Last weekend, we gave our first big party since moving to this house and remodeling our pool and patio area last summer. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. We had lights strung all along the wrought iron fence in back and there was an almost-full moon that was beautiful, with moonlight shimmering over the lake. We had lots of food — way too much, as it turned out. And got to catch up with some people we hadn’t seen in a long while and get to know some brand new friends all at the same time.
The experience provided some interesting insights into human psychology (and perhaps the deteriorating state of etiquette and social propriety, too). For example, we sent out about 40 invitations. Some were fancy paper invitations that I spent about two full days constructing, with inserts and ribbons. The rest were emailed invitations (to people whose physical addresses I didn’t know). Both included an RSVP request.
About half responded. Is it possible that people don’t know what RSVP means anymore? Heck, maybe I’m just old fashioned, but it seems like common sense (or common courtesy), especially when you receive a physical invitation that obviously involved some time, effort and money to send, to let people know whether you’re planning to be there or not.
Funny thing was: more of the emailed invitees responded than those who got paper invitations. Or maybe that’s not so funny — responding was easier for them, I guess, since all they had to do was hit the "reply" button. However, I know that many of those to whom I sent the paper invitations have email access, too, and I included both the phone number and my email address in the RSVP line of the invitation.
I don’t want to be too quick to think the paper invitees are lacking in social skills, though. It occurred to be afterward that I have no way of knowing they ever got their invitations. Just the day after the party, in fact, there was a story in our local newspaper about a postal worker who was found with stacks and stacks of undelivered mail in his personal vehicle. And I’ve had a number of experiences over the last couple of years where either I’ve mailed something or someone else has mailed something to me that never reached its destination, or arrived weeks or months later. It’s getting so that sending postal mail is just about as much of a gamble as sending email (and a usually a higher stakes one).
Assuming most of those invited did get their invitations, it was interesting to see who showed up. We invited a pretty broad group from our past and current lives. Some we didn’t really expect to be able to come: Tom’s mother and brothers live in California and New York, and my favorite cousin is still recovering from heart surgery.
I invited those who belong to a close-knit Internet mailing list of cops and (mostly) ex-cops who have been sharing discussions about our lives for the last decade, but only a few of them live close enough for it to be even feasible, so I wasn’t really surprised when none could make it. I also sent invitations to several members of my old police department. Even though it’s been many years since I’ve seen most of them, I was a little disappointed not to even hear back from any of them. But that’s how it tends to be in the police world; when you leave, you’re no longer "one of us" and it’s very much an "us/them" kind of environment.
Maybe the most surprising thing wasn’t who didn’t come, but who did — and those were pleasant surprises.
Two of the people we worked with in the late 90s when we were teaching at the college were there, and it was great to see them again. My son’s only uncle, my ex’s brother, whom we hadn’t seen since my ex’s funeral in 2000, came with his son, and Kris got to reestablish some connection with his dad’s side of the family. My daughter’s aunt, her dad’s sister, whom we hadn’t seen or talked to in fifteen years, was there and we had a wonderful time getting reacquainted. Our next door neighbors, whom we’d only talked to in passing before, joined us and we all got to know more about each other.
The "old faithfuls" were there, too — cousins from my side of the family who are the closest things I have to siblings; we all stay in touch pretty closely since my parents and one of theirs passed away, and the party wouldn’t have been complete without them. My kids, of course — my daughter’s visit from San Diego was part of the reason for the party itself.
All in all, I think we can count our first major party here as a success. Despite my exhaustion, I’m already looking forward to the next one.