Tuesday, February 20, 2024

PARTY TIME! Archives from fifty-plus years ago

My sister saved a lot of correspondence from me over the years, and returned a bundle last year while downsizing from her home to a retirement community. I've just began to look through the folded papers, and this one took me back to a memorable event: Jay's surprise birthday party in August of 1968.

Before I explain the circumstances, I must apologize to myself (and my readers) for some of the fifty-year-old insensitivities expressed in this invitation. I am appalled to realize how unaware I was (as was the era) of outdated and demeaning language, inappropriate assumptions, and careless use of words that would be far more carefully appropriated nowadays! In a sense, the invitation is a time capsule encompassing more than just one person's life and memory.

 . . . and now to the story . . .  

Jay was not happy as his twenty-ninth birthday approached. He told me he was feeling old--as if his life were not materializing the way he'd hoped it would. I could have taken it personally, but instead decided to cheer him up with a surprise party. I created invitations with my typewriter and carbon paper, then wrote what I hoped would look like a form that a doctor might complete when writing a prescription. Knowing this, you'll find the photo of the invite self explanatory.

The reason for the late start-time was bedtime. I wanted all four (ages 4-1/2 , 3, 2, and 3-mo.) to be sound asleep by the time the doorbell rang. Once asleep, all of them were generally good for the night, even the 3-month-old. It was a good bet; they slept through most of the party, and the several who did wake up got to meet and see the costumed "visiting doctors."

Our guests rose to the occasion, as well. We had a wide variety of medicine-related practitioners show up, including Dr. Scholl (my sister had created a way to wear a plastic foot on her head with a nametag), ranch veterinaries (a couple dressed like cowboys), butchers (another couple armed with cleavers and blood-stained aprons) who claimed to be able to cut out anything bad. We had a guy friend who came in drag as a nurse, and a female friend who came as herself when she got off her nursing shift from a nearby hospital, Sigmund Freud complete with notebook and pen, Dr. Quack (dressed like Donald Duck) and lots of others imaginative healthcare characters. Several friends showed up as themselves, but fortunately, they were not the first to arrive. The man who rang the doorbell as the first 'surprise' guest was an esteemed ex-professor who had retired and was costumed in such a way that Jay, answering the door, thought the man had truly lost his sensibility and was exhibiting signs of dementia.

Was Jay surprised? Totally. He had never had a surprise party thrown in his honor before. He had not expected anything, either. (I'd hidden away food at a neighbor's house, as well as having several friends bring food/drink/cups/plates, etc. with them, so there was nothing in our home to give away the party-planning.) Did it help Jay feel better about turning 29? Yes, I think it did. There's nothing like the affirmation of friends to realize that being one day older isn't anything to worry about.

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