Nobody wants to read about a party to which they weren’t invited, but bear with me as there is often a message in my madness. The message today is aimed at all the widows and widowers who have gotten in touch since I joined their ranks — with so many sharing how hard it is to continue going forward without their life partner.
I haven’t entertained since Burt left my side, but I got adopted into a group of local people at the Festival of Trees last December. Our table bid on the Dessert of the Month offered by Dr. David Larsen, which meant monthly dinner parties at various homes, and I lived in dread that my turn to play host was coming.
It’s not that I’m clueless about entertaining, but without Burt, plus a few infirmities like losing my vision and no longer having the boundless energy of youth, I honestly did not think I could pull off this party, nor did I want to.
But then these words popped into my head: “Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our spirits have trouble remembering how to fly.” (author unknown).
My friend, and long-time helper, Gina Nielsen, insisted on doing most of the pre-party planning. I’m a nutcase on “theme parties” because guests seem to have more fun if they have to tap into their creative inner child. The theme was “Beach-y” because my home overlooks the ocean. The deck is perfect for outdoor entertaining, and God graciously delivered warm, windless weather. Each guest either brought or wore a beach-related item. Since I mentioned “angels helping,” when the party was over everyone — even the guys — pitched in to help.
In the old days of throwing numerous parties, Burt and I would be up until 2 a.m. doing cleanup together while talking about how much fun we all had. Here is an example of one of our theme parties. It started with an invitation that, before computers, was sent via snail mail. The invite was in pieces, so guests had to put the puzzle together to find out “the rules.”
For you who don’t know, we were part of a Hollywood crowd for years, and these people are born with a creative gene and a willingness to risk looking foolish. Our home at that time accommodated around 50 guests comfortably, and I can’t remember anyone ever turning down a party.
Here’s what the invite said, once it was put together: “Support your local thrift shop for Burt’s birthday. Rules: Your outfit must come from a thrift shop and not exceed $5. Head to toe, please. You may wear your own underwear. Your present for Burt may not cost more than 88 cents, and price tags must be attached as proof of purchase. A door prize will be awarded to the most creative.”
We covered the furniture with Army blankets and replaced lampshades with ripped ones. Here’s a visual of the first guests who arrived: A male friend who was at least 6-feet, 8-inches tall could not find anything his size in a thrift shop except for a full-length, see-through plastic garment bag and, of course, you could see his underwear through the plastic. On his feet were shoeboxes kept in place with masking tape. On his head was a child’s beanie with a little propeller going in circles. What a sport!
Our home had a terrazzo entrance to the front door, and two of our female friends who had never met appeared wearing roller skates from a thrift store. What’s funny is that they glared at each other just as two women do who show up at a fancy affair in the same dress. They skated into our home and eventually decided the roller skates were a cool idea.
I’m laughing now as I remember what people found to wear, especially the world’s ugliest baby-poop colored sport jacket Burt wore, with shorts, flip flops and a sailor cap. Everyone voted on the most creative outfit, and we presented the door prize which, of course, was a ratty old door we found in a thrift shop. We also found that door at the end of our driveway when Burt went for the newspapers the next morning.
I’m pretty sure everyone had a good time last Sunday afternoon, and I’m really pretty sure my beloved Burt was looking down smiling and happy that I’m still plowing forward trying my best to live life with zest as we always did together — which is my message today to those who have lost a partner.
Most of all, I’m grateful for angel friends like Gina who stepped up and helped me remember I still know how to fly.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor” (Dancing Moon Press). The book, with all proceeds going to Rotary International Foundation, is available on Amazon, at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]