In the hospital waiting room my stepfather Leslie and I were sitting, waiting for the doctor to pull the plug on my mother’s life support system. Les turned and said to me, “We had a ball, Carrie, we had a ball”. A true epitaph for my mother. My mother believed in turning every situation into a party. I learned from her how to create parties.
New Year’s Eve, 1934. My mother was managing an apartment/hotel on Waikiki Beach. Most of the tenants had gone out for the evening, and after midnight, were returning home feeling unsatisfied in this town where they were just visitors. Mom had invited friends to join us in our apartment and bring their guitars. In Hawaii our living room, which also served as the hotel office, was all screened, with no glass windows. Geckos lived climbing up and down those screens, eating the flies and other insects for us.
My memory was of friend George sitting on the couch (“punee” in Hawaiian) strumming his guitar and calling out in a lugubrious bass, “Look down, look down that lonesome road, before you travel on.” When our tenants Ernie Pyle, a famous WWII war correspondent, and his wife Gerry came home at midnight and heard the music they came upstairs and in moments were sitting beside George with tears streaming down their faces.
For the rest of the night, as people came home, they automatically came up to join the party. Martin, who lived downstairs from us, had been out performing with the symphony orchestra, brought in his viola, and being a large man, tucked it under his chin and played it like a violin.
Charley got home, but stayed below on the grassy area next to the beach. When a display of fireworks went off, about two a.m., I went down to watch, and found Charley on his hands and knees crawling around on the grass. Others had followed me and someone said, “Oh, leapfrog!” and leaped over him. He complained, “You can’t do this to me,” but others followed the first leaper and then knelt down until about eight players were in a circle playing leapfrog with Charley still complaining. We learned the next morning he had dropped his glasses and was looking for them.
Later, when I went back upstairs, Mom was in a tizzy. She had not expected all those people, and had run out of wine. So she had collected all the glasses that were not empty, poured all that leftover wine into a single bottle, washed and dried the used glasses, and was handing out her newly cleaned glasses filled with the mixture of leftover wines from those previous half-empty servings.
Years later, at Venice Beach, guests came to my house and made kites from the materials I had previously procured and then we all went to the beach on a windy March afternoon, flew our kites, and then came back to the house, exhausted and well-tanned, for barbecue dinner.
To celebrate our July birthdays one year, oldest son Wahhab (born as Larry) and I threw a Midsummer Night’s Dream party. We procured scripts for Shakespeare’s play-within-a-play and Wahhab grabbed the first eight men who arrived and took them to the back yard to rehearse, leaving the women in the living room. The women were not to be outdone, so they found Shakespeare’s “Seven Stages of Man,” and prepared to present their version as a prelude to the men’s performance.
My recorder pals sat on the back porch and played Renaissance music. Meanwhile, of course, the barbecue was going. Most people came in costume, but the most memorable were grandson Seth who we outfitted as Pan with fake fur leggings and two little horns peeking out his blond curls, and granddaughters Faith and Jasmine as fairies, with baskets filled with rose petals that they showered on everyone
The most interesting adult costume was the couple who came as a fence. They stood side by side tied together with the makings of a fence that had climbing bushes as well as a hole that that the lovers could talk to each other.
Every Fourth-of-July our folk dance group sponsored an outdoor party at Lincoln Park called Dance-on-the-slab. When the afternoon music was over Bob and I, who lived nearby, invited people to a potluck barbecue in our back yard. Bob, fulfilling his commitment to me before we married, was teaching our boys how to do construction, and they poured a cement slab, filling our back yard, which we used for dancing. Those parties lasted into the night. When we moved up the hill into Kenter Canyon we kept the potluck dinner going, dancing on the grass; that is until, for a reason I’ve forgotten, one summer the July-Fourth event was postponed a couple of weeks. When the time came people arrived and set out their foods, but were not interested in the music or the food. They all came into the living room, sat on the floor, and glued their eyes to the TV. That was the day scheduled for the first walk on the moon. By late afternoon there were 74 people sitting anywhere they could squeeze in, and we all watched the Giant Step for Mankind. Memorable.