A long, long time ago, well before I was a restaurant gal, I was going to make lot of money hosting children’s theme parties. I had an actual location, various theater-quality props, costumes, and a small army of high-school drama-club kids willing to serve cake and ice cream while dressed up as knights and astronauts and various cartoon-esque characters.
All was going quite well, until my landlord tripled my rent in an effort to force me out of my party space. He succeeded. Which was when my partner/great friend and I decided to take our show on the road.
We hoisted our props down the longest of driveways and into the finest of basement “family rooms” in the affluent D.C. suburbs. Our reputation for all-out fantastic events for five-year-olds soared. We had a waiting list of willing clients. I know our backsides are memorialized forever in hundreds of birthday party videos and snapshots.
Alas, we did not make the money we thought we would, despite charging ridiculously high fees to entertain the wee ones. You can only sling so much ice cream at so many urchins in one weekend. But the stories we told our friends and family at the end of the day! Oh, to have been blogging back then. But so many years ago, the Internet was in its mere infancy and this platform for writing was not in anyone’s vocabulary.
As the insanity of living and working in Key West continues to turn my world upside down and all around on an hourly basis, I recently contacted my old friend to hark back to those glorious olden days. We discovered that our individual memories of these events are quite disjointed, but through an email discourse that spanned days, we pieced together some of the highlights.
“Remember the father who answered the door wearing nothing but his white briefs?” my friend wrote.
“Wasn’t he the one who shot his BB gun at us from the widow’s walk of his mansion as we left?” I asked.
“Oh my God, yes!” she answered. “I remember asking you if bees were stinging you like they were me!”
“And then we looked up and saw him laughing and waving his gun,” I wrote back, wondering to myself how it was we escaped unharmed and why we didn’t call the police. Oh right, no cell phones back in the day.
“How about the fading beauty queen who showed us all her pageant trophies while sipping her “orange juice” at 9 a.m.?” my friend continued.
“Yeah, while the dad was smoking pot in the kitchen and instructing his house staff to unload our props,” I added.
“And how quiet and disengaged the kids were until we made up an extra strong batch of our purple punch to boost their moods with a vat of sugar,” she reminded me. And how we felt sick to our stomachs upon leaving that place, knowing that all the money the adults had invested in that mansion and the staff to care for it couldn’t do a thing to make life better for those kids.
“Of course, then there was the time we were setting up all the prizes in booths for a circus party, and the birthday boy and two friends ‘stole’ them all,” I wrote.
“I swear he was going to sell them to all the other kids at the party,” she laughed through her email.
And so we continued, back and forth, about the bounced checks and refusals to pay us, about the stereotypical drunk clowns and other whacked-out entertainers we met coming or going around our events.
“Remember the guy we pretty much dragged out of a gym next door and gave $20 to so he would play The Hulk for the kid who wouldn’t stop crying because his parents had promised The Hulk would be there, but had neglected to tell us?” Actually, that guy had a blast and really got into playing the part.
Some of our clients were incredible, in a wonderful way.
The family of a local football star who wouldn’t let us leave until they had fed us mounds of food from the buffet table and begged us to “feel free to take a swim” in the gigantic backyard pool.
The patriarch of another family who invited us to sit down and share our business plan over a glass of wine because he “made his money by working hard for every dime I ever earned, every day,” adding he had great respect for our obvious hard work.
The grandmother of one self-made zillionaire who said we should never forget that money is only so much nothing if it can’t bring back your health. She was dying of cancer, but her life had been full and good, she told us. I had forgotten about her until my friend and I were reminiscing. I won’t forget her again.
I have been writing this blog for four years this month. I have shared the fun and the funny, the not-so-fun and the very serious. I have lamented my angst and celebrated my small steps forward. The few days of reconnecting with an old friend about a work life long ago prompted much reflection upon what has been and what might be next.
The move to Key West has proven to be an enormous mistake, one I hope to correct soon. But good people to work for are out there, old friends will always be in my heart, life will continue to unfold. Most importantly, it is time to remember how full and good life really is, and to reach out and hold dear those who have made it so.