Don’t believe your mother when she claims she doesn’t want a fuss over her sixtieth birthday. She does. She wants a party. And it’s up to you, since your father means well but isn’t one for details and your bartender brother is more partygoer than party planner. Always has been.
Tell your mom she won’t have to do a thing and nod when she ever so subtly reminds you she got cancer for her fiftieth birthday. You will throw a party worthy of her next decade: you got this.
Acknowledge you actually have no idea what you’re doing and immediately call the aunts (your mom’s three sisters) for advice. They will help you.
Add up the people on the invite list and conclude you are buying food and drink for thirty which is twenty too many to count in on your fingers. You’ll need a spreadsheet.
Spend sixty-two dollars on outrageously expensive invitations from the Paper Source.
Your mom is an artist: she’ll love those invitations and making her happy is what this is all about. Remember that.
Realize when your mother was your age she planned and hosted her youngest sister’s wedding in your family’s backyard. You were ten when this happened. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are taking life at your own speed and that you will eventually at get pregnant and have children, god-willing before your parents are too old to pick them up.
Decide the menu will have to be all hors d’oeuvres (a word you can never spell correctly, no matter how many times you look it up) because you can’t possibly cook dinner for thirty in your apartment. Allow your aunt, the same one who got married in your backyard, to suggest a filet of beef with horseradish cream thing that you don’t quite understand how to make but figure you’ll sort out later.
Task your brother with concocting a special drink for the occasion. Something that is fun and festive and delicious, with and without alcohol, because your mom quit drinking and everyone should support her (even if they drink the alcoholic version).
Ask your boss to take off the Friday before the party. You’ll need that whole day to get ready. Don’t even bother imagining how much better life would be if you had every Friday off.
Decide the backyard-wedding aunt is right: it would be a good idea to rent glassware and plates so you don’t get stuck with a horrendous clean up. Plus, you only have twelve appetizer-sized plates and as you know, thirty people are coming over. Spend forty-five minutes browsing a rental company’s website attempting to discern the difference between seventeen styles of white plate.
Worry that you might not have enough food. Realize this is natural because you are half Italian. Add one more hors d’oeuvre to the menu, just in case.
Marvel at the relative ease with which your mom planned your own wedding, also in the backyard. Remember when she started signing emails the “CD” for “Creative Director” and you thought she was being a tad self-important? You were wrong.
Have a nightmare about Aunt Pat, your mom’s oldest sister. She’s very reliable and the perfect host, but is also the sort of woman who owns white couches (she has two of them) and is known to swipe the top of picture frames to check for dust. Hire a cleaning service to whip your apartment into shape.
Go to the grocery store where you purchase your weight in hard cheese, olives and decorative cocktail napkins. Also buy a filet of beef that’s probably worth a month’s salary in the developing world. Consider trading it in for flank steak, but don’t. Feel guilty about that for fifteen minutes.
Call your mother. She sounds cheerful. Add to her cheer, by telling her the planning is going well, that you can’t wait for the party and that, no, you don’t need any help. Everything is under control!
Call your father. He sounds relieved you are in charge. While you wonder what the party would look like in his hands, try not to think that he’s starting to sound old. He just always sounds weird on the phone.
Call Aunt Pat. Ask her how to cook the giant filet of beef that’s squatting menacingly in your refrigerator.
The day before the big party, you are scheduled for your second fertility procedure. This is terrible timing, but nature is a bitch, so off you go. Remember how, months ago, you’d hoped there would be a future grandchild to report by now? Well, it’s not happening. Not yet.
Do a little math in the shower and realize when you turn sixty your mother will be eighty-five. She has excellent genes and generally healthy habits; she will make it. Maybe your dad will too. His mom lived past one hundred. Stop yourself from calculating how old you’d be if your hypothetical kid ever turned sixty.
Race around, all day, the day of the party. Send your husband out to buy ice. Kiss him, thank him, then send him back out for more mint and another block of cheese. You now have enough food to feed a high school football team. Clean the bathroom again, even though the Russians who cleaned your apartment did it the day before. Also set out enough votive candles to spark a bonfire.
Talk to your friend Johanna. She will assure you that you are doing all the right things.
The aunts, bless them, are your ladies in waiting. Ask them to come over early to help with last minute prep. They can light candles and slice the filet of beef (which you manage to cook in spite of your nerves) while you get dressed. As you step into your party dress, wish you could be a more laid back host, like the woman you read about in Vanity Fair who regularly welcomes guests in her bathrobe.
Turn on your stereo and hook up Pandora because you ran out of time to make a party mix. It’s better this way. You can play all the music your mom likes: Motown, Sinatra, Bonnie Raitt.
When guests arrive, ferry their coats to the spare bedroom and start passing around the filet of beef with horseradish cream thing, which really is delicious. Sip the drink your brother created for the occasion (cranberry simple syrup, mint, soda water, vodka) and try to appear calm, as if thirty people visiting your apartment is a regular occurrence.
Don’t get annoyed when your mom is forty-five minutes late to her own party. She is forty-five minutes late to everything and you were delusional to think it would be any different on her birthday. Hug her when she arrives; don’t comment on the time.
Realize you should welcome people with a toast. This requires public speaking, which you hate, but press ahead anyway and manage to only mildly insult your mom with a poorly delivered joke about her age. Hope she knows you meant well.
Laugh when a dance contest breaks out between your six-year-old cousin and husband in the midst of a series of Michael Jackson songs.
Stop wondering if you have enough food. You do.
Stop wondering if people are having fun. They are.
Stop wondering if your mom feels loved. She does.
Refill the ramekins with nuts and olives.
Check the cheese.
Pass out one more round of beef filet topped with horseradish cream.
Photo By: Matt_Roe