Sunday, September 21, 2014

This Close to Oops

The attendees had split up into various friendly factions as soirees often do. There was the kitchen party made up of nibblers who remain near the food and drink. Numerous others were gathered in the dining room where they could admire the cakes and the growing pile of cards. More recent arrivals claimed the space around the front door, a bottleneck of smiles and friendly greetings. The progeny of guests and hosts had settled into the sunroom. To their parents' surprise they remained among the adults rather than retreating to the basement room of video games and movies and an enormous flat screen tv. I was a member of the backyard party festivities. A temporary drizzle had cleared to an open night sky with a periphery of clouds lit with showy lightening. Not the kind that pierces the dark with its crooked fingers and then announces itself with a thunderous roar, but the kind that flashes slowly and beautifully illuminates the nooks and crannies of the receding clouds. Barefoot in my tie dye sundress with a glass of pinot grigio in hand I was having a lovely time among people I was meeting for the first time. When cake and candles time approached we were beckoned indoors to sing the birthday song to the feted one. The house had filled to near capacity while I was outdoors and I had to wiggle in and stand on tiptoe to see into the dining room. I looked down and behind to make sure I wasn't blocking anyone's view and spied a teenage boy seated just a couple of feet away. Momentary eye contact was made and I smiled at him. He grinned back revealing a mouthful of braces. That was when I very nearly made a monumental mistake. I knew who this boy was. His sister was standing nearby. I had seen so many photos of them on their father's social media as well as numerous pics stored on his phone. Eating frozen yogurt and playing baseball and performing on stage. Lazing about on school breaks resisting dressing and readying themselves to leave the house. Craftily creating Halloween costumes. I felt a chill inside and stopped just short of greeting them by name. Which would have required explanation. In the dining room the birthday boy's speech was winding down as a multitude of candles were lit. I recognized his former wife across the crowded room. Relieved that I was invisible to them, I eventually retreated outside, cake in hand, where I remained as the party wound down. Returning indoors an hour or so later the last few guests were on their way out. The children had departed with their mother. I breathed a sigh of relief tinged with sadness and regret. Relief that their father had chosen to not attend though he had been invited. Regret over the very real likelihood that I might never see him again. But I was happy to be there. Happy that after wavering back and forth for a week that I had gone. If eighty percent of life is showing up, one hundred percent of it is the joy and gratitude of being precisely where you want to be in any moment. I'm happy to be here. Here is good.

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