There. With the above post title, any self-respecting fan of Phantom of the Opera should have that song well-lodged in the brain for a good long time. I'm hoping that, by passing it off to you, dear reader, I can be done with it for a bit.
Last night, we had a party here. It was kind of a big deal. But first, let me apologize. I have been neglectful of your blogs and of all e-mail correspondence. My computer went down a couple of weeks back, and has been out of commission ever since. I am using Andy's computer here and there, but trying not to spend too much time on it. I rely completely on my Google Reader service to keep up with at least reading your blogs, but I am rarely signed in to Google on his machine, so I've lost touch. I have no access right now to my previous inbox full of your e-mails, so any conversation we were in the middle of, or anything that required my response has probably been lost. I am using my server's web-based e-mail page, but it is woefully inadequate. I have used almost its entire storage capacity already, just in the time that my machine has been down and I've been off Outlook. It's fairly pathetic. That said, let's get back to the party.
A week ago Friday, my little Shakespeare class of assorted home school kids finally finished Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet, the final scene taking place at a masquerade ball. We talked about the coy little masks-on-a-stick and the elaborate costuming. The kids were fascinated with the whole idea, and the girls especially were a little starry-eyed. Seeing that the next class session happened to fall on Halloween and at least some families would be thinking of costumes already for that day, and seeing as how we had actually studied a masquerade ball and were probably due for a class celebration of some sort anyway, I had the thought that we might, last-minute, throw together our own masquerade party. The other families were all for the idea and we invited a handful of other friends, as well.
We had less than one week to prepare, with most of that week being tied up with a rocking chair class, so I knew I was a little crazy even to think I could pull this off, but I really wanted to do it for some reason.
My kids got to work on making paper luminaries and little glass jar lanterns, both of which could be lit with inexpensive tea light candles. We carved a bunch of pumpkins. Andy cleaned up the shop and moved much of the heavy machinery out to the perimeter so we could turn it into a party room. The huge table saw work surface was converted into a refreshments table. He set up a sound system in there that could have blown out our end of the valley. We put together our costumes with an eye for elegance and high-society.
The day of the party, Nance and I combined our Friday afternoon classes, Shakespeare and art, and had the kids make a wide variety of fancy masquerade-style masks. Glitter and sequins and feathers--oh my! I think the adults had as much fun as the kids, making the masks.
That evening, we arrived home from choir at five o'clock. The party would begin in three short hours and there was much to do to get ready. I had envisioned a pretty woodland path connecting the shop and the campfire pit without having to walk in between parked cars, and the kids made it happen. Tano raked away pine needles to form a really lovely path that wound through the pine trees in the front yard and they set out two to three dozen paper bag luminaries, each one filled a quarter of the way with loose dirt to anchor it down and hold the candle in place. The luminaries, placed along the side of the path every ten feet or so, were prettier than I even have words to describe. But then, we took the whole winding path idea a step further by hanging the little glass candle lanterns from the branches of the pines themselves, lining the path. Their soft glow, lighting up the undersides of the tree branches, added the perfect touch. The pretty, illumined path made our little woods an enchanted, other-worldly fairyland.
Walking back from the campfire pit, where the big boys were sword-fighting in the dancing shadows with assorted wooden weapons, to the shop, which was Party Central, my friends, Jen and Nance, were duly enchanted. We walked slowly in our fancy costumes. "I feel like Cinderella, going to the ball!" Jen whispered reverently into the dark night. It was just what I had envisioned it to be; I was so pleased.
The entrance to the shop was flanked with an assortment of pumpkins, most carved, some intact. Inside, Andy had covered the flourescent light tubes with heavy red celophane, giving a soft glow to the room. My heavy silver candleabra came out of storage to grace the refreshment table and an assortment of other candles and lanterns added atmosphere throughout the remainder of the room. A block of dry ice in the punchbowl added a nice effect.
Highlights from the Phantom soundtrack filled the room with rich sound, accenting the laughter of friends. Everyone came in costume, even the adults, and there were quite a few extras of the fancy masks, so people held masks coyly to their faces at various times. A table was set up for kids to make more paper luminaries or glass lanterns. Another table had supplies for kids to carve the spare pumpkins. All of them were carved by the end of the night.
I counted thirty-one guests in attendance at the party, the youngest being two years old and the oldest, eighty-two. It was a rocking good time.
Once the kids had carved some pumpkins, made some luminaries, eaten some food and run back and forth from the fire pit a few times, we started a couple of simple games. You've never seen kids have more fun with the standard donut-on-a-string game--the one where you eat the donut dangling in front of you with no hands. We did several rounds of this game, the final one for moms only: broccoli-on-a-string. Now that was funny. The kids then played musical chairs until the adults finally got tired of watching them and called the game to a close.
At that point, the crowd was warmed up and laughing, enjoying each other's company so much, so Andy put in a CD of some classic big band/swing and the real party began. Dancing ability and skill was ignored completely and we all, from the youngest to the oldest, danced late into the night. We laughed and laughed. There were conga lines and arched tunnels, circles and lines. We danced individually and with partners, swapping out with everyone in the room. It didn't take long for the windows to be opened up to the cold night air, as we were a frothy, sweaty mess--but happy.
It was midnight before the music was turned off and last guest was gone; the food was cleared away and our kids headed toward their beds. Everyone agreed that a new tradition had certainly been born. "Same time, same place next year" echoed the refrain.
Photos to come.