When I entertain, I learned how to do it from my parents’ generation. It seems to me with Social Media, that concept has gone the way of the 1950’s and 1960’s: a charming, ‘old school’ notion that our parents and grandparents engaged in. I miss the entertaining that my parents engaged in when they, and I, were much, much younger….and the Zest for Life that I witnessed during these nights that my parents entertained.
I recall being a child, and my parents held multiple gatherings in our home. Between Dad’s work as a doctor at a major urban hospital and an administrator as well, he and my mother wound up entertaining a handful of times, especially when I was a child. The Pulmonary Division was a fledgling department, and when Dad first joined the staff, that division consisted of him and 3 other doctors – a minuscule amount for a city hospital. He and the other 3 doctors were called on to entertain in order to entice and recruit.
The very first party that I remember, I was a three year old, and we were living in Crestline, a suburb of Birmingham. It was a Christmas Party, and I recall my mother dressing us girls up, as they had decided to ‘make the most’ of it, by utilizing it as a way to expose us to social gatherings, and to use it as a teaching tool on how to Behave Properly. Ultimately, we only ‘attended’ the Christmas party long enough to have Christmas hors d’oeuvres and Egg-Nogg(sans the brandy), and to walk around and greet our guests, and wish them a Very Merry Christmas.
The year was 1967; my parents had splurged much earlier that year, for their anniversary in June, for a state of the art turntable and speaker system. I recall the music of the night being from the Big Band and Swing era. Once Duke Ellington was placed on the turn table, our brief socializing was over, as the whiskey sours and gin and tonics were beginning to flow a little more liberally. My mother herded us around as we said our good nights, and she hung up our Sunday Go To Meeting Dresses as we laid down on their bed in the master bedroom – this was the one occasion where we would be allowed to turn on Mission: Impossible until we fell asleep. I recall making it through the opening theme song, and a few minutes of the episode before the Sand Man got me. My sister had dozed briefly herself………..until Glenn Miller suddenly drowned out the television set.
In The Mood flowed into our consciousness as it shook the house. My sister woke me up and said, “Let’s go!!” We flew out of bed and into the living room, where the REAL party was in full swing. One young resident jumped up and ran to the closet in the hall, and found Dad’s trombone from high school. He quickly pulled it out and began playing along – the man was rocking it!! Another fellow yelled, “Tell the neighbors about it!!” and flung open the front door – so Trombone Man ran to the front porch and began the jam for all of Crestline to hear. The wives were dancing, spilling their drinks on the newly shampooed carpet. The other men were starting to do The Charleston. (yes, to In The Mood.) My sister and I began laughing – so THIS is how the adults had a party!! All of a sudden, all those birthday parties we had attended for our friends were so dull and ridiculous. Pin the Tail on the Donkey???SERIOUSLY????
Suddenly, my mother appeared from across the room with a wild look in her eye. This was not what she wanted her girls to learn. The prim and proper “How Do You Do” hour was undoubtedly over. Dad rounded the corner from the den with his trombone case, livid. Trombone Man finally wandered into the house after his own moonlight serenade of the Crestline Crowd; he handed the trombone back to Dad, telling him, “Thanks for lettin’ me play,” as he clumsily handed the instrument back to Dad.
“I want to toot the horn,” my sister said.
“ONE,” Dad told her. I got mad when he let her toot it once, then started to put it up.
“ME, TOO, DADDY!!” I stomped my foot.
“ONE!!!” He said. My mouth was not even big enough to fit on the mouthpiece, but we pretended that I gave a good toot.
“Fab-u-lous job, young lady,” said Trombone Man. I grinned ear to hear. Dad closed the case, and threw his world class, Pissed Off Look, to my mother, who promptly gathered us up and put us in our own bedroom.
“Mission: Impossible is over,” she told us when we protested, wanting to go back in their bedroom and finish THAT show. Eventually, we drifted off to sleep. The next morning, we woke up before my parents. The house was a jungle….of cocktail glasses with small sips of whisky sours and gin and tonics left. The whisky sours still had the cocktail cherries in them, which we started fishing out and eating. Finally, we heard the bedroom door open, and we quickly ran into the kitchen……we knew we were handling contraband.
“Don’t you EVER expect me to put on another party A-GIN!!” my mother growled at my father.
“Come on now, you know better than that,” Dad mumbled back at her. He beat her to the kitchen and started some coffee. He looked at us and we all started to laugh. My mother remained un-amused……..until I started humming the Mission: Impossible tune.
Eventually, Mother DID give in and had other parties for the Pulmonary Division – only in the bigger house that we moved in to in 1970. By this time, the crowd had matured – somewhat. Regardless, to me, they were the funniest group to “throw down” with. While I did indeed learn proper manners in such settings, paradoxically, these entertaining events that my parents put on also taught me how to go full force when there was a reason to entertain. This is where I learned what it means to “Go Big Or Go Home”.