Strife of the Party

The date December 31, 2002, shall go down in my personal history as the most loathsome, despicable excuse for fun that I have ever experienced.

All had been going well with our plans. My husband's sister, brother-in-law and his adult niece and nephew were in town from Houston, and they don't "go out," so we thought we'd have a house party for a change to be nice and include everyone. My husband, Mike, has never been particularly close with his sister, so we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to mend fences.

We were excited. We invited all of our friends and bought some special decorations, and were going to make the best of staying home and have a really good time. But our noble intentions quickly turned sour as we started receiving cancellation after cancellation from our favorite, fun friends. "Uh, something came up," one said quickly. "I have the flu," quipped another. Finally, one of our more outspoken friends told us, "I'm sorry, you guys. You know I love you both, but a HOUSE party -- I just can't. Not on New Year's Eve." So the guest list shrank. We received confirmation from two couples with whom we hadn't even gotten together for over five years...both of them asked if they could bring their kids. "Sure," we said. The more the merrier.

The night of the party arrived. The house was sparkling, the appetizers were made, a tantalizing assortment of liquor and champagne had been purchased, the stockings were hanging by the chimney with care... Oh, wait, wrong holiday.

The first indication that something was going awry was a rather rushed phone call from my husband's sister, Kelly, who wanted to call in advance to make sure that no alcohol was going to be served at the party because Stacy (her 24-year-old daughter) and Mack (her 21-year-old son) "have recently made their commitment to the Lord, and I just don't want them to be tempted by the Devil's substance." My husband was livid. He told her that maybe it would be best if they "stayed away...for the sake of their souls and all."

"Great," I said. "What will we do now? The only reason for staying home was so we could accommodate your family, and now they're not even coming."

Then what to our wondering eyes should appear but two minivans and more kids than either of our last two couples had by natural means. "I hope you don't mind," one said. "We offered to babysit the neighbors' kids this year, since we were going to be attending a house party. We thought it would be fun."

We watched in horror as eight little ones with muddy feet raced across the living room to the kitchen and attacked my homemade baked brie wrapped in pastry and salmon cucumber mousse. "Yuck!" the fattest one shouted as he spit out the contents of his mouth. "Gross!" another one said as he double dipped.

I was going to be patient and have fun, I resolved. Mike served drinks for everyone while I cleaned up the kids' mess.

Upon re-entering the living room, I was relieved by the fact that the two couples seemed to really hit it off. Bryan and Todd were discussing Bryan's recent gastric bypass operation -- which was a little unnerving, but at least everyone was talking. And talk they did. Mike and I never did get a word in. Bryan and Sheila, his wife, waxed eloquent about all of their medical procedures and conditions late into the evening. We passed the time by nodding appropriately, inserting the occasional "Ouch, that had to hurt" and drinking. Lots and lots of drinking.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It was Mike's sister and clan. "Oh, you decided to come after all," I slurred. "I'm so glad!"

"No," she said, eyeing my wineglass. "I came to be the bearer of some bad news. Mom was preparing supper when she started having some pains in her stomach. I called an ambulance. At Mom's age, you never can be too careful. Mike, I hate to tear you away from your party, but I really think you should come with us. We are going to go to the emergency room and wait for news."

So off Mike went. His mother is in her late seventies, and we were afraid something was terribly wrong. The couples then decided that it was getting late and they really shouldn't stay, given the circumstances. I agreed. So everyone left, and when midnight struck, I was all alone with a muddy carpet, barely touched gourmet appetizers and a wicked buzz.

My husband returned at about 2 a.m. The doctors had checked his mother out and told her it was nothing serious, probably something she had eaten. On the way home, his sister had confessed, "You know, I DO sometimes have a tendency to overreact."

So that's it: my worst New Year's Eve ever.

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Dina Eledge