Sunday, December 21, 2008


It’s that party time of year again! After all the shopping, wrapping, and stressing, it’s time to stop, drop and eat rolls, along with everything else at the holiday buffet table. This year we were invited to three Christmas parties—a cozy evening at a relative’s home (black jeans), an open house at a long-time friend’s (black slacks), and a literary gala in the City (black silk).

At the first party I ate a huge meal and drank too much wine. At the second party I limited myself to healthy appetizers and one glass of wine. By the third I went straight to the dessert table (for the Secret Cake) and washed it all down with water.

Those parties were fun because I didn’t have to cook, clean, or declutter. But this year we were blackmailed into offering our house for the annual Neighborhood Progressive Dinner party. It seems that last year, after too many paper cups of eggnog, my husband volunteered our home. And apparently someone who didn’t have too much eggnog remembered his ridiculous offer.

Now I have to clear away all the clutter that’s accumulated over the past 30 years and hide it all in the back bedrooms. Then I have to cook something fragrant to cover the smell of cat litter. And finally I have to drape the house with my moth-eaten Christmas decorations to cover the cobwebs on the ceiling, the scratches in the coffee tables, and the cat hair on the drapes.

But by far, the best holiday parties are the ones you’re not invited to. Like my son’s office party at the Fairmont Hotel’s Crown Room, when you just happen to be in the neighborhood.

We entered the grand hotel, my cheeks rosy from several glasses of wine. Grinning like Elves paid overtime on Christmas, we made out way up the elevator. We couldn’t wait to surprise Matt and his eight-months pregnant wife, Sue. But when the elevator opened to the top floor, we were met by a frosty woman at the check-in table.

We tried to sneak by She Who’s In Charge of Guest Security but she drew up her mouth in a bow and said, “You need to check in first!”

“Oh sorry!” I said, beginning to shake like a bowl full of jelly.

“What are your names?” She indicated the last four nametags remaining with a plump finger.

I glanced at them, recognized one—the head of my son’s company—then blurted out the name.

“Here you go,” she said, handing over the nametag. “You’re at table two.”

My eyes twinkling, I snatched the nametag out of her hands before Matt’s real boss walked in the door, and headed for the party room. While everyone was dressed in suits and gowns, we stuck out like Rudolph on a Christmas Eve in our khaki pants and cartoony Christmas T-shirts. Ducking behind a beam, we finally spotted Matt and Sue, about to sit down at Table Two.

Faster than Santa could rise up a chimney, we flew over. “I believe these are our seats,” I said, pointing to the boss’s nametag. Matt looked as if he’d just learned there was no Santa Claus, while Sue seemed as if she might just have her bundle of joy right there at the party.

After they sort of recovered, we turned with a jerk, laid a finger aside of our noses and, like a flash, disappeared into the frosty night—before Matt’s real boss could arrive and fire my son for having wicked bad parents.

For us, ‘twas the happiest Christmas party ever!


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