My “Country Diary” tells me that today is the Autumnal Equinox. What my “Country Diary” does not tell me is that it’s still hot as Satan’s anus and that the Autumnal Equinox only means it’s time to break out the light therapy lamp before seasonal depression makes me a grumpier old fart than the Trump presidency already does.
I miss the demarcation of seasons. I miss summer lasting until Labor Day and after that particular holiday filled with hot dogs, homemade ice cream and my dad kvetching that he’s a-laborer-and-still-has-to-work-every-Labor-Day-and-why-did-bankers-get-to-have-the-day-off-that-celebrated-him, we packed our satchels with a new 64-pack of Crayolas and fresh notebooks, wore new Stride Rite shoes and traipsed our fannies to school.
After Labor Day. When there was just a hint of the autumn-to-come and the sweaters that came with our new school clothes outfits would be days away from necessity. But I’ve moved farther south, climate change is real and now school starts in the middle of the freaking summer.
Despite the muddiness of seasonal change, I am compelled to mark the end of one season and beginning of another by recalling one heckuva summer in the life of Familia de la Caldwell. Spousal Unit turned sixty; my brilliant, gorgeous niece graduated from high school; I got new knees; Man Child bought a house; Art School Student traveled; a really awesome friend passed away; there was a 40th class reunion; and this old married couple celebrated thirty years.
Spousal Unit Turned Sixty
Spousal Unit is one of those guys who has improved with age and it really pisses me off. For years, I’ve let him know that I would NOT have paid attention to him in high school. I was “that” girl and he was a nerd, lurking around the physics lab, partaking of various substances, with long stringy hair and a goofy grin. Karma really is a bitch because she mean-girled me right into overweight, splotchy-skinned, saggy-boobed middle age while HE got gray in all the right places, kept his chin line, much of his waistline and became “distinguished.” He still walks with a spring in his step, for the love of Pete.
These small victories of his needed to be celebrated, so I queried, “Do you want a party for your birthday? You’re gonna be sixty.” As if he weren’t aware.
“Nah,” he modestly replied. “I don’t need anything big.”
I scoffed. This man needs a crash cart, five-star catering and organ donators on stand-by when he gets a cold. Hell, he wants a party when he comes home from work each day. I didn’t believe he didn’t “need anything big” for one single solitary second.
“Okay, then, how about we take some time off and do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?” He brightened. The man do love him some bourbon. Then he seemed to take a moment to ponder. He loves bourbon when the bourbon comes to him. It seems more like work when he has to go to the bourbon.
Weeks passed and I finally gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse, “Do you want a *mother-friggin birthday party or NOT!?!”
Of course, a party isn’t a party without a theme, and because I was inspired by his advancing age, we would celebrate his turning “One year closer to Jesus” with an old fashioned dinner-on-the-lawn church potluck. The invitations included a picture of him as an Episcopalian acolyte. We ordered church fans with the acolyte pic on them. We provided church keys (bottle openers) as party favors.
Everything would be outside. Other people would cook. This was perfect.
Until it wasn’t. The forecast called for rain. LOTS of rain. Of course it was going to rain. It always rains the weekend of his birthday, which coincides with Mother’s Day and Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase. The only thing better than 25,000 people in sundresses and seersucker suits traipsing in mud is 25,000 drunk people in sundresses and seersucker suits traipsing in mud.
“What are we gonna do?” I asked Spousal Unit in a panic. It was four days before the party.
He looked at me with that look, the one that said, “You’re the one who insisted on a *mother-friggin’ birthday party for me” and announced, “It’ll be fine.”
Maybe the reason he is aging so well is because he says, “It’ll be fine” while I run around with elevated blood pressure making things be fine. It’s not like I hold grudges or anything, but there was that time he forgot to pack the train set – read that THE. TRAIN. SET. – when we traveled to West Virginia for Christmas. Granted, his dad was quite ill, hospitalized in fact – and we had left Nashville in a rush. However, I was getting over the flu and Santa’s numero uno gift for the five-year-old was en absentia. While Spousal Unit was at the hospital visiting his dad, I was in a flu-induced stupor driving all over the tri-state area trying to find THE. TRAIN. SET. Found it in Ohio. At Sam’s. His dad recuperated. It was fine.
This would not be fine, however. There was supposed to be gingham oil cloths on picnic tables, blankets spread on the grass, sounds of bluegrass wafting across the lawn, swea’tea in mason jars and hooch in **Bessie’s boot. ***Daisy would provide the backdrop for a fire pit, glider and swing area while Jello salads and fried chicken perched on the buffet table.
Most importantly, I was only going to clean the downstairs bathroom.
Three days before the party, I ordered a 15’ x 20’ tent to cover the patio between the utility room and the carport. Two days before the party, I cleaned the utility room, kitchen, breakfast room and den. One day before the party, we cleaned the rest of the downstairs and welcomed Spousal Unit’s sister and her granddaughter to help with the celebration. Sis-In-Law has the hostessing gene from their mother and kicked into gear immediately upon arrival.
The day of the party, we thanked eight pound, six ounce baby Jesus for Amazon and free delivery and erected the party tent in between downpours. We threw the keg in the trunk of the Packard that was backed into the carport, rearranged a few things in the house, threw gingham tablecloths on the breakfast table and put on our Sunday best.
Unbeknownst to Spousal Unit, the Art School Student finished final exams early and flew home, surprising Dad minutes before the party started. Birthday boy was verklempt. Guests trickled, then flooded in. Covered dishes landed on tables. Everybody obviously understood the gist of the party. One of Man Child’s friends bought a suit at a thrift store and I swear, he coulda been one of our preachers straight out of the 70s, ready to eat some fried chicken. One of my besties sported a rose-covered pillbox hat on her head and delicately pulled white gloves from her fingers before eating. Another good friend brought the calorie-filled chocolate pie that sat at EVERY dessert table EVER at a church potluck. Yet another brought the quintessential potluck dish: macaroni and cheese. There was a full crockpot, a tray of asparagus and a full-blown church supper-worthy tuna casserole.
Guests ranged from old neighbors from our DINK days to brand spanking new friends met on Facebook. There were schoolmates of the offspring and their parents, with whom we’d grown fond in the battlefield of raising kids and there were college buddies of Spousal Unit. Members of his kitchen-pickin’ band, “Old Dog, New Tricks” ate, drank and moved the living room furniture so they could do what they love: make music.
The rain stopped. The beer poured. My main squeeze turned 60 in the style to which he’d grown accustomed – surrounded by fun people who love him and want to celebrate him. Even the dog participated by grabbing a fleece blanket from one end of the house, dragging it to the other, fluffing it and plopping down upon it as if to say, “Well, it’s past my bedtime and if you people aren’t leaving, then Ima nap right here in the middle of things.”
I grinned like a fool throughout the entire party. The College Kid was home for the summer; Man Child and his gf were living with us; Spousal Unit had the celebration he deserved with people who know that he’s a pretty awesome dude; his sister and great-niece were with us; our house and hearts were full.
The summer of 2019 was off to a great start.
- *My mom reads this blog
- ** The ’49 Packard
- *** The ’59 Canned Ham Camper
- ****A burgundy dish towel and a serving spoon remain if you want to claim it.