On New Year’s Parties and White Gloves

Yesterday, I was the proud hostess of a New Year’s Eve party. Every year my friends and I have one, and each year a different person hosts it. We’re a well-behaved bunch, and the parties are always dry, so none of our parents particularly mind having 20 teenagers invade their house for the evening. Nothing gets broken, and no one is too loud.

These parties typically get thrown together very quickly. The host provides drinks, and everyone else brings food for a potluck dinner. But could I keep it that simple? Oh, no. I can never do things halfway.

When we had just moved into our house five years ago, the basement flooded. Of course this happened after the basement was finished and after we had set up the whole room. I can remember spending that day carrying pieces of sodden carpet up the basement stairs to the garbage cans. It was heavy, the rain was still coming down, and I scratched myself up with the little pins that they use to tack the carpet down. It was great introduction to a new home. Then, we had to get the basement re-waterproofed, tear out the wet drywall, etc. And we haven’t fully refinished the basement yet. However, it’s completely furnished again, and my dad even set up his music studio down there. But I digress. The point is that the basement is still a tad dirty around the edges.

For some insane reason, I decided that I was going to clean the bathroom down there. It’s a nice bathroom, but half of the shower had to be ripped out, and no one has really used it since the flood. Everything in there was slightly gross. The toilet had hard water sediments that I spent forever trying to scrub out. (And by forever, I do mean forever. Three rounds of bleach and a ridiculous amount of scrubbing. And then both my parents took a whack at it.) I cleaned all of the grout, and scrubbed all the tiles and sink. Clearly, some delusional part of me thought that the success of the party would depend on a clean bathroom in the basement despite the fact that the house has plenty of other bathrooms.

I vacuumed the floors which were covered with cat hair. (One of our cats, Pushkin, essentially lives in the basement and sleeps on a brass, lacy doll bed under the fooseball table. With his black and white coat, he ends up looking very regal when he’s curled up down there.) It wasn’t working because I failed to recognize the difference between the floor cleaner and the carpet cleaner settings, and had settled for just using the super tiny attachment and crawling on my hands and knees. Not a very efficient or intelligent method. It’s decisions like these that explain why I’m in four AP courses. Thankfully, my mom came to the rescue and helped me.

I’m stopping with the cleaning descriptions now, but I’m sure you get the point. It’s like I was trying to prepare myself in case some of my friends decided to bring their white gloves.

I stuck all the drinks on the stairs outdoors so that they would be chilled and carefully arranged napkins, plates, little snack bowls, etc. And then everyone arrived, and I remembered that this truly was a high-school party. No one noticed the way that the napkins were fanned, popcorn ended up on the floor, only few people figured out how to use the cheese knife, and no one wanted to eat dinner at eight on the dot.

It struck me at that moment that I don’t like parties very much. They’re loud, things that were clean become dirty, and people forget to shut doors and put the caps on bottles. It was making me incredibly anxious. But I didn’t want the party to be different–everyone was enjoying themselves immensely–I just wanted to enjoy it. Audrey gave me a huge hug and told me that I was a great host, and Cecelia helped me clean up at every turn. And it ultimately was okay. We danced to Kids by MGMT right before midnight because that was the first song we danced to in 2010, and after we rang in the New Year, we danced to Waka Waka.

But my favorite thing that happened was when we hiked up my street and sat in the middle of the road to watch the fireworks go off in the valley, the fireworks exploding in the City, and the City skyline. I felt tiny, but that good sort of tiny. I was one person out of millions who was outside in the middle of the night, craning their necks up at the sky to watch the explosions of color. I was part of a universal new beginning. 2011 stretches out in front of me the way that it does for every human, and I get to celebrate with every one of them as we start again. And that feeling made up for all of my obsessive cleaning and party anxiety.

P.S. I not only lit a match last night, but I also lit a firework. A real firework. I conquered my massive fear of fire, and I didn’t die! So how’s that for a new begining? I’m already on a roll and feeling pretty darn good about it.

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