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For the entire time Gill was here this summer, we tried to plan a 40th birthday party for her. For the first attempt, I went so far as to buy a special cake and birthday napkins. Crazy D was off working and couldn’t attend and, by the day before the festive dinner, the other guests had also cancelled.

Was it something we said?

I knew the cake wouldn’t keep well, so we opted to have an ‘intimate dinner’ for two …make that three since Mrs. Beeton (our exotic parakeet) was at the table (actually she was ON the table) in all her pink finery. It was a rather sad little affair, but it did acknowledge Gill’s big day. Certainly Mrs. Beeton, according to confidential sources close to the family, enjoyed herself. Her rendition of “Happy Birthday”, while suitably enthusiastic, wasn’t all it could have been — but that’s what you get when you use local talent…

Other attempts to herd the gang (not unlike herding cats) failed and so, the final weekend of Gill’s stay, we tried again and were successful. The day was, of course, not without its hitches. Crazy D had promised to be on deck to cook the burgers and sausages. I was ‘not to worry’ that he was working and bike riding the day of the party. He promised to be there on time. I issued invitations to the other guests: Please come to a party that may or may not be taking place since the cook may or may not have fallen off a cliff somewhere and we won’t know until the last minute. It was all going to be very ad hoc and casual.

There is casual and then there is casual. It used to be, back in the day when I put effort into entertaining, that the house would be cleaned, food prepared, table set well in advance, decorations organized. Nothing was left to chance. I was vying to be Martha Stewart in my next incarnation…not the jailbird Martha; the domestic diva Martha. In retrospect, I might have a better chance at jailbird Martha.

That was then; this is now. With Crazy D, L’il Sis and The Pig (the beagle) living here, I’ve cut back on entertaining. Cut back? Who am I kidding? The Pig has  peed on the carpets so often and shed so much hair on the sofas I’d need a rake to get through to the upholstery.  Her dismembered, foul, germ-ridden plush toys and their mangled voice boxes are strewn around to such effect that the only people allowed into this house are the paramedics or pest exterminators. This is not the place where fancy entertaining lives.

But, realizing it was time I re-entered the world of socializing, I took the bull by the horns and had the carpets cleaned. A miraculous recovery took place! Feeling encouraged, I cooked, dusted, got out the next-to-best china and went to town planning a party for Gill…part birthday, part ‘goodbye and bon voyage, see you at Christmas’ evening.

By mid-afternoon,  I was ready. I sat down to relax and survey my preparations.

The phone rang.

It was Crazy D.

Alarm bells sounded in my little head. “Uh, where are you?” I asked nervously. In my mind, he was already overdue by a couple of hours and the fact that he was phoning from somewhere not here didn’t bode well.

“Oh, I’m still at my girlfriend’s house,” he answered nonchalantly.

“You did remember the party today, didn’t you? And that you’re manning the barbecue?It will need to be cleaned a bit before you use it…and you’ll have to actually MAKE the burgers beforehand. You’ll be home soon?” I was starting to sweat bricks.

“Not to worry, Mom. I’m just going for a short bike ride but I’ll be home in plenty of time.” This from the guy who barely remembers the days of the week…

“Okay, but please don’t be late.” I fully expected him to come pedaling his off-road bike through the living room in the middle of the party to begin his cooking duties, mud splattering from his tires as he went.

The first guest arrived, the wife of a neighbor couple. Her husband and their daughter were nowhere to be seen. “They’ll be over soon,” she announced. We sat, poured drinks and began the party. Half an hour passed and the missing duo arrived. The husband commented to his wife, “I didn’t realize you had come over already! I looked everywhere and couldn’t find you so we just came over and here you are!”

The wife looked confused. “I was ready so I just came over. I thought you’d figure it out!”

L’il Sis came in with The Pig after their weekend adventure hunting beavers at the conservation area.  I thought to myself, “The other guests showered…why not The Pig?” But she was already in food-hunting mode, sniffing diligently under the kitchen counters and moving quickly to the deck to ensure the barbecue was safe from marauding chipmunks. I think she was planning on a chippie kabob for HER dinner.

The Man in My Life arrived, forced to walk boldly into this lion’s den after a futile attempt to make the doorbell heard. Fortunately he brought lots of wine. He knows me well.

Last to arrive was Crazy D, sweaty biking gear, muddy shoes and an hour’s worth of road stink on him,  ready to cook.  “I’ll just have a quick shower and I’ll be ready to go,” he announced, nonplussed that he had missed the first part of the party.

“You do remember you have to MAKE the burgers too, don’t you?” I asked.

“No problem. I’ll get right on it!” With that, he disappeared to clean himself enough so that he wouldn’t accidentally poison the guests.

The evening was great fun, Gill was mollified that her birthday had not been totally ignored, and by the end, we had two dogs (one large) and several well-lubricated, overfed guests. The party ended when Crazy D leapt up and said his goodbyes, announcing that he had to be at work on the other side of Toronto early the next morning. The finale was watching him pack his sound equipment into his car and zoom off to stay at his girlfriend’s place for the night (it being closer to the freeway).

“When will we see you again?” I questioned him.

“How does October sound?” he grinned sheepishly. “I’ll be working pretty much non-stop until then.”

“Thanksgiving it is, then!” I agreed.

I’ll bet Martha Stewart never had to contend with this kind of unpredictability when planning parties. Maybe I should plan ahead and send out ‘Save the Date’ cards. Nah, for a group that packs, unpacks, and moves around this much, not only would they not save the date, they’d lose the card! And so, I continue to fly by the seat of my pants.