Some Kids are Hurricanes

The party guests all Ubered home by 11 p.m., leaving me and Smartacus with a thousand dirty wine glasses, too many cookies, several slabs of leftover pizza the caterers made in a wood-fired oven in our driveway. And a good memory or two.

Is this how the Romans lived?

I’m never hosting a party again, by the way…too exhausting. I was sore even before the party, having potted some oversized plants – maybe mums? And my left heel felt like a Clydesdale had stepped on it after I’d schlepped around tables the size of wooden ships.

Parties wipe you out — before, during and after.

It was all for a good cause: Rapunzel’s engagement to the young dude they now call Uncle Truck (he drives a big Dodge Ram. Hence, “Uncle Truck.” My granddaughter says it with glee, while flouncing up and down on her diapered butt).

Anyway, the lovely and patient older daughter orchestrated the whole twinkly backyard bash; she’s mad, this woman, preps for parties like her late mother did, worries every little thing.

Basically, that’s how the magic happens.

Of course, nobody can do it alone. On the morning of the big bash, the professional balloonist arrives, then the guys with the rental tables, then the caterer sets up a tent.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “balloonist,” this is someone who makes a living supplying bouquets of balloons to parties … like giant clumps of grapes. Call it show biz. Call it set design.

Call it Cupidity.

FYI, Cupidity is a system of beliefs, kind of a pedagogy, that encourages kind gestures. As a dad, it’s my nature to sort of sniff at that, no good deed goes unpunished and all. But more and more, year by year, I see the value of being a decent human being. I mean, me of all people?

Cupidity = kindness = a better world.

Now, some kids are guitars, some kids are hurricanes. The lovely and patient older daughter is a human hurricane, a dervish, a Roomba of pre-party energy. I love and admire her very much, while staying clear as she arranges flowers, futzes with photos, barks out orders to her young apprentice, Smartacus.

She also has this amazing, cashmere hair, by the way.

In short, my oldest daughter is the kind of person you can drop out of a troop plane and say: “Sarge, go destroy that Tiger Tank!” And she will. She’ll argue with you a little about your strategy, your timing, but in the end, she’ll parachute out of that plane, flip backwards a few times and go win you a war.

You know, the vagaries of life continue to amuse me – the serendipity, the happenstance, the blind curves… how we deal with hard and ugly truths. Scoff all you want. That’s just my opinion.

And I have this theory (“So many theories,” as Suzanne notes, “so many theories…”)

Well, here’s another one: First-born children intuitively know how overwhelmed their new parents are, and they step up to compensate, to appoint themselves as assistant parents. It’s totally Darwinian. They do it intuitively for the survival of the species.

That explains the high energy of first-born children. And when her mama died almost four years ago, the lovely and patient older daughter stepped up to be our demi-mom.

Whew. Thank God. Thank you, baby.

Such a party she put on. In the half dark of late fall, the backyard looked made of tinsel. You hang enough lights in the trees, you cram enough wine on the bar, you get the fire pit raging, and everything else kind of takes care of itself.

By 8 pm, full of Cab, the groom’s dad and I are discussing how timberwolves are decimating the wild deer population of the Northern Great Lakes.

By 9 pm, my frontal cortex quits working and I am yodeling college fight songs, in honor of Rapunzel and Truck, who met at a Big 10 school.

“Hail, Hail to old Purdue…Ever grateful, ever true…”

You know, as dads, we are collectors of Jimmy Stewart moments, triggered by the pure mooch-ca of being surrounded by family and friends.

I blame them.

Saturday was one of those mooch-ca moments. Seriously, this time of year, I wear family and friends like favorite sweaters – I’m not proud. I lean on them like big sturdy trees, trying to regain my balance, trying to locate my shoes.

And Saturday night, amid the serendipity, the happenstance, the hard and ugly truths, was yet another in my string of Jimmy Stewart moments.

Some guys collect Mustangs. I collect Jimmy Stewart moments.

Ever grateful. Ever true.

Email me at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. For past columns, books or gift sets of gin glasses, please go to my website, ChrisErskineLA.com. Coming soon: A Gin & Tonic holiday bash.

17 thoughts on “Some Kids are Hurricanes

  1. The party looks like it was simply smashing and absolutely exquisite. Bravo! Cheers to Rapunzel and Uncle Truck. And that’s my old alma mater too. “All hail to our old gold and black!”

  2. A post as lovely as your older (and younger) daughter. Thankfully, giving great parties seems to be like giving birth. You swear right after you will never do it again. And then you forget all about the pain and mess and find yourself doing it again. Congrats to Rapunzel and Uncle Truck! Posh is so proud, I know.

  3. Call Steve, the Party Butler ( 310 871-0417) for set up & cleanup! You’ll never have another party without him. He’s very reasonable & can bring servers too.

  4. I totally agree about your theory of first born children. Have had this theory for many years. May more and more joy come to you and all of your family. P.S. Cakes is a first born!

  5. This one brought tears to my eyes…so beautiful! I have a theory, too! In my experience (and extended family) the Hurricanes tend to be the oldest DAUGHTERS! Which might actually be a youngest child.

  6. I am worn out just reading this! This reminded why we stopped entertaining lotz of people every Fourth of July…we didn’t have a Smartacus and his two sisters who would be the worker bees. WHEW!

  7. Some of us get to party, some do not. My story:
    My younger sister, the actress and voice of, among others, Helen Lovejoy on THE SIMPSONS, turned 70 11/14. Gathering friends and family (a la Erskine) she booked the historic Brown Palace Hotel in bitingly cold downtown Denver for a Black/White themed birthday soirée. My not-fiancé, Pam and I DO do theme parties, and our prepared ensembles were like police cars run amok.
    ‘Twas the first time in YEARS the four surviving Roswell children, my brother on a plane to Denver out of LAX, we Southwesting from Burbank, and eldest sister driving precariously from Grand Junction, CO, would be at the same place, at the same time.
    Said not-fiancé and I were on the plane, still at the “gate” when I got the call. A fire in their boiler room at the famous hotel had rendered the venue without heat or water! Party canceled!
    A first for us. Not a last minute cancel, but getting on, and off, an aircraft in the same city on the same day! And, of course, our checked luggage (two for free on Southwest!) spent most of yesterday in the Mile High city.
    Glad your party was a smash, Chris. Ours was more of a squish.

  8. At this time of year, our history of celebration begins around bonfires, then segues to candles, graduates to strings of electric lights and combustion automobiles streaming in, and soon may be an illumination driven to, from, and by battery power. Virtual events up ahead await the unwary future celebrant and may flicker in the increasingly uncertain light of cell phone screens gathered together on the internet. But for now, joy often requires a high priestess, and it should not be a celebratory surprise that this goddess of ritual elan would turn out to be an oldest daughter. They have long been the focus of a most intense and developmental parental scrutiny, and have acquired compensating leadership and execution skills of a high order, worthy of a queen. In late November, with the light retreating—lying low, they can light up the sky; a most useful skill for outdoor events. Looking (a little) and sounding (a lot) like Jimmy Stewart, I recognize my moment, and genuflect to such radiant regality, albeit at a distance, a fade-out Caesar bowing to a resplendent Cleopatra, as it were. Up ahead: Thanksgiving. This afternoon, in The Bowl, Go USC ( my Spartan alma madre), and…party on, in the courts and kitchens of the Queens…in the weeks ahead.

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