Today in My History
2001: A Year Ago
2002: Into Each Life Some Cheesecake Must Fall
2003: Why Am I Not Surprised?
2004: What a Difference a Year Makes
2005: My Annual Cold
2006: Pages Project, Update / September 13
2007: Of Interest to No one
Books Read in 2010
"The Art of Racing in the Rain"
Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
VIDEO OF THE DAY/WEEK
A Taste of Uncle Vito's from Bev Sykes on Vimeo. On You Tube
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Mitzi Gaynor said WHAT?
Spirit of '43
Ned's Video for Bri's 2nd birthday
No You Can't (John Boehner)
Jim Brochu closes NASDAQ
Stupid, Callous, Homophobic, Hateful Legislation
Most Recent on My Cousins Day, August 2010
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13 September 2010
We went to a birthday party today (one of those big-number birthdays that people celebrate) for someone that Walt worked with.
I was actually kind of glad when I had a bit of an intestinal problem this morning. If it got worse, I would have an excuse to skip the party, but it got better and I could have decided not to go (one guy who comes to these things never brings his wife), but I wanted to be supportive, so I decided to go.
In Meet Me In St. Louis Judy Garland's character talks about things that she "hates, loathes, despises and abominates." These office gatherings don't fall into quite that categorization, but they come close. I've rarely enjoyed them.
It would be different if I were a person who knew how to make small talk. My mother does it beautifully. But the minute I walk into a room of strangers and near-strangers, my brain goes blank. My friend Ron will attest that I'm more comfortable standing behind the potted palm.
It would also be different if I knew the people in Walt's office. Many of them seem to have or have had a social relationship outside of work, and have had for many, many years. The problem is I recognize them all, but I don't have any kind of relationship with any of them. Since I may go a year or more between visits, I can't even remember their names and am doing good if I can match up the couples. I can't tell you how many Christmas parties I've attended where the wives talk about this or that project that their husbands are working on that I've never heard about. Once I was congratulated for an award that Walt won, which he never told me about
Walt has never taken his work home. It was so bad that at one time my kids told their friends he worked for the CIA and couldn't talk about his job, because they didn't have a clue what he did and didn't know what to say when their friends asked them what they did. Char once refused to let Walt get out of a chair until he told her something about his job. "I've known you for ten years and I don't have a clue what you do," she told him.
(Actually, in the new TV show Covert Actions the woman who works for the CIA tells everyone that she works at the Smithsonian, so maybe the kids were on to something!)
When we enter a room at one of these parties, I sidle up to someone I know a bit, they acknowledge my presence and go on talking to someone else and I feel like I've stepped into a black hole. Or worse, they will ask "what are you doing these days, Bev? Are you still doing theatre? I miss your editorials in the newspaper." This acknowledges that they remember that at one time (20 years ago) I was involved with theatre, doing publicity or supporting the kids, that I once wrote letters to the editor (not editorials), and that they don't have a clue that I've been the local theatre critic for 10 years. I say "Well, I'm still writing theatre reviews," but by the time I get "theatre" out of my mouth, the group has gone back to talk amongst themselves again.
(Conversation got much more awkward, by the way, after the kids died, which is not surprising. But then it wasn't quite so bad when someone else had to bury a child and we could feel like we were allies against all those people who don't know what to say to someone griving.)
When I can't stand the awkwardness any longer, my next move is to the food table. I don't load up on food, even if I haven't had lunch (which I hadn't) because I don't want people to see the fat lady with a big plate of food. But I did get some fruit and cheese & crackers and a glass of water.
Then I have to find a table because Walt is visiting with friends, which is fine. That's what he's there to do.
I found an empy table and hoped maybe someone I knew would also sit there, which actually happened. I started with my usual "how's the family?" and while she was in the middle of answering someone came up to her and started talking to her. In the meantime, two other people sat down on my other side and began talking to each other. I got up and filled my food plate again, just the thing I didn't need to do, of course.
There was a formal part to the party and that was fun. I got some ideas for a multimedia presentation, but I couldn't hear a lot of what was said.
After that was over, a woman came over, the only one I know, sort of. We had a nice chat and she told me about a trip to China she and her husband had taken. Walt eventually joined us and we talked a bit, but they got up to leave. It was past time for the party to end, so we decided to leave too, but first Walt had to go to the other end of the room to say goodbye to the guest of honor.
Fortunately there were lots of things about the family's history on the sign-in table because I got to read through almost an entire book of family stories before "Hour Baur" ended and Walt finally came to the front door of the hall. I had my Kindle with me, but it would have been rude to be reading a book in the middle of the party, but it was OK to read some of the party materials.
I came home feeling detached the way I always do when I spend 2-3 hours trying to be invisible so I won't feel terrible because I can't think of a thing to say to anybody and nobody knows what to say to me either.
It was a relief to be back home again.
PHOTO OF THE DAY