It’s a big number, 50, and in honor of Ian’s getting there pretty much intact (give or take a few brain cells!), Marie-Hélène decided to throw him a party. Thank you very much chérie!!
At 50, you can already feel the vultures circling, which perhaps explains her choice of image on the invitation!
The key line was “children welcome but no supervision.” Charlie periodically asks when we will hold another party like that. It was one of the best days of his life, he says. The key reason that he had such a great time, I think, was that a group of his school friends were there, all about his age (7), and their parents were very distracted, busy sharing food and drink with each other.
To this day, I don’t know what the children all managed to do together. But there were inklings. We had prepared separate snacks and drinks for them, and these moved around the house as if by magic and by the end of the evening were spilled all over it!
I saw the junior collective massed around the trampoline at one point, conspiring to do something or other, and moved on quickly so as not to worry about the dangers inherent in whatever they were up to. That was the kind of half-baked supervision that a group of increasingly very relaxed parents could muster up!
Most of the adult guests were friends that we have made since settling in Santa Cruz, which often means parents of other children at Happy Valley School. They were the ones who brought their children.
There were a few friends from prior eras: Fergus Ferrier, whom I first made friends with in the Lothlorien co-op at Cal in 1978, and John Fore, whom I first worked with in Manhattan from 1983 to 1986, and then again at Wilson Sonsini from 1998 to 2000, come to mind. But most of the people who were able to make it were friends we’ve made since arriving in Santa Cruz.
While Marie-Hélène prepared most of the hors d’oeuvres and the like and took care of most of the internal organization, with help from her friend Camille, if I remember correctly, there were things which only a man could do. In other words, they needed to be done outside: I was by unanimous accolade (i.e according to Marie-Hélène!) in charge of the outdoors.
In particular, provision needed to be made for car parking. You’d think that would not be a problem with almost three acres of land, and you’d be wrong! Only about 8 or 10 cars could fit up the top of the driveway, in front of the house, and only then if they were carefully arranged so as not to block the early leavers.
We arranged with our neighbors across the street for the overflow to park there, because they had a meadow to park on. There was nothing comparable on our land, even down by the creek. The neighbors were helpful and easy to work with.
But that wasn’t quite everything. There are no streetlamps in our forest, and no lights on our driveway. There were 300 yards of driveway to climb up (to get to the party) or down (to leave). My job was to install that lighting, and help / nudge the neighbors to install something on their side of the road too. You can’t imagine how dark it can get in the forest with no moon or cloud. That’s how it was that night.
It was a fun project. I bought outdoor Christmas lights at Orchard Supply, and rigged up extension cords to power them all the way down the driveway. There was a moment of anxiety when I switched it all on, by which time the guests had started to arrive, but it worked fine. One or more of the older children was stationed down at the bottom of the driveway, to direct and escort arriving guests, and as far s I know, the parking went like clockwork.
Our photographer’s instincts were a little lacking during much of this wonderful party, even if we do say so ourselves. Let’s just say that we were otherwise occupied, simply too busy having fun and communing.
But as things wound down after midnight into mellow chats and mellower entertainment, we woke up to our responsibilities, and took pictures of the musicians who spontaneously came forward to play for us. I remember playing Springsteen on the stereo earlier in the evening as things were revving up, the live album from 1985, all pounding and loud and full of Thunder Road. Drew and Woody were quite a switch, one that perfectly fitted the changing mood of the party.
This was a good party, with the same kind of colors and flavors as Doc’s at the end of “Cannery Row.” I always worry that a party will turn into one of the “dismal slave parties” that Steinbeck deplored, “about as spontaneous as peristalsis and as interesting as its end product.”
Not this one. No-one set off firecrackers on Branciforte Drive, and there was no wild fight with the crew of a San Pedro tugboat, but the evolutions of the mood and the ebb and flow of groups of adults and waves of children gave it an individual life of its own, just like Steinbeck’s, only here the music went from rock and roll to folk songs for peace.
Over the course of our years together, the children had many parties, some individual, some shared. This was the only party thrown principally for adults, except of course for our wedding reception. I was going to throw one for Marie-Hélène’s fiftieth too, but we were living apart by the time hers rolled around. Good thing mine was a good one.
If you can’t tell from this page, we had a great time, and are grateful to everyone who came for creating a fabulous atmosphere and evening together.