Copyright O.J.A., 1966
The party’s over. Months of planning, weeks of minor stress, and a few hairy last minute days all culminated into a beautiful June day. The weather was picture-perfect – the sun was warm and bright, and a mild breeze kept everyone cool under the tent.
On a cold dreary day in January, as I sat at little wicker dinette in Todd’s friend’s kitchen, I called my mother-in-law to chat about this party that was a mere date on the calendar. We talked for over an hour, while she told me what kinds of foods she’d like and I talked about how we could incorporate all those things into a manageable menu. We talked about music, and about yarmulkes stitched in gold, and flip flops for the ladies, who to invite, and whether I was sure I wanted to take this on.
A 50th anniversary party might as well be a wedding. Having personally planned two myself, this was roughly the same level of time commitment, and planning. There was the usual hmm-ing and hawing while choosing the invitation design, and then when the RSVP deadline passed and we had to chase down those who hadn’t RSVP’d. What IS it with people who can’t be bothered to just say no? This is par for the course in wedding planning, and came as no surprise… I had figured that the following Monday was going to be spent nailing down the head count.
There was no way this could be a surprise party… we wouldn’t have known all the people to include, not to mention addresses, and I know my mother-in-law would want to wear a fabulous dress and be the belle of the ball. And she was.
Todd’s parents were married on a sunny June day in 1966, in a backyard wedding. The idea to host the party in our backyard seemed apropos… except this time I planned to order a tent and tables and chairs and have my mom’s restaurant cater it. There was much ado over food, but we settled on an hors d’oeuvres table for the guests on arrival – hummus, marinated mushrooms, roasted red bells, fresh mozzarella, Boursin, deviled eggs, vegetarian spring rolls, and what my Mil called traditional-at-Jewish-parties potato knishes and pigs-in-a-blanket. (Side note: My mom’s hummus, and my great-grandmother’s deviled eggs are to die for.)
The 10 tables were set for eight each, with white linens and my Pinterest-inspired centerpieces. Special thanks goes out to Veruca and Nephtoo for placing them carefully on each table for me. The bar, which was meant to have a “tender,” was loaded with a bottled beer selection, white and red wines, sodas, and freshly brewed iced tea. While Todd and I poured a little, eventually the bar became self-serve and it was just fine that way. I chose not to have any “servers” since we had a buffet – our chef, sous chef, and Stevie B (our wayward waiter) rolled out the food and the cleanup and did a fantastic job.
The guests arrived and mingled – I welcomed everyone as I could, while Todd was nowhere to be found. It was another of our parties where the two of us barely saw each other until it was over. I love socializing, and yet am always disappointed in retrospect over missing Todd. This time we stole a few moments to kiss and hold hands, and actually look each other in the eye. It was, after all, not our party.
We hired Bobby Newton for live music, and he was ever the entertainer – though our crowd was bit too low-key and no one but my in-laws (and my dad and stepmom for a Twist contest) danced the entire three hours. I was looking forward to dancing, but never made it out there and – after just an hour of walking in my 4-inch heels (which took me two days to recover from) – was barefoot in my backyard the rest of the day.
The happy couple renewed their vows by each reading a prepared speech, introduced by our dear friend and occasional minister, Rabbi, and bartender, Robbie Radikal. The speeches were wonderful and Mil’s anxiety over her own was unwarranted. Todd later gave a toast that I completely missed. I was changing Veruca’s pump cartridge which was nearly empty (this has never happened). I’m still looking for any footage of this toast, but I’m coming up empty.
The food: Jamaican Jerk chicken, roasted beef sliced thin and served with all the fixings, poached salmon, grill-roasted vegetables over bulgur wheat, Mom’s homemade killer potato salad, and a romaine, Boston rib, and baby field green salad. We had a shit-ton of food and nearly as much left over. My in-laws took a great deal home, but we were eating the rest from our two refrigerators for a week.
And no party is a party without dessert: I ordered a giant sheet cake which was cheap and delicious and I’m not ashamed. I love those cakes. They’re especially good with coffee for breakfast the next day. And the next, and the next…
Auntie M brought a plethora of desserts – little cakes and tarts – from a place in Baltimore, and there were three boxes that never made it out to the dessert table. Mil had personally baked her killer brownies and this other dessert made with sugar cookies and raspberries to put out – and two of the four pans were never opened. I took the remainder to the restaurant for “the kids” to eat and they annihilated it before the first customers arrived for the rush.
It was a great party. Opac even dressed in a shirt and tie, with a matching fedora, for the event – though he disappeared at some point and I’m not sure whether he ever ate. Our guest bathroom looked pretty good, all things considered (another post for another time, perhaps) – and since the guy said it was filled to the top, thank GOD we had the septic tank pumped two days before. I had about two glasses of wine over the four hours so I didn’t get tipsy, although someone bumped me and I still managed to spill wine on my dress.
The after-party. My mom and Auntie M had planned to stay over. The drinking commenced after the last guests said their goodbyes, and we all changed out of our party clothes. Well, except for Robbie, who was already dressed for a Jimmy Buffett concert. For some unknown reason my mom decided to order a PIZZA at 10 p.m., which was devoured by all of us in record time.
I don’t know when we all went to bed, but it was the perfect end to a perfect day, followed by a marvelous breakfast of leftovers.