We Threw a Party: The Day After (Part 2)

When I got up at 6:30 on Sunday morning, there were two candles still burning. Now, that, my friends, is a good candle!

Here’s one of them. 6am.

Here’s one of them. 6am.

It was a beautiful day. We drank a cup of tea leisurely … and then we started to clear off the tables, fold up the (rented) tablecloths, and break down the chairs and tables. We rearranged the deck to its everyday configuration. Everything else was in good shape. Just about the time we finished this task, the guys from Murfreesboro Tent and Table showed up, and in half an hour the tent was down, the tables and chairs were loaded, and the backyard was clear. (The night before we’d put up the little bit of food that was left. And Jenny had been keeping a very sharp eye on trash and anything else that needed to be straightened up, so the yard was remarkably clear.)

You would have never known there’d been a party here. (Aside from that line of jars in the flower bed. They were there for about a week. Ha.)

Lifelong Friends

I grew up in California, graduated from high school there—and I have a group of friends from that time. We were all in the same class from fifth grade on (I came later, when we moved to town, and due to family relocation we even gained another new member of the group in high school). Lots of people form lifelong bonds in college, but I gotta tell ya, the friends of my youth are very, very special to me. I would say, in fact, that one of the rewards of growing older is having these friends, and having had them my entire life. (More than fifty years.)

When I see these women—and I do, every five years or so, since I moved “out east” when I was twenty—I see beautiful young girls. They will forever be about seventeen in my eyes. And I know that when they see me, that’s the Jamie they see too.

Four of the group (there’s nine of us, I think) came out for the party.

My besties.

My besties.

I virtually ignored them on the night—because we’d already planned to spend Sunday together, hanging out on the deck. And there were so many people to greet. (But late in the evening we did manage to get behind the picture frame together.)

The 5 of us.

The 5 of us.

The Day After

So the yard was clear, we’d had tea, and the day was fine. And now my friends were going to come hang out on the deck. With spouses and partners. This was going to be a wonderful moment.

We made sure to take a photograph, first. Because I was tired and not thinking all that clearly. (Indeed, the better part of the day got away from me undocumented.)

Two of our group had sent a handmade quilt, which I’d used as a throw across the hot tub the previous night. Husbands held it and we posed.

Two of our group (not actually at the party) had sent a handmade quilt, which I’d used as a throw across the hot tub the previous night. Husbands held it and we posed.

And we just sat around and chatted. Heaven! There’s not a one of us who hasn’t had some heartbreak, who hasn’t seen some hard times. But we are happy people; we find a way to be happy every day.

One of the husbands (Tom?) engaged my son in conversation, and asked him to play for us. (Jesse’s a professional tubist and music educator.) Was that asking too much? Maybe he didn’t have his music with him, Tom said. Maybe he didn’t have his tuba. No—as it turns out, Jesse is preparing for a competition. He had the tuba, and he played.

Jesse.

Jesse.

Thus the day slipped by. I’d worried that it would rain all day, but it was grand.

My dear friends. (Teri and Maggie.)

My dear friends. (Teri and Maggie.)

At some point Maggie and Tom ran out and got a couple pizzas, we threw together a salad, and gathered in the dining room. Which was just the right size. Gerry and I have many times been glad we have this dining room, and never more than on this night. 🙂

Tom, Maggie, Kent, Charmaine, Gerry, Mike, Kathy, Teri, Dan.

Tom, Maggie, Kent, Charmaine, Gerry, Mike, Kathy, Teri, Dan.

The night wore on, and when I was afraid that I was going to do a face plant at the table (I was so, so tired), I told them I was going to have to kick them out. They laughed, and left. 🙂

The Day After the Day After: Gifts

Monday. Still exhausted. Still gradually picking things up and putting them back where they were supposed to be. Still cleaning the kitchen, trying to get back to normal. Slicing up the remaining strawberries for the freezer. Jesse and Katie had gone back across the Cumberland Plateau on Sunday afternoon, and the rest of our crew were heading off to Memphis for a couple days.

We were back in the middle of blackberry winter, so it was too chilly to sit outside. While we lingered over a cup of tea, Tom and Maggie called to thank us for a lovely time. They were on their way to Kentucky to see some of Tom’s family. “You were right to kick us out,” Maggie laughed. “Otherwise we might still be there!”

Over the second cup of tea, one by one, slowly, we opened all those beautiful, thoughtful gifts. (They’d been sitting in the dining room. More than one person in the house had looked at us, cocked an eyebrow, and said, “Aren’t you going to open those?” Yes, we were—but when we had time to savor it, to experience it. We were too busy enjoying our friends on Sunday.) So … we opened. Sometimes we laughed. Sometimes we cried. These were such personal things. So many people took the time to write special notes in blank cards. They decorated the envelopes. They decorated the boxes and bags. We were touched and … humbled … by how well our friends know us, know who we are. It is good to be *known* like this.

Ephemera.

Ephemera.

Later that afternoon, my sister and her husband came by to say good-bye. They were loaded up, ready to drive back across the country to the West Coast. (No, they don’t mind flying; but they enjoy seeing what they see along the way.) We managed a quick photo, and they were off.

Gerry, Jill, Barry, me.

Gerry, Jill, Barry, me.

Yes, yes, I did forget to post my professional blog on Saturday. Um, and Monday. (I post on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.) They were loaded and ready to go but … party. I was so exhausted.

A nice exhaustion.

Postmortem for a Backyard Party

There were things we did right, and things we might have done better. This is the biggest party I’ve ever thrown, and with the most moving parts. Here are some thoughts:

  • Hire a caterer. I love to cook, and I enjoy putting a nice table together. But that was out of the question here.
  • Keep the menu simple—and make sure the caterer is a good cook. No institutional food. A month later, people would still be telling me how good the food was.
  • Buy less booze. We had plenty and people just didn’t drink it. Many stuck to water and sodas, even people who would normally have an adult beverage. We were surprised.
  • Have a rain plan. The tent was brilliant. Money well-spent. And the rain kept everybody under the tent long enough for strangers to become friends.
  • Use social media to keep people interested in the party—so they show up. Otherwise, a little bit of rain scares ’em off. We had a great turnout—and I posted on the Facebook event every day.
  • Some people want to come but just can’t. A dear, dear friend of mine sent me a long note about all the crazy logistics they were trying to pull together to come from two states away. And it ended with, “I finally just said, what if we don’t go? And I chewed on it for a while. Now I think this is best and I am so sad. But this summer, we will come down for more than a day, and we will invite ourselves over and have you all to ourselves.” I know this was the right thing for them, and I look forward to seeing them later.
  • Hire someone to take photos. You won’t be able to take all the photos yourself, and it will take up a lot of your party time if you do try to do it yourself.
  • Live music is really nice. It’s a festive touch. People are still talking about it. This was a splurge for us, but it really made the night.
  • Good friends and a good network make a good party. There was no odd-man/woman-out, because everyone who came knew someone … or had interacted on Facebook, so they knew names. I’m at that age, I think, that I know really great people, the sort of folks who can walk into a party knowing no one and still have a good time talking with anyone and everyone.
  • Don’t clean the house before—clean it after. However, a sparkling bathroom is a nice welcome and makes a good impression. 🙂
  • Plan something graceful to say when you want someone to stop doing what he is doing. We invited our neighbors, and one of them relives his glory days by telling everyone he plays piano (and leaping to the keyboard if anyone so much as says “Oh, that’s nice”). At one point I noticed our back door was wide open and this fellow was in there pounding away on my piano … while the musicians we’d paid to play were doing so about fifty feet away. I was mortified and angry, and I wish I’d asked him, quietly, to stop immediately. Instead I glared and slammed the door shut. It (eventually) had the desired effect, but I’m still steamed. How rude!
  • Eat before the guests arrive. Otherwise you’ll be furtively sneaking food and talking with your mouth full.
Early in the evening.

Early in the evening.

 

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We Threw a Big Party, and It Was Fun (Part 1)

Well. Finally.

Back in the spring of 2014 our immigration attorney laughed at us when we told her how we wanted to manage our wedding and reception, and that’s how we ended up getting married at the courthouse on a Thursday afternoon that fall.

We’d already reserved the hotel for a reception dinner in Dublin (for October 2015—fully a year after we married!). But most of our American friends didn’t go to Dublin. So we set yet another date to have a party in our backyard—which was our original plan. Only now it would be just a party, not a wedding, and I would be just a hostess, not a bride.

Planning Is Everything

We’d had plenty of time to think about it. And we started out with a few firm ideas. Like, we knew we would hire Luis—my ex-husband, don’t laugh—to cater, because he makes the best fried chicken in the world. No, really.

So there were ideas, and there were more ideas. And they were all swirling around in my head in a long, never-ending to-do list.

In January 2016, I finally sat down with all my scribbbled notes and made a big list. I discussed it with my good friend Jenny, who knows more than a thing or two about planning a party. (She also volunteered to be our “party day manager.” We hastily took her up on it before she could change her mind.) Then I revised the list, and created a week-by-week—and day-by-day—schedule. Anything that could be done in advance was spread out over the weeks leading up to the party, because I don’t like to rush anything, and I especially dislike running around like a crazy person on the day of a big event.

And this worked. Which is to say, everything got done in a way that we could enjoy and be satisfied with the doing of it. During the last few days, folks would call or come by to see if we needed help and say things like, “I know you must be terribly busy” or “Are you freaking out yet?” but, no, we weren’t and we didn’t. Because we’d planned and prepared.

Day before the party, just hanging around on the deck with the fam.

Day before the party, just hanging around on the deck with the fam.

It wasn’t that hard, y’all. I’m naturally organized, a natural list-maker, so it’s easier for me to “think” in a list. I made the list, ran it past Gerry, revised it … I checked it daily. I spent time thinking about it and revising it on the fly. That thinking time was important. 🙂

Hanging the picture frame. It’s a little low, y’all!

Hanging the picture frame. It’s a little low, y’all!

Some of the Best Plans We Made

  • Lighting

This was a springtime backyard party, and it would be fully dark by 8pm. How to keep folks from tripping over the roots of the maple tree? Well, we have a significant number of strands of white “Christmas lights” running across the pergola that covers one end of the deck. They’re pretty bright. But I didn’t want anyone in my flower beds either, so I planned to line the beds with candles in glass jars. Over the course of 2 years (yep!) I gathered more than 350 glass jars and removed the labels. (I asked my Facebook friends for help and they responded—without even knowing what I planned to do with them.) We used these jars on the tables too. We also bought some inexpensive LED lanterns and light strings and Gerry spent days lining the fence and wrapping trees. We had trial runs and laughed out loud with delight. It looked spectacular on the night—and folks gasped when Gerry turned on the pergola lights.

This was taken toward the very end of the night.

This was taken toward the very end of the night. We had plenty of light!

  • Chocolates

Yes, you heard me. Some years ago I discovered, on a trip to Ireland, Áine Chocolates—an artisan chocolate that I just love. We’d placed little boxes of them at each place setting at our dinner party in Dublin. So we got to thinking … and Gerry placed a bulk order in early March (so it would ship while it was still cold everywhere along the route from Dublin to Murfreesboro). Our guests loved them.

  • Parking

Parking in a neighborhood gets tricky when there are so many guests expected. There’s an office building just outside our neighborhood with sixty parking spaces (yes, I counted) and no one’s there on Saturdays, so we could park people there … but it’s .4 mile from the house. Would people want to walk in their dressy shoes? I wouldn’t. So we hired a couple young men to circulate in our car and another borrowed car. No one would have to wait more than five minutes to be ferried to the house. And it worked!

  • Live music

We’d heard a singer, Jeff Blaney, playing with a string bass player at a wedding two years before, and thought they were very good. When I investigated, I learned they were also affordable. I lined them up in December. As it turns out, Jeff plays at a little country restaurant not far from our house most Friday nights, so we went out to see him earlier in the month to introduce ourselves. He’s fabulous.

  • Photography

We knew our friends would take photos, but it’s always hard to collect them later, so we paid a friend’s son to take lots and lots of photos. Also, we hung a large picture frame from the pergola. It wasn’t a “photo booth”—it wasn’t enclosed, and we offered no props, no backdrop, nothing. And yet … people were lined up to have their photo made in this spot. Great decision!

About to celebrate their first anniversary!

About to celebrate their first anniversary!

  • Tent

We both watched the weather obsessively for weeks before the party, but in Tennessee you just can’t tell, really, until the moment. So when we ordered tables and chairs, we also ordered a big tent. I didn’t want to use it—thought it would spoil the “look”—but on Saturday morning the weather was iffy so we had them install the thing, and we ended up being glad we did, because it rained steadily from 6pm until 7pm. Lesson: have a rain plan. (Thanks, Jenny!)

Ready and waiting.

Ready and waiting, Saturday afternoon.

  • Signs

I bought some chalk markers, painted chalkboard paint on some cabinet doors, and started writing up signs (“Powder Room” and “We’re in the backyard” and “Grab a cold one here”) about three weeks before the party. I like to think our guests noticed them … but in retrospect I’m not so sure. 🙂

Need I say more?

Need I say more?

  • Facebook

Back in January I set up a Facebook event page to remind people about the party. (We’d mailed invitations—to both parties—back in June 2015 and told them we’d remind them about the Tennessee party.) This page ended up being great fun. I got to remind people about the dress. I told them who was catering and that we’d have live music. I showed photos of the signs I was lettering. Using an event page also allowed me to post articles I’d written for this blog about things to do in Tennessee. And people got to see who was coming, make connections, and talk online together.

  • Eating early

I asked the caterer to come early so that we and our family, houseguests, and friends who were helping could eat before everyone started arriving. I also invited our young valet and the musicians to come by and eat. This was absolutely the smartest decision we made. Because once people started arriving promptly at 6pm, there was no time to eat. I was on my feet, talking, until nearly midnight.

  • Prezzies

At the last minute, it occurred to me that people might bring gifts, and they would need to go somewhere. So I threw a tablecloth on the dining room table, moved the chairs up against the wall, and called it good. It turns out it was a splendid idea.

IMG_2912

Don’t forget—all photos can be enlarged when you click on them.

Complications

But wait—it wasn’t all just, you know, fun and games. 🙂 When Gerry and I returned from Ireland in late October, we had a list of projects we’d long been planning to do when Gerry retired and moved to Tennessee. Things like paint the inside of the house (it needed it; we’d moved in in 2007); install a hot tub (for health reasons); replace the ugly (truly ugly) tile in the foyer; and have the carpets cleaned, among other things.

Now here he was.

And so were the holidays. We didn’t get started until the first of the year. And you know, when you paint a house with all your stuff in it, all that stuff has to be moved. (Which is why my office didn’t get painted. I had a lot of work and multiple deadlines, and would have—no joke—had a meltdown. It was not happening.) So we moved our stuff for painting, and moved it again for carpet cleaning. We built a new wing on the deck, dealt with planning inspections and electricians and OMG it was pretty crazy around here in February and March and April.

During this time we also bought a new car (long planned) … and adopted a dog. Suzy. (She’s a gem.)

IMG_2678

Suzy. And the new tile.

The Out-of-Towners

We’d long known Gerry’s nephew, Eoin, and Eoin’s wife, Tracy, would be staying with us (they flew in from Dublin and arrived Thursday). And we knew my niece, Alli, and her husband, Sabas, wanted to stay here too (because they and Eoin and Tracy are good friends); they flew in on Friday. No problem—we have two guest rooms. Alli’s mom—my sister, Jill—and dad, Barry, were driving out from California on a two-week vacation, pulling their small Airstream. They also arrived Thursday. My son and his girlfriend drove in Thursday, too, and stayed the weekend (they’re in grad school at a university about ninety miles away). We had room for them too.

My friends Gwen and Greg had offered to take any houseguest overflow, if we had it, and I ended up having my friends from Ohio, Cindy and Tom, stay with them. The four of them hit it off, which made me happy. I have seen photos of Tom—an accomplished cook—whipping up breakfast in the Wattses’ kitchen. 🙂

But we had guests well before the party! My best friend from high school (yes, I keep them that long) and her husband flew out from Oregon the week before—so that we’d have time to visit before the madness. We spent a day and a half with Mike and Kathy before they went off to tour Memphis for a few days.

Breakfast on the square.

Breakfast on the square at the historic City Cafe.

A couple days later, my friends Cyndi and Gregg were driving to south Georgia (our party was to be at the end of their vacation getaway) and realized they’d drive right by Murfreesboro. She texted: would we have dinner with them? I texted: Yes, and where are you planning to stay? Well, they ended up staying here (I insisted), and we sent them off the next morning after a good breakfast.

They're such lovely people.

They’re such lovely people.

These little flying visits—as well as the hair appointment and pedicure and strawberry-picking and various other errands—made the days leading up to the party very festive indeed. And because I’d finished all my work-work, met all my deadlines early, I was able to enjoy them stress free.

The Big Day

There were certain things that couldn’t be done until the day, but they were few. The kids got up and out, sightseeing. My son had a gig in Nashville. So it was just Gerry and me.

We ran over to the grocery store that morning for fresh flowers, and I got some marked-down roses. “Good for a day,” they say about these past-their-sell-date flowers. I purchased some fresh hydrangeas and baby’s breath to fill in. (Late the next Wednesday the hydrangeas were long gone but the roses were still fabulous. Go figure.) So I spent some time making two pretty arrangements to freshen the house a little. I also made a couple herb bouquets cut from the garden.

The tables and chairs and tent arrived mid-morning. Shortly thereafter, Jill and Barry showed up with more self-picked strawberries and took the arrangement of tables in hand. Later the kids all showed up and suddenly the jars and candles got put out.

I did not go to a lot of effort on the tables. Candles and some potted herbs. That’s it.

I did not go to a lot of effort on the tables. Candles and some potted herbs. That’s it.

Everybody helped out at just the right moment, and no one had to do too much to pull it all together. This was all part of my plan: a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Easy does it. We all sat on the deck, relaxing and enjoying the fine weather for a while before everyone went off for naps. (I, of course, posted photos on Facebook rather than napping. Ha!)

Aside from making sure the bathrooms were clean, I did not clean the house. There’d be a hundred people in and out of it—better to clean after!

About an hour out from P-Time, I was working with Jenny to get the desserts set up, while the caterer was setting up outside on the driveway under the tent. The only little hitch we had during that time was the young man I’d been talking with about driving to pick up people from the parking lot was supposed to bring a second driver—but he showed up alone. Kerry quickly jumped in, however, to drive the other car, and all was well. We all sat down and ate. The first guests arrived.

And Then It Rained

It started to rain promptly at 6pm. I must admit, it took an act of faith for folks to leave their homes in the rain and come to a backyard party! But I’d told people on the Facebook event page that we had a rain plan—and we did. The tent was just big enough to cover most of the back driveway. And we’d purchased rolls of plastic dropcloth to roll out on the latticework atop the pergola, just in case it rained all night.

But it didn’t! It rained, gently, for an hour and quit. Just long enough for everyone to have to arrive in the rain. Just long enough to flatten my hair-do. (Of course!) Yet when we talked about it later, we decided the rain was a good thing. It forced everyone under the tent at once. It was a bonding moment. Strangers talked to each other.

Possibly about us.

Possibly about us.

Guests started arriving … and because of the tent guy-wires we had this bottleneck of people, and they were all carrying gifts and OMG. So we had a little receiving line, and it was great, and we took photos and I got to talk to (almost) everyone as they came in. I wasn’t happy about the way my hair looked—or the way it was going to look—in the photos, but what can you do?

Friends came with umbrellas. I’d been walking around with … wet hair.

Friends came with umbrellas. I’d been walking around with … wet hair.

So it all worked.

The musicians—the Jeff Blaney duo—were supposed to start at 7pm, and just before that, Jeff and I walked around the yard, which was a little damp. The rain had stopped. We had a rain plan, I told him: we could open the garage door and put them in there. They’d be dry. But I’d wanted them to play up on the deck. It would be prettier. We went back and forth about it, but Jeff said, “If it starts to rain again, we’ll have to move, and we won’t be playing for part of the time you’ve paid for. If it were me, I’d put us in the garage.” So I did. Discretion being the better part of valor, and all that.

And they were fabulous, y’all. Really good. Such good sports too! But I look at this photo and am just mortified (because the garage had become this catch-all hiding place for the party prep, and also because it smelled like cat pee). At the end of the night, I told them (Jeff and Geoff) I was mortified, and they both just laughed. “Oh, we’ve played worse venues than this,” they each said. Then Geoff got out his phone calendar: “I can tell you for a fact that the place I’m playing next Tuesday is much worse than your garage.”

So there they are, sandwiched between the recyclables bin and the litter box. (sigh)

So there they are, sandwiched between the recyclables bin and the litter box. (sigh) It looks like they’re playing in somebody’s basement.

There Were Lots of Great Moments

I don’t even know where to start with this. It was a wonderful party. People showed up. They made connections all on their own. (Facebook, though I know some folks don’t like it, is a wonderful tool for this. People from across the country who’d seen each other’s names on my Facebook page found each other in our backyard. Whoa.) Folks ran into each other who didn’t know they were each friends of mine. And folks showed up with the most interesting plus-ones! There were book people and old-high-school-friends people and people from a job I had twenty years ago. There were current friends and family friends and neighborhood friends. It was way, way cool.

It was such a cool party—and I’m not just saying this because it was our party—that people sent us thank-you notes! (That’s never happened to me before—although I suspect I’m revealing that I’m really uncouth, and that it’s a Miss Manners thing and these people were more sophisticated—and nicer—than I am.) Just today I had lunch with a friend who told me how wonderful it was that in your fifties you finally started getting invited to the sort of parties you wished to be invited to when you were in your twenties. That’s how she’d described our little soiree to someone the next day. It made me happy to hear this.

Yes: it was a grown-up party. And, my friend and I decided over lunch, part of that may have had to do with the dress. On the invitation, we suggested people dress up—and they did. I loved, loved, loved seeing everyone all dressed up! There was more than one husband who seemed to feel a little awkward … and others who seemed right at home.

Our friends Josh and Emilie. And my wet hair. :)

Our friends Josh and Emilie, and my wet hair. 🙂

Also, I think everyone had a vested interest in making it a great party. People came such distances! Friends came from all over Middle Tennessee, and also from California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas. And of course we had guests from Ireland. But the party was more international than that—there were several folks who were not born American but who live here now, friends from Australia, Belize, Chile, England, Finland, France, Nicaragua, and South Africa. Wow. In fact, several people mentioned that they’d discovered it was a very international party. My friend Cindy told me later, “Gerry’s nephew told us the state of Oregon is named for an Irishman. You know, O’Regon. Cracks me up!” Oh, those Irish. 🙂

There were, of course, plenty of book people there. Many of them knew of each other from conferences, but it was a little different to run into them at a party in someone’s backyard. “We met your friends Cyndi and Greg,” someone emailed me later, “and I heard how he accidentally published her first book. Too cute!” My friend Tricia, a college professor with a book of her own about to release with a big university press, said she’d never seen so many published authors in one place. Ah, I love the book biz.

I was relieved that—in spite of the fact that I wasn’t able to get around and introduce and orchestrate (the thing I’m usually doing at parties)—people did it themselves. So I asked—in the moment, on Facebook, and privately—“Do you have a story? Did you have a moment?”

Yes, they did:

  • Eoin enjoyed speaking with my friends Gabe and Tanya. “They were lovely.”
  • Tracy was thrilled to catch up with Rebecca, who’d been seated at their table at the dinner party in Dublin. (You know ’Becca from this post.)
’Becca, Eoin, Tracy.

’Becca, Eoin, Tracy.

  • Christy told me a story about sitting down at one of the tables on the lawn and discovering “mystery booze” in a little square bottle. I knew immediately that she was talking about my son’s homemade limoncello. She and our friend Annie decided to sample it without knowing what it was, and both pronounced it excellent.
  • I loved getting to talk to people I haven’t set eyes on since the last wedding or funeral, like my friend Brad. And later seeing photos from our party on Facebook pages, sometimes from people I never expected to post party photos. In fact, seeing photos taken in that silly photo frame used as Facebook profile photos—there was a lot of that.
Biron and Brad … and my hair was drying out. :)

Biron and Brad … and my hair was drying out. 🙂

  • Lots of people enjoyed the Irish chocolates. 🙂
  • Several people mentioned the vintage photos in the downstairs bathroom: “Wondered to myself who the people in the photographs in your half bath were.” That post is coming. And yes, the people in those photos are all family.
  • My former sisters-in-law were in town (from Nevada) to visit, and they came too. Later they sent me this photo. I’m so proud to still have this family in my life.

    Mireya, me, Eva.

    Mireya, me, Eva.

  • Lots and lots of people told me how good it was to finally meet Gerry. And then to hear his stock response to every query: “Everything’s perfect aside from the marriage.”
Probably the only moment we were standing together the whole night! Thank goodness Alex suggested this!

Probably the only moment we were standing together the whole night! Thank goodness Alex suggested this!

  • My friend Teri printed off my blog post on Murfreesboro and she and her husband worked down the list. They showed up and Oaklands Mansion, asked for Connor—my friend who works there—and he gave them a great tour. And then they ran into him at the party, of course. 🙂
  • My moment: Everyone kept trying to adjust my necklace—thinking the magnetic clasp was turned around. But really it was a necklace with two pieces, and the connecting clasps were meant to show. Ha. Trick necklace!
  • Many of our friends had seen photos of our rescued dog on Facebook, and wanted to see her. We heard later that several people went upstairs to visit her crate. Much later (after 10pm, after the musicians and caterer left and the gate was closed), we brought her down to the yard, where she happily mingled with our lingering friends. Around midnight I was sitting on the deck with Alison, who was observing Suzy with friends. “Oh, she’s a leaner.” As Labs are. Yes, she leans up against us, and it’s very endearing.

Some moments I didn’t know about myself until I got a look at the photos that were taken. Whole families got together behind the picture frame.

The Chavez family.

The Chavez family.

They were playful.

Jenny and Kerry.

Jenny and Kerry.

Groups of friends.

My high school friends. Love them so much!

My high school friends. Love them so much!

The cousins: my brother’s son, sister’s daughter, and my son.

Cameron, Alli, Jesse.

Cameron, Alli, Jesse.

And, in fact, my brother, sister, and I had a photo made behind the picture frame too.

L–R: youngest to oldest.

L–R: youngest to oldest.

Toward the end of the night, action at the picture frame picked up again. Last call!

Michelle and Robert.

Michelle and Robert.

Good Night and Joy Be With You All

My favorite moment, though, came about like this. There’s a song sung in Ireland at wakes and funerals … and also at the end of the night, at closing time, or at the end of a party. It’s called “The Parting Glass” (you can see an article I’ve written about it here). Because Gerry is Irish, because this was the last of our wedding “year” of celebration, and just because I love the song, I’d asked Jeff Blaney to perform it at the end of the night. (He’s of Irish heritage, has even recorded a set of Irish songs. “The Parting Glass” was not unknown to our Jeff.)

Things had quieted down by this point, and folks gathered round. And it got the attention of my Irish husband and family. Their reaction was a boisterous one, and Jeff seemed to be energized by that—he went right into “The Fields of Athenry,” another Irish folk song that everyone in Ireland knows the words to. So we had a little singalong in the backyard. (I made sure we got this on video, too, and you can see it here.)

Low lie the fields of Athenry …

Low lie the fields of Athenry …

This post has gotten very long, so I’ll stop here and finish it in part 2.

(This is an account of our wedding, which began here—in this series of seven posts—and contined in Dublin.)

Party Time! (Part 2 of 2)

3 October 2015, Saturday
It had been a good day—and it was about to get better. We got ourselves down to the bar around four o’clock (we’d told our guests 4:30) in order to familiarize ourselves with the space and the bartenders and servers who’d been assigned to our party. Once again, the Portmarnock party-planning folks have great staff and do a wonderful job. I can’t say that enough. Everyone was so friendly and eager to make us happy. (You can say, “Sure, you’re paying them” if you want, but if you’ve ever run into someone who tells you “That’s not our policy” or “It’s not my job,” you really appreciate staff whose first response is, “Sure! That’s grand” and “Of course we/you can!”)

I should explain to Americans that the general way Irish wedding receptions proceed (and we’d modeled our party on this formula) is this: meet in the bar, have a drink or two … move into the dining room to eat and make a few speeches after dessert … move back to the bar. (This last is usually so the dining room can be cleared and the dance floor set up, but we skipped the dancing. It was Saturday and there was a band in the bar, which was great.) So our party proceeded in three stages.

Bar, the First
There we were, hanging out in the bar. And shortly, Pat—one of the gentleman of the ESB—showed up. Pat and Gerry worked side-by-side for fifteen years, until Pat retired earlier this year. He’d volunteered to video the proceedings for us, and had camera in hand.

Together again: Pat and Gerry.

Together again: Pat and Gerry.

Me and Pat (and the camera).

Me and Pat (and the camera).

After that, things started happening pretty quickly.

Mike and ’Becca from Texas. She’d been in London for business and had arrived in Dublin the day before, but Mike had gotten off the plane from the States just this morning.

Mike and ’Becca from Texas. She’d been in London for business and had arrived in Dublin the day before, but Mike had gotten off the plane from the States just this morning.

Conor and Laura, all dolled up.

Conor and Laura, all dolled up.

Emmet and Pris.

Emmet and Pris.

Right after this, it got very busy. Suddenly the room was full of people! I was supposed to be helping Gerry manage the drinks—we bought everyone a drink when they arrived—but I kept getting sidetracked. And then all of Gerry’s childhood friends arrived. Oh, my goodness. 🙂

L–R: Me, Paddy O., and Paddy M.

L–R: Me, Paddy O., and Paddy M.

L–R: Gerry, Ann (Paddy O’s wife), Carol (Paddy M’s wife) behind her, and me. That’s my friend Robert in the back.

L–R: Gerry, Ann (Paddy O’s wife), Carol (Paddy M’s wife) behind her, and me. That’s my friend Robert in the back.

L–R: Phillip D., and Fran.

L–R: Phillip D., and Fran.

Gerry’s friends were so welcoming and playful and friendly! It was spectacular. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase feeling the love—and I certainly felt it in that room. I think they had all hoped this happiness for Gerry, finding a partner to do life with, and they were happy to finally meet me (after twelve years!). They all hugged me. And you know I am a hugger, so it was all good.

This is a tall man. Fran and me.

This is a tall man. Fran and me.

And there were more friends, more family, more everything!

Two of Gerry’s beautiful nieces, Clare (left) and Orla. That’s Fran photobombing.

Two of Gerry’s beautiful nieces, Clare (left) and Orla. That’s Fran photobombing.

Gerry’s brother, Richie, and their mother, Bridie. She is gorgeous—and a fashion plate.

Gerry’s brother, Richie, and their mother, Bridie. She is gorgeous—and a fashion plate.

Phillip J., me, Robert. You’ve met Robert on this blog before.

Phillip J., me, Robert. You’ve met Robert on this blog before.

Sinéad and her husband, Brian; he’s an ESB colleague of Gerry’s.

Sinéad and her husband, Brian; he’s an ESB colleague of Gerry’s—and the proprietor of the popular website Brand New Retro.

But my niece, Alli, wasn’t there. She and her husband, Sabas, were staying with Gerry’s nephew, Eoin, and his wife, Tracy. And they hadn’t arrived yet. About an hour into it, the woman* managing the dining room began to circulate, suggesting we steer our guests in to dinner. I asked her if we could slow the process down just a bit, because there were a couple guests who were running late, and she immediately got it. “Would you like me to delay this?” she said, smiling broadly. This is typical of the wonderful service we got from everyone involved with our party.

As it turned out, our Missing Persons showed up shortly after that. I found the Managing Lady, everything got back on track, and we all went in to dinner.

The Dining Room
But first … we took a group photo. On my camera and tripod, which I’d lugged across the Atlantic precisely for this purpose. We did not have a professional photographer, so there was no one to say, “You move left two inches, and you step forward.” We took about a dozen photos and none of them is perfect, but this one gives a good feel for what we did. Everybody laughed, snuggled in close, and had a good time. It was great, really. I’ve just zoomed in to make the key, and it’s quite an accomplishment.

Our group. Thanks, y’all. Don’t forget, click on the photo, then click again to zoom in.

Our group. Thanks, y’all. Don’t forget, click on the photo, then click again to zoom in.

Front row, L–R: Gerry, me, Pauline, Isolde, Richie, Bridie, William, Gwen, Clare, Alli, and Orla. Pat on the far right.

Middle rows, L–R: Sandra, Brendan, Ruth, John, Emmet, ’Becca, Pris, Carol, Laura (partially hidden, Sinéad, Phillip, Damian (glasses, partially hidden), Ashling, Ann, Paddy O. (all you can see is his white hair), Maureen, Tracy, Neil, Tiffany, Robert, Camille, Phillip.

Way back there, L–R: Mike (red shirt, mostly hidden), Paddy M., Brian, Conor, Fran, Conor, Eoin, Sabas.

Everyone clustered in front of the seating chart to see what table they’d be at, and then went on in. At Irish wedding dinners, as I understand, the wedding party sits together at the “main” table, and then the rest of the invitees are scattered around at the other tables. When we made our seating plan, I relied on Gerry’s experience in these matters. We put the most immediate family—his brothers and wives, their mother, my niece and her husband—at the main table. After that, we had one American couple (or single) per table, one representative of Gerry’s family (the younger generation) per table, one of Gerry’s friends, and one of his work colleagues per table. We had a little bit of last-minute seat changes, but it all shook out well.

It takes a few minutes to get everyone seated—particularly because now new conversational circles are created, and new stories begin. 🙂

Bridie catching up with Alli and Sabas.

Bridie catching up with Alli and Sabas.

When Gerry slid in next to me, he said, “Now I know why you need a best man—this meeting and greeting is hard work!” Then he looked across the table at his brother Richie. “Is it too late to designate you as best man?” We all laughed, and Richie volunteered to emcee later.

The food was lovely—nothing I’ve ever had at the Portmarnock was not—the wine was good, and the noise level rose in the room.

The hotel does such a nice job with the menu.

The hotel does such a nice job with the menu.

And then it was time for a few speeches. Richie introduced Gerry, who spoke extemporaneously and was great. There was no way I could speak in front of a room full of people without notes. I’d prepared weeks ago—and even so, watching the video of my speech makes me cringe. After that, we’d asked the two youngest members of both our families to speak: my niece Alli and Gerry’s niece Orla. Richie, meanwhile, had been working the room, asking if any of Gerry’s friends wanted to speak, and Phillip D. said a few words, to much heckling from the others. (Gerry’s friends are a tight-knit group.) Finally Richie made a great show of pulling out pages and pages of notes, to much groaning—his turn as father of the bride, a few months earlier, had gone on and on, and he has yet to live it down. As it turns out, the joke was on us—one page of notes! The rest was just for show, and it brought the house down.

In my speech, I told our guests I wanted to circulate the room and get photos, and that’s what happened next. Pat, videocamera in hand, grabbed me and escorted me around the tables, filming. Alli took stills (though not all worked out).

Emmet and Pris.

Emmet and Pris.

John.

John.

Tiffany and Camille.

Tiffany and Camille.

’Becca and Mike.

’Becca and Mike.

Laura, ’Becca, Conor.

Laura, ’Becca, Conor.

Pat at work.

Pat at work.

Sandra and Pauline.

Sandra and Pauline.

We tried to get the family too.

Bridie, me, William (seated), Richie.

Bridie, me, William (seated), Richie.

Ashling and Damian—newlyweds!

Ashling and Damian—newlyweds!

Richie and Isolde.

Richie and Isolde.

William and Gwen.

William and Gwen.

Then people started getting up, moving around … but still Pat and Alli and I soldiered on!

Brendan and Ruth.

Brendan and Ruth.

Robert!

Robert!

That Pat!

That Pat!

The gentlemen of the ESB: Pat, Gerry, and Brendan. At last, a photo of me with Gerry!

The gentlemen of the ESB: Pat, Gerry, and Brendan. At last, a photo of me with Gerry!

Then Alli went out into the anteroom to get some photos while I was still socializing in the dining room.

Fran, Gerry, Eoin, Neil, Paddy O.

Fran, Gerry, Eoin, Neil, Paddy O.

Playin’ around: Clare, Sabas, Eoin, Tracy.

Playin’ around: Clare, Sabas, Eoin, Tracy.

Alli, Sabas, Neil, Maureen, Clare, Eoin, Tracy, Conor, Orla.

Alli, Sabas, Neil, Maureen, Clare, Eoin, Tracy, Conor, Orla.

And by then everyone had moved into the bar.

Bar, the Second
There was already a good crowd in the bar, and then the band cranked up. Oh, goodness.

Pat, John, Robert, Tiffany, Paddy M.

Pat, John, Robert, Tiffany, Paddy M.

Gerry, Ann, Carol, Fran.

Gerry, Ann, Carol, Fran.

Phillip D., Paddy M., Gerry, Paddy O. The old crowd. :)

Phillip D., Paddy M., Gerry, Paddy O. The old crowd. 🙂

It was loud—and still we carried on conversations. I moved around a little among the various groups, although I was getting very tired. Still, I was delighted with a conversation I had with Gwen: growing up, she said, there was always one drawer in the fridge reserved for chocolate. Oh my goodness! I discovered Maureen and Neil’s fridge drawer of chocolate back in 2012 and thought it was the best thing ever! I didn’t realize it was a thing. (A tradition?) Yes, I raided it. Silly. No, I do not have a chocolate drawer in the fridge here in Tennessee—this is America, our chocolate isn’t worth eating.

Gerry’s pals started the sing-song at some point (when the band was taking a break). Another Irish tradition I was delighted to witness.

It was just … wonderful, this party. Even if I do say so myself. It was a happy occasion.

I got to bed around 2am. I could not have gone another moment. Gerry came up about an hour later. Whew.

* I can’t remember her name, now, and I thought I’d written it down. Darn it. She was wonderful.

It was so nice to have my friends around me—and really special to have my family. Thanks, Alli. xox

It was so nice to have my friends around me—and really special to have my family. Thanks, Alli. xox

 

It’s a Great Day for a Celebration (Part 1 of 2)

3 October 2015, Saturday
Overslept! We intended to be at breakfast by 7:30, but that’s when we woke up. Obviously we needed it. I’d been awake at 3am again, lying on the floor in an Egoscue static back position, waiting for my muscles to relax—part of it the change of time zones, part of it the hard bed.

So it was good to finally sleep.

Then we had breakfast with the golfers, and drove back into Dublin (again!) to the courier company that was holding the visa. Saturday morning and the place was deserted. I hung out in the parking lot, photographing the fall foliage and suchlike, and then I turned around—and there he was. We hugged, tiredly, in the parking lot. “I never thought—when we started this process a year ago—that it would come down to a warehouse in an industrial park in north Dublin,” Gerry said.

And then I took a picture. 🙂

We got it! (Yeah, his eyes are closed. I seem to have a knack for catching Gerry in a blink.)

We got it! (Yeah, his eyes are closed. I seem to have a knack for catching Gerry in a blink.)

Taking a moment to breathe.

Taking a moment to breathe. He has his passport back.

It was a neat little piece of serendipity, though. We’d been prepared to wait “seven to ten business days” for this thing. And yet here it was, just three days later, and on the very day we were celebrating the emigration this visa made possible. Well played, Uncle Sam, well played.

When we got back to the hotel in the midmorning, we discovered our party was already listed on the lobby marquee.

It’s our party and we’ll mug if we want to.

It’s our party and we’ll mug if we want to.

So we wandered downstairs to see what else was happening.

They’d already decorated the foyer. This table was where I put out our emigration “scrapbook”—the photos and other material we had to collect to prove to U.S. Immigration that we had a for-real relationship.

They’d already decorated the foyer. This table was where I put out our emigration “scrapbook”—the photos and other material we had to collect to prove to U.S. Immigration that we had a for-real relationship.

And in we went. Tables were set, menus were out. No chocolates yet (to prevent theft!). But it all looked very good.

But this is what the chocolates looked like … later.

And this is what the chocolates looked like … later.

The tables were named, yes.

The tables were named, yes. Click twice to zoom in, if you’d like.

The author blurb was in a folder on the table. Everything was lovely.

The author blurb was in a folder on the table. Everything was lovely.

At the Irish wedding dinners I’ve been to, seating charts were created for each table—and instead of numbering them, the tables were named. After superheroes, at one party; famous scientists at another; and after the myriad colors of blue at another. Naturally, I’d wanted to follow suit. And it was Gerry who’d suggested naming them after Irish authors. I tweaked it to forward-thinking Irish authors, writers who were unafraid to stand out, to speak truth to power.

We ended up with six tables:

Anne Enright

Seamus Heaney

Fergal Keane

Nuala O’Faolain

Colm Tóibín

William Butler Yeats

I wrote up a blurb and a quote for each one, with recommended titles, all works with which I was familiar. And the party staff took it and ran with it. 🙂

When we left the dining room we walked through the bar to see where our party would begin, and ran into my friends Laura and Conor. I tried to take a photo. Ha.

When Selfies Go Wrong.

When Selfies Go Wrong.

Back in the room Gerry and I had some quiet time, napping and relaxing in anticipation of a long night of merriment. You’ll read about that in Part 2.

Hello, Dublin! I’m So Excited to Be Here!

30 September 2015, Wednesday
I think the most unusual thing I’ve ever seen from the window of an airplane is this: as we were taxiing in to the Dublin terminal, I saw a large rabbit running alongside the runway.

It’s a long walk from the gates in to where you claim your luggage, and I swear I nearly had a heart attack from sheer excitement and anticipation. You wouldn’t think we chubby middle-aged gals get the butterflies and suchlike, but we do. (Also, I was just ready for the traveling to be over, and to have someone else carry the luggage for a bit!)

It was hard not to blurt out my story to the customs agent: “Just here for a little holiday, are ya, Missus Chavez?” “Oh, yes, and I’m throwing a party and then I’m going on my honeymoon, and after that I’m taking my husband home with me!” is what I was thinking, but “Yes, thank you!” is what I said. 🙂

John Lambert had landed at 5:25am and I knew he’d be waiting for me. (Although we left Chicago late, they made it up in the air; it was just a little after 7am when I walked through those doors, and this after a long slow taxi and unloading and customs.) But Gerry was there with him, and that was so nice.

One always comes away from travel with at least one good story (mine was Ginger, the American with a slight Irish accent*), and John had a doozie: he’d splurged on a business class ticket out of New York (in order to have the sleeper chair), and the man sitting next to him on the trip was Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, which means he is head of state. (This is different from the taoiseach, who functions as head of government. The taoiseach is appointed by the president.) Michael D., as he is known, had been in New York for Pope Francis’s visit. John and Michael D. had had a lovely conversation, I’m told (as one would; here he reads Yeats). Naturally, the first words out of my mouth were, “Well, I hope you invited him to our party!” 🙂

We picked up our rental car (a manual transmission Skoda), and headed to Gerry’s house for breakfast.

Gerry and John, unloading my bags. I came with two but consolidated to one for the trip ’round Ireland.

Gerry and John, unloading my bags. I came with two but consolidated to one for the trip ’round Ireland.

I also pulled out some gifts I’d brought, and my mattress pad, transferred clothing to one suitcase, and just generally got situated. Gerry had a dental appointment (one of the quick kind), so the three of us drove into Dublin City. Gerry had a crazy idea that John and I could sightsee (again, just some little thing) while he was with the dentist, but traffic was insane, we couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere, and very quickly we were lost. 🙂 So then we had to figure out how to call Gerry to get the address of where he was—he was already finished, which was a good thing, because I was already frazzled!

As it turns out, there’s a lot of construction going on in Dublin—a new Luas (light rail) route and station—and traffic is more harrowing than normal. The trip from Gerry’s house to the city centre used to take about twenty minutes, but over the course of our trip, it routinely took double that, and sometimes as much as an hour. Just think of all the shifting, and clutching on my bad hip. Yeesh. And streets are changed to one-ways, or closed entirely; the locals are as confused as we tourists.

So we’re driving through the Dublin city centre at noon on an overcast day, just headed back to Gerry’s place, and we come to one of the construction sites. There’s a Garda there, allowing trucks to pass thru as normal and directing cars to detour to the right—several cars in front of us and he’s just motioning them past, but he halts me and motions to roll down the window. He leans in and says, and I quote, “You have your headlights on and you’re blinding everyone. Turn your lights off.” Oh, my gosh, his tone of voice—it was angry.

Now … I knew my lights were on, but I just assumed this was the sort of car that the lights came on automatically, because I hadn’t touched them. Regardless, it was broad daylight, and my lights weren’t blinding anyone, and there were plenty of cars behind me with lights on approaching this Garda that were not stopped. What in the world? I won’t repeat what Gerry said, but I stewed about that for days. Were my brights on? No, I checked. Had he known I’d been up for twenty-four hours and was driving on the wrong side of the road in a strange car and an unfamiliar city, he might well have yelled at me a little more. But picking me out of a crowd to vent … that was just rude. I still have half a mind to complain to someone.

Finally, it was late enough for us to decamp to the Portmarnock. Oh, friends, I do love this hotel. It’s … just right. Just the right amount of luxury and comfort, with great staff and service. We stayed in a few very nice hotels on this trip—and I’m working on a comparison chart to grade them, which I’ll post later—but from a gut-reaction, emotional standpoint, I’ll just tell you right now, I love this hotel. It’s about a fifteen-minute drive from the airport, in a small village (Portmarnock) that is close to a larger village (Malahide), right on the sea. Great beaches and a DART station too. Convenient!

A beautiful wall of ivy, turned red in the autumn, at the entrance to the Portmarnock Hotel.

A beautiful wall of ivy, turned red in the autumn, at the entrance to the Portmarnock Hotel.

Also, of course … this was “The Beginning.” The run-up to our party that we’d been planning for literally two years. At last. So it was exciting.

We had a very nice room: third floor, golf-course view. The sea view rooms are very nice, too, but they are in the old wing of the hotel, in the original Jameson estate. The golf-view rooms all have air conditioning, and tiny balconies. Perfect for Yanks.

This was a little bit of the view from ours.

This was a little bit of the view from ours.

And this little graveyard that impinges on the golf course fascinates me. One of these days …

And this little graveyard that impinges on the golf course fascinates me. One of these days …

John was staying right across the hall from us; his room (“garden view”) overlooked the courtyard.

So we checked in, checked with our party-planner and made an appointment for the next day, and started to unpack. I’d scheduled a massage with a licensed therapist in town to alleviate the edema I get lately from air travel. I’d spent a lot of time shopping around online, but ultimately settled on Sunshine Massage Therapy in Portmarnock Village. The appointment was at three o’clock. Marta is a delightful young woman and she gave me a fabulous, one-hour full body massage. No, really. I’d been upfront with her: I’m an American, just passing through. She could have given me a crap massage, she could have just “phoned it in”—but she didn’t. I’ve been getting regular massage for twenty-five years; I know a good massage when I get one. And it was only €35 (just a little over $38 at today’s exchange rates).

I was rejuvenated after a great massage.

I was rejuvenated after a great massage.

Back at the hotel, we took a little walk outside, and after we were collapsed back in the room (OK, I was collapsed), I got a text from my niece, Alli. You remember Al. She and her mom, my sis, traveled around Ireland with Margaret and I back in September of 2012.

A lot has happened since then. To wit: Sabas. He’s the lovely man who fell in love with the beautiful Al, and married her at her parents’ home in California about two weeks before today. (Oh, you should see those photos!) They’d been saving for and planning their honeymoon trip to Greece and Spain … and Dublin, for our party.

They’d arrived in Dublin a few hours earlier. Could we get together? she texted. I really want to see you. I want you to meet Sabas. I wanted to meet Sabas, too, but not enough to drive back into Dublin; at this point I was well past twenty-four hours with no sleep. So I was honest: I’m too tired to go anywhere. But: We’ll come to you, Alli replied. A light supper in the Seaview Lounge? That sounded perfect. They’d be here in about an hour.

Oh, just look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? Sabas, Alli, and Gerry in the Seaview Lounge, late afternoon.

Oh, just look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? Sabas, Alli, and Gerry in the Seaview Lounge, late afternoon.

We had soup and brown bread and talked and laughed and watched the sun go down outside. It was perfect. And when it got dark, they went back to one of the Hampson cousins’ house, and Gerry and I went to bed.

* I know another American (Marilyn Cullen) who’s lived in Ireland for twenty years, and she still sounds as American as the day she left. I can’t even imitate an Irish accent!

An International Party … Soon!

28 September 2015, Monday
Oh, I’m just a little information hub here! John (Margaret’s husband) called me last night about his preparations … Pris just texted me that she and Emmet are at the airport … Rebecca’s already on the other side of the Pond, for work … Alli is, too—on her honeymoon with Sabas—and she messaged me this morning. I’ve also emailed with Tiffany about her final details …

Look out, Dublin! The Yankees are a-comin’!

It’s been two years in the making. Planning an international party has been exciting and exasperating. Riding herd on the guest list and RSVPs has been exhausting. But I’m looking forward to seeing old and dear friends—some I’ve seen very recently and others I haven’t seen in years.

After our party on Saturday, Gerry and I are taking a long-delayed honeymoon to County Donegal. When we started the planning process, my dear friend Margaret was still alive; she and John were planning to travel with us. So the Donegal destination, actually, was chosen because when I’d asked Margaret where she’d like to go, she said, “Somewhere I’ve never been.” But then she got sick, and sicker, and we lost her in April. In June, John called me; before she died, Margaret had made him promise he’d go to Ireland for the party. (You have to understand: she was a force of nature, this woman.)

And so he kept the promise. He will travel with Gerry and I (though not for the entire trip). We are both looking forward to it.

Now all I have to do is get through the slog of crossing the Atlantic. I bought a new smartphone so I could use it internationally, and added to my data plan to cover that usage. I’m already packed and have begun my personal slow-down so that I am rested up for a twelve-hour journey.

In other news, Gerry’s visa interview at the U.S. Embassy is tomorrow … I didn’t sleep well last night and probably won’t tonight either, even though our attorney assures us that it’s all a foregone conclusion. All over but the shoutin’. Nonetheless, I am thinking good thoughts. I should hear from him before I leave.

I will be leaving the house around lunchtime on Tuesday, landing in Dublin in time for breakfast on Wednesday, and will be home in time for supper on October twentieth.

The cats know something’s up (sigh).

Penny and Spot (foreground).

Penny and Spot (foreground).

This begins my series of posts for that trip. Margaret would have loved it.