"Fifty should be enough," I told myself, as I pulled that amount from a box of 100 Premium Disposable Linen Guest Towels.
It was a few days before my birthday -- with the pizzas, salads, and cake already ordered -- when I realized I had no fancy towels for hand drying.
Frayed, that's the description that came to me as I eyed the gray IKEA towels that draped over rods in my bathroom. "What was I thinking?" I said, continuing my solo conversation that was unraveling to match the towels.
This would be my first home-based event with dozens of friends since Tommy died in 2012. When he was alive, we were hosts for annual Pre-Labor Day celebrations. Between the two of us, in this second marriage, we had accumulated a generous amount of friends whom we invited to various homes we lived in during our 16 years together.
At our last party, it was Kentucky Fried Chicken on the menu with ice cream for dessert. A strong guy (days before he was hospitalized he was playing golf), Tommy was in charge of hauling card chairs from the basement, wiping down outdoor furniture, and hoisting serving dishes from upper cabinets. I handled nametags.
As is true with gatherings of about 70 old and new friends (hence the stick-on I.D.'s), the biggest chunk of guests swarmed the kitchen of our home on Dakin Street. Oh, the bench set in the yard held moms and kids, and the umbrella-protected round table on the deck was circled by a quartet that never moved -- save for refills, but it was the kitchen counter that lured the lion’s share.
This year, for my event that I tagged "birthday/housewarming/pool party," I was sans spouse in my 672-foot apartment. Plans were in place: my daughters would be footing the bill, my friend Jani would serve as my P.A. (Hollywood talk for Personal Assistant), but the details -- like the guest towels -- were on my mushrooming to-do list.
Although my offspring offered to pay for a fancy venue, where all details would be smoothly handled between their P.A. and a catering staff, I insisted on holding the trifecta in my pocket-sized space. Not surprisingly, every time I opened my computer and felt an affectionate tug, I'd want to add a name to the guest list. But, like a reluctant coach required to select front-runners, I guiltily slimmed the number of invitees.
"You can handle this," I tried to tell myself, buffing my courage with dialogue from my Positivity podcast. But as each "Love to come!" piled into my email box, doubts about my ability to pull it off doubled.
In the three weeks before invite and event, I'd wake in the middle of the night with a new fear, and requisite. "Costco!" exploded in my brain during one of those alerts. So my friend Vaso offered her chauffeuring and membership card and together -- like crusty long-haul truckers -- we packed into her trunk enough paper plates, napkins, plastic cutlery, and cases of Le Croix to last well beyond my apartment lease.
Weary from lack of sleep, I decided I needed a talisman, something that could influence the outcome of the party. Because Mojito Madness had lead to success in book readings ("Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss" is a collection of essays centered on my caregiving and widowhood.), I settled on green nail polish for fingers and toes.
A few friends, privy to my anxiety about the matchup between crowd size and my petite pad, suggested hightailing to my building's lounge and garden areas. "Don't get the food delivered to your apartment," they said, "send it straight up to the those big spaces.”
But I resisted; I saw Tommy and me, our faces joyful at the crush of friends, the scattering of opened wine bottles, and paper plates piled with savory-smelling chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, and biscuits. I could hear the conversations rising to overcome the din. I wanted that; I wanted hectic, I wanted hubbub, I wanted home.
In the end, only one of the 100 Premium Disposable Linen Guest Towels was used. I suppose my friends ignored my towels' frayed edges, thought them adequate, and bypassed the fancier options.
Although I hadn't planned for a cleanup crew to dispose of empty wine bottles, gift-wrappings, and other debris, another friend, Eleni, showed up at party's end to take over.
We calculated the crowd at 40 people; no one complained about the crush, the nametags led to reunions and conversation starters, and my cozy cocoon was the party highlight.
Tommy would've loved it.
Image Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_klibbor'>klibbor / 123RF Stock Photo</a>