I have a good friend who has had a tremendously difficult year. I spoke on the phone with her the night before New Year's Eve and she sounded down. It had been a hard day. After the phone call, Andy and I discussed the situation and wondered if there was something we could do to be a blessing to her and her family.
We had an idea. We would throw her and her kids a surprise New Year's Eve party. I knew she would be reluctant to come to a party in her melancholy state, so the party would have to come to her. Crazy, but we had a plan that seemed workable.
We knew she had a commitment in town from late afternoon until 9:30 PM, and would come home after that, not feeling much like being in a rowdy crowd of revelers. So, at about 7:30, the five of us went over to her house, let ourselves in, and began to set up a party.
Andy and Tano went outside and began setting out two dozen paper bag luminaries, a dozen hanging glass jar lanterns, and several ice lanterns. While they decorated the yard, driveway and front porch and got the candles all lit; Elli, Dad C. and I got the inside ready. We did the dishes in the sink, cleared away the minimal clutter in the living room, lit more candles and pretty lights, and began preparing and setting out the food.
Once we were ready, the kids popped in a movie and we just waited. They would be along soon, and oh, how fun it would be to watch them pull up to this wonderland at their own house!
At about a quarter to ten, I called her to see how her evening was going and see if she'd left town yet, a half hour away. I was bursting with pleasure at what we had pulled off, but I tried to sound casual. It was difficult, but I hid my panic when she informed me (obviously in a much better mood than she'd been in the night before) that they had, on a whim, decided to stay in town until midnight and enjoy the night life of the city's official "First Night" event.
Now what? I talked to Andy. He suggested I call her back and sound anxious to get together with her and see if she would change her mind. She's a sucker for deep conversation with a good friend.
I called and did my best to sound a bit pathetic. She assured me we could catch up the next day; they were having fun and had no interest in coming home early. I made a frustrated face to Andy, who was watching me talk on the phone. He recommended I just go ahead and tell her what we were up to, so she'd have a reason to come home. I hated to, but couldn't think of anything else, so I confessed that we had thrown a party in her own home and were waiting for her to arrive.
She was clearly touched. But there was a problem; they had left her vehicle at a friend's house and driven in together. She couldn't leave until the whole group--who was there to celebrate New Years--was ready to go. I made her promise not to feel badly and to enjoy herself to the fullest. We would just watch another movie and eat the food I'd set out.
So we sat at her house, just the five of us, sipped punch from my pretty punchbowl on her table, munched my snacks set out on her counter, and watched a movie on her DVD player and TV. It reminded me a little of last year's Christmas Eve at Laura's house.
At 12:45, they still hadn't arrived, so Andy shuttled his dad home to go to bed. By the time our friends finally got home, many of the candles in the outdoor lanterns and luminaries had burned out, but there was still enough of a selection to get an idea of the charming approach to the house. The ice lanterns were still lit. They were all hugs and smiles when they came in, and hungry, too, so we all filled our plates again and munched while we chatted happily.
We had made big plans for the event, to make it something meaningful and significant, but it was approaching 1:30 AM, and we were all tired, so we cut it short. We had planned to have Tano read a poem, "Ring Out Wild Bells" by Alfred Lord Tennyson, then all contribute to long lists of things we would like to ring out from 2008 and things we would like to ring in for 2009. A few minutes before midnight, we had planned to light a small bonfire and burn the "Ring Out" list. Then, right at the strike of twelve, we were all going to grab pots and pans and bells and whistles and any other noise makers we could find and run around outside like crazy people, making as much ridiculous noise as we possibly could. When we returned to the house, we would tack the "Ring In" list to the wall and take turns with some more scripted readings, more poetry and several scripture passages that talked about hope. Then we would enjoy a time of prayer together and talk until we felt like leaving.
As it was, we had Tano read the poem, we introduced the idea of the lists, prayed together, talked a bit and called it a New Year about two o'clock.
She was very blessed by the whole thing, and we all had a good time, so we accomplished what we'd set out to do, but, clearly, it didn't turn out exactly as we'd planned.
I don't think any of us will ever forget this New Year's Eve. I hope yours, dear reader, was memorable as well.