Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

This Is For Deb

My friend Deb celebrated her youngest child's 4th birthday last Sunday with one of her impeccably planned parties. Except, that night, absolutely nothing went as planned.

It started with the rain. Sure, it's rainy season here in Southern California, but in the almost-dozen years I've lived here, I can't remember one like this. Rain for days on end. Torrents of rain interspersed with mists; fogs turning into hailstorms. It's bizarre. I knew Deb would be worried that no one would come to the party. She was wrong. They came all right. Lots of 4-year-olds, siblings, moms, and more. Right on time. Right around four. Exactly half an hour after the power at her house went out.

Poor Deb! At first I was sort of enjoying it, in a friendly meanspiritedness. I often tell Deb that I think she needs to learn to go with the flow, and just enjoy the moment, that sort of thing. And now she had no choice, since all of her party plans involved some input from the electric company.

Still, I also felt bad for her. She had some really fun things planned--a projected movie, iron-on scarves and blankets for the kids to do as an art project (with adult help of course), stuff like that. And then it all had to be scrapped. Not to mention, once the kids left the living room with its empty screen, the birthday girl's mood rapidly deteriorated. And Deb was scurrying around trying to get all these kids fed and entertained.

The good news is that our little group is such that all of the kids see all of the adults as parent figures. So I scooped up Little Miss and took her aside, and soon I had both she and N doing a "throw-your-head-back-and-laugh-in-the-face-of-adversity" thing, which cheered us all up.

The kids seemed to have a blast anyway, dancing around with flashlights, eating peanut butter sandwiches on this incredible rainbow-colored bread, and obliterating any semblance of order in the kids' playroom.

As anyone with a real sense of irony would have predicted, the electric company guys showed up to rectify the situation within ten minutes after the last official guest (since we consider ourselves to be family, not guests) had left. It was still pouring, and those poor guys looked so miserable out there. So miserable, in fact, that Deb's mom grabbed another friend and a bunch of slices of birthday cake, and decided to take it over to the guys. They waded out into the street, delivered their plates of good will and thanks, and then waded back to the house. Well, the friend did. Deb's mom? Not so much. The water was so high, it obliterated the curb, and she misjudged, tripping over it and going down, face first, onto the concrete.

I was standing in the kitchen with Deb when her friend came running in, yelling about calling 911. We both hesitated, totally confused, and then leapt into action. The various husbands, along with the cake-besmattered electric-company guys, had umbrellas over Deb's mom, and were checking to make sure she was conscious, etc. Deb called the ambulance. I gathered the kids and ordered them upstairs, not wanting them to see and hear the grownups freak out. As I explained what was happening in the most non-alarmist way possible, the girls in the room were all quiet and sad, looking at Deb's two girls to see if they were OK. One the other hand, the one boy in the room, 7-year-old J, was almost beside himself with excitement. "An ambulance? Really? Wow! Can I go see?" (It had to be explained to him, in no uncertain terms, that he was to stay upstairs and stay with his friend, whose grandmother was going to be taken away in that ambulance. He did it, but he clearly wasn't happy about it.) I couldn't help but laugh.

An ambulance ride, some x-rays, and a few hours later, Deb and her mom returned from the hospital. No concussion, not even any stitches, though she had some nasty gashes on her face, and a pretty banged-up knee. In the meantime, we'd had the birthday girl open her presents, which she did with grim determination, and not all that much real interest, and then--the lights back on, of course--showed the movie that should have been shown hours earlier. The kids loved it, actually, watching a show on a big screen right there in the living room.

The rest of the night was a blur. It was around 9 or so when Deb and her mom came back, and they sat for a while and looked at the presents and stuff like that, and then I, well, um, sorta, um...OK. I'll just say it. I decided it was my business to order Deb's mom around and tell her what to do. I don't know what possessed me. I mean, I know Deb's mom fairly well, but why I thought that made it OK for me to say things like, "No, that's not going to work. I'm just not comfortable with that plan," I simply don't know. At the time, I thought it was OK because I knew I was right, and she was making a big mistake. (She wanted to go back to her house and stay alone that night, and I just saw that as a recipe for disaster. This, despite the fact that this plan had been OK'd by the doctor at the ER, who has an actual medical degree from an actual accredited school and should therefore probably be considered to know more than do I, a person whose main medical claim to fame is having watched every episode of Marcus Welby, M.D.) In the end, I won out, and I supposed that's all that really matters, right? Because, after all, it is all about me. As it turned out, she really was fine, and could have been left alone. But I still maintain that she was better off safe but sorry. And Deb didn't really need her husband home with her that night, did she?

I do have to say, though, that I'm a little peeved. I mean, I have N's birthday party coming up in just over a week, and I've got nothing to measure up with Deb's party. Sure, I have pirate treasure chests and blow-up swords and such, but compared to blackouts and ambulances and bossy know-it-all friends, that's nothing. I mean, Deb's daughter's party may not have gone according to plan, but it was definitely one of those nights that you never forget.

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