11.11.11 was a rough one. You would think it would be rough for Tom, since it was his 35th birthday, but that was not the case.
To say planning his party was a breeze would be a lie. It all started several months ago when Tom returned from a family wake that was held at a funeral home next to his old favorite watering hole on the Northwest Side of Chicago. He did what all fine Irishmen do at a wake, he had some beers with his friends and family. He returned home and said he wanted to have his birthday there. I wasn’t able to keep a straight face and when it comes to Tom, I cannot tell a lie. I had to break down and tell him that I was going to capitalize on his birthday falling on 11.11.11 and throw a surprise party for him either at said watering hole or his parents’ house. After his request, I knew exactly where it needed to be, it just wouldn’t be a surprise anymore. One of his aunt’s shares a the same birthday, so I coordinated with Tom’s cousins and we decided to throw a combined celebration.
His favorite bar holds great significance, not only to Tom and his drinking buddies, but also to his family and oddly, he and I as well. Mugshots is located just blocks away from where his mom grew up. His aunt works there and his uncle’s Harley Davidson can usually be found parked out in front. His cousin used to bartend there, one of his friend’s met his wife there while she was a bartender. Ten years ago at his aunt’s 50th and his 25th party, Tom told me he wanted to be “more than friends” and even when to far as to tell me he was going to “make me his wife.” Keep in mind, I had arrived to his party at midnight after babysitting my nephew who at the time lived in the house we live in now. Did you follow all that?
So, for my readers that aren’t local and don’t understand the geography of Chicago, let me give you a brief description of where my husband’s family is from. This is the Northwest Side of Chicago. It is very different from some of the other Chicago neighborhoods most people think of and in my opinion is a “real” Chicago neighborhood. I have to give props to similar South Side neighborhoods, since that is where my family hails from. However, I’ll probably offend a lot of people, but it is not Wrigleyville, Lakeview or Lincoln Park filled with drunken twenty-something’s and trendy restaurants and bars. It isn’t Bucktown or Wicker Park with young hipsters with funky glasses, sushi restaurants and retro record shops. No, this is old school Chicago. This is where a typical block is lined with a hole-in-the-wall-bar, a Polish Delicatessen, another hole-in-the-wall-bar, a funeral home, a shoe repair, another hole-in-the-wall-bar, an Italian sandwich shop, a church, a school, a park, another funeral home, a banquet hall and in-between, you’ll find 2-flats with Virgin Mary statues on the front lawn. Running parallel are streets lined with bungalows. This is where the city workers, police officers, fire fighters live. This is where Tom loves to be.
My party planning was jinxed from the get-go. We wanted to have the party on 11.11.11, but it landed on a Friday and we figured we could suck it up and do Saturday in order to make it more convenient for our guests. As luck would have it, Mugshots’ back room was already booked for that day. As luck would NOT have it, I had already sent the Evite. I never in a million years thought Mugshots would be a hot-bed of entertainment and party planning and would have been booked on the exact day we wanted it. I put my tail between my legs and resent a revised invite with the new date.
I wasn’t real concerned with the planning details because I knew that at the end of the day, Tom just wanted to be surrounded by his friends and family, drinking beer, doing shots of Jameson and maybe having some pizza, chips and salsa. Luckily his cousin works for a restaurant where we ordered food more suitable than just nosh for drunken bar goers.
My biggest concern was more in what we were going to do with the kids the night of the party. Since we live about an hour from where the party was, I figured it would be best if my mom watched the kids and we all stayed there since she lives 20 minutes from the bar. Unfortunately, I had to uninvited my mom to the party when I informed her she would be watching the kids and we were going to all crash there.
OK, sitter secured. Now on to logistics. Tom took his birthday off so that gave us a little more room to work with. After going through a few different scenarios we decided that I would pick up the balloons and cake and then head to the bar to set up while Tom, the kids and his parents would meet me at Tom’s grandma’s house and then when I was done decorating, I would get the kids and take them to my mom’s. Unfortunately, my mom didn’t get off work until 7:00, so I would have to be a little late to the party. Originally, I had planned on just driving back to the party, but after all the planning and schlepping, I wanted to be able to partake in the festivities without worrying about driving. My friend suggested I just take a cab from my mom’s back to the party and then Tom and I would take one back to my mom’s. It seemed worth the cost in order spend a night out, sans kids, no hour drive, to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Besides, it might be fun to relive our “glory days.”
Of course, after running to get the cake, balloons and to Meijer because I realized I forgot to pack Pull-ups for Colin I finally got on the road to the city. I was cruising until I hit O’Hare Airport and proceeded to sit in traffic for the next hour. I finally got to the bar to set up and from there had enough time to go get the kids. Tom and his parents hit a ton of traffic and never made it to his grandma’s house, so I met them at a McDonald’s near the bar where they stopped to feed the kids real quick. (A small detail I forgot to account for.) Of course, there was a major traffic jam on Irving Park Road and I was at a stand-still for another half-hour because I thought they were having a Veteran’s Day parade in the middle of rush hour on a Friday night. I was cursing and swearing when I realized that it was actually a funeral procession from O’Hare Airport for a fallen solider. Boy, did I feel like a jerk. As I watched the procession of Police cars, family members with American flags flying, Patriot Guard motorcycle group and various other vehicles with Marine Corps flags, I said a prayer, apologized to God for being a heartless bitch and within 5 minutes, traffic started moving again.
I walked into the McDonald’s and Tom immediately asked if I had a Pullup. Colin hadn’t been changed since lunchtime since he fell asleep in the car on the way home from lunch and we put him straight down for his nap. Tom forgot to change him when he woke up and he had 6 hours of 2-year old boy pee in his Pullup that soaked through to his pants. That may seem like a strange description, but if you have ever had a two-year old boy who still wears diapers, you know what I mean.
Luckily I had a change of clothes with me for our slumber party at my mom’s and was able to change him in the bathroom. I had been in desperate need of a diet Coke for the last 5 hours and Tom handed me one as I walked out the door to load the kids into the minivan and head to my mom’s. As I was driving, I decided to call the cab company to make sure there would be one there at 7:45 to take me back to the party. I pulled up at my mom’s at 7:25 and unloaded the kids, the Aerobed, two backpacks, a suitcase, blankets and sheets. The kids had their bubbas and then we just had to actually get inside my mom’s condo building. After two large doors, one of which required that I actually locate my mom’s keys on my keyring, and an elevator to the 5th floor, we had arrived. Of course, the kids got off the elevator and as I was literally throwing our belongings out of the elevator, the door closed on me and the kids both started screaming and crying because they thought I was going to fall down the elevator shaft leaving them orphans on the 5th floor of my mom’s condo building.
I opened the door to find them with crocodile tears rolling down their red cheeks. Poor babies. I got them down the hall along with our belongings and was greeted by my mom. Perfect timing. (sarcasm) I started to get the kids settled, rattled off necessary information, blew up the Aerobed and threw some makeup on my face. At that point I was already having a full-blown panic attack. Meanwhile, my mom had to run down to put her parking pass in my van since it would be parked in the parking lot over night. She informed my cab driver that I would be right down. As soon as she came back up, I kissed the kids goodbye and ran out the door. I got down to the cab and told him I just had to run to my van and get my “big girl purse” as opposed to my diaper bag/purse. He started reprimanding me for coming down 7:55 when I had told dispatch I needed a cab for 7:45. He told me the meter was running. I closed the door (ok, maybe slammed it a bit) to go get my purse and….are you ready for this? He. Drove. AWAY! Guess he wouldn’t get paid for those 10 minutes. Dummy.
Of course, I felt more the fool standing in the middle of the parking lot with my mouth wide open in shock and awe and the feeling I would NEVER get to the party. I grabbed my purse out of the car and called Tom. At that point, the last couple of days of running around, planning, schlepping, coordinating, working, yelling at my kids, worrying, and one completely a-hole of a cab driver came down on me and I felt as if I was unhinged. I started crying to Tom who likely already had 4 Miller Lite’s in him and he could barely understand what I was saying because I sounded like Jesse Spanno, “I’m so excited, I ‘m so excited….I’m so TIRED!” Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten to take a long over-due nap and hadn’t had some good drugs. I guess the good news was I didn’t have a test to study for or a dance to perform with Lisa and Kelly. Most importantly, I wasn’t wearing a leotard and a sweatshirt with one shoulder down and a giant black bow; that would really have been embarrassing.
I finally regained my composure and told Tom to just go enjoy himself while I figured out what my next steps were. I called the cab company back and told the dispatcher what happened. She sounded puzzled as to why I was so upset and asked if I wanted the same driver to come back. I told her if they did, I would call the cops. “Well, he left because you were ten minutes late, m’am.” Really? I know I am out of the loop when it comes to cab etiquette, but the meter was running. I told her I didn’t want her stinkin’ cab and that their customer service sucked and called a different cab company. I am pretty sure that the cab company was a small subsidiary of U.S. Airways.
I got a hold of a different cab company and had just enough time to run back up to my mom’s place to reapply my make up that I had cried off. My mom talked me off my emotional ledge (something she probably hasn’t had to do in about 15 years) and I was off. I finally arrived at the party at about 8:45.
I walked in and had several people offer me a drink, which I know I could have used, but didn’t really want. That was when I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner. I finally went back to eat so I wouldn’t end up becoming “that girl” who gets sloppy drunk because she at a vanilla wafer before she went out. I finally sat down with a beer and caught up with some friends. At about 11:00 p.m. a group of people in their 20’s came in and it was clear that they had just begun their evening when all I wanted was my bed. They were what we used to be. The girls were all dolled up and kept feeding the jukebox and dancing in a circle as if they were in their own little world without a care in the world. That was what going out used to be like before it required a flow chart and being a certified party planner. Sigh. Those were the days.
I spent the rest of the night hosting, cleaning up and babysitting Tom. Of course, when all was said in done, I barely drank anything and could have just driven. Luckily Tom drank enough for both of us and his aunt and uncle drove us back to my mom’s. Tom kept babbling about how 10 years ago he professed in undying love to me and that was when everything changed and our life began. Yeah, we aren’t hanging out at bars or dancing with our drinks held in the air, singing Karoake when our poor reaction time made following the words next to impossible. Yet, when we got home, the kids were asleep on the Aerobed cuddled up together. They even woke up to greet us with sleepy smiles and snuggles. Cheers to that.