bushman house—we were too busy fretting. Until the party had finally come and gone, it was a crapshoot. And the odds, with nervous Nellie/Eve at the helm, were in favor of the craps.
We had to have the party for many reasons. It started like this: Our neighbors would simply not stop plying us with baked goods and bubbly at every sign of an upcoming holiday. We were in the hole big time and we knew it. Then, when it seemed our party would be a nice round eight, two other couples up the street from us suddenly appeared with daughters the same age as mine. The “playdate” was born during the last off track month and now, I wondered how, and why, I got along without playdates for so long! I figured we should get to know the parents of her new friends a little bit better because sometimes, thank God, she played at their houses.
Now we were up to ten guests. Then I thought I really wanted to have the dentist and his wife that I’ve met at many events the past year, and you know I’m never at a loss for words if there’s a dentist in the room. So add Ed and I and we were up to fourteen. Everyone was home when I hand delivered the invites and I thought they were just being polite when they agreed to come. Maybe it was my upturned hostessy smile. Maybe it was because we were the newest residents on their street. Maybe they just felt sorry for my homemade fliers and me; they would surely back out later.
Ed proceeded to finesse the menu and plan the scotch tasting. I knew he would love to pull out his weathered map of Scotland to illustrate where each scotch had been distilled, why single malt tasted better than blended and why peat moss makes an excellent “angry” scotch for those really bad days at work. We decided to round out the tasting by serving a few bottles of “Fat Cat” cabernet in advance and following with either a port or, what someone had brought at our last tasting, a pretty darn good pear liquor from Poland.
The last few days were spent house cleaning, grocery shopping, decorating and worrying. I had forged, head first into the lion’s den of entertaining and certainly was not confident enough that we could really pull it off. The few hours before I still had little notes strewn around the island in our kitchen: “Don’t for get the cute little bottles of water.” “Put out the Valentine candy.” “Would they okay me using their real names in a subsequent column?” “See how Lars made it through his root canal.”
Lars had tried to cancel but Dr. T took care of him four hours before the party so they both miraculously showed up. Lars’ wife Cynthia appeared to be very animated when they arrived an hour late (stating they’ve missed many a ball game before they got their schedules straight.) but Lars assured us that Cynthia is always excited to get out of the house. She wondered how he knew this as he’s been home about four hours, or was it four days, this past month.
Steve was home with the flu but his wife Gladys drove herself down. Everyone was thrilled with that because they all like Gladys and…well…she was the only one that drove over and it was getting kinda chilly out. I dragged Darryl from his house to mine when I dropped Samantha there for his teenaged daughter, Howie, to baby-sit. Ben was coming over too so he, Shawn and Brandan could hang out without Meagan and Samantha bugging them.
Ann and Jeff (Ben’s parents, I hope you’re keeping this straight) arrived just before Bobbie and Kelly so we all got kind of stuck in the bedroom part of the tour for awhile. Ann made a few suggestions to add to my bookshelves while I spied Kelly peering at the old family photographs on our walls. I felt bad that Bobbie hadn’t even been given a chance to take off her coat or purse before I thrust a glass of wine into her hands. But it seemed to be progressing okay at that point, no real faux pas yet.
In no time everyone’s glass had been filled, appetizers were scarfed down and Jeff grew very anxious to start the scotch lesson. Jeff and Darryl shared quite the male-bonding moment when Dr T.’s wife, Chris, caught them on camera wearing my wine identifiers as earrings. I couldn’t help but tell them what I wore to a formal, previously all male, scotch tasting. For the rest of the night no one requested anything form me other than to see the red wig, hip boots, black leather mini skirt, fishnet stockings and bustier I used to be able to fit into. (Back in my youth I was going for the paid-date look just to shock.)
I wished that Chris could have gotten a panoramic view of my kitchen. Around our kitchen island twelve adults stood, sat, whispered, called out, giggled, guffawed, ate and drank. They really looked comfortable dipping the creamy crab wontons into Ed’s special sweet and spicy dip. No one just ate the cashews out of the nut dishes. Conversation swelled.
After the formal tasting and lesson was over I wanted an actual scotch glass. Cynthia expressed a little jealousy for the low-ball glass I had plucked off a shelf so I handed her one too. It was just the two of us so I didn’t worry that our “identifiers” couldn’t be used on these. But somehow, out of the entire room, she snagged mine. I think it had more in it. She blamed it on the missing ID tag. Dr T. laughed at us over the sound of his massaging chair, Ann finished a whispered story to Bobbie and Gladys, Kelly finished the last drop of scotch in his glass and was the first to suggest that it was time to start the long walk next door.
In one year on this street Eddie, Samantha and I have met at least twelve caring people and their families. I can’t help but think, as much as I’ve loved my neighbors in the other three SCV neighborhoods that we’ve lived in over the past fifteen years, that’s a big number of friendly neighbors. The move, the party, family and friends—its all a crapshoot and lately the Bushman’s have been rolling sevens!