Life’s special events require planning, whether it’s a wedding for a helpless, giddy bride or a simple birthday get-together. But even when we plan carefully, things sometimes go awry and we jokingly call it “the party from hell.”
Our church picnic was thoughtfully planned…three times. Postponed for various reasons, it finally came together last weekend. The group leaders sent an email with suggested menu items, the date, time, place and some very specific instructions. Everyone attending was asked to choose an item or two from the list and repondez s’il vous plait.
This small group from our big church does dinner every week, only in members’ homes, so we’re all familiar with the menu list and RSVP. This time special instructions were included in the body of the email: bring chairs; it starts at 4:00(not the usual 5:00). And so forth. We didn’t all read all those parts.
Dan and I offered to help set up, so we arrived early. We were surprised there was no fire going. We were even more surprised when our group leader said he expected us to bring charcoal.
Reviewing what he and Dan had written to one another a few days before, where Dan had texted, “Can I help? Need more charcoal?” and Joel had replied, “Yes and yes,” it was pretty clear my husband had dropped the ball. Another person was also bringing charcoal, so we waited on her about ten minutes before rushing off to buy some.
While Dan was out shopping, a member of the group brought in 2 big jugs of ice tea. He hadn’t read the part about bringing individual cans or bottles. We texted Dan, “Get cups also.” He didn’t read it because he was driving.
Joel and Dan started the fire, using lots of lighter fluid and an entire bag of charcoal. It was windy and the flames danced in the south wind, then the east.
More people arrived, bringing 2-litre bottles of soda and juice. Dan hurried off to the store for cups.
While he was gone the watermelon arrived, uncut because someone didn’t read “cut up watermelon.”
“Do you think we could cut this with a plastic knife?” asked the group leader. I had a pocket knife but it was in my purse…in Dan’s car. We laughed at the thought.
One couple was planning to arrive late. A quick text saved the day by advising them to bring a large knife. I was relieved because I couldn’t remember when I last sharpened that pocket knife.
Joel always puts aluminum foil over the grill but in the rush to get the fire going, he forgot. Now he stood to one side trying to lay foil over the dancing flames, fighting the wind with a spatula on the left and tongs on the right. It was futile. “The flames will kill all the nasty germs,” we reasoned. And we laughed.
There were ants. Ants are tolerated at picnics, right? Ummm, not in Texas! Texas ants sting people who get in their path. And they don’t just sting; they make an itchy blister on the skin. For some of us, that’s a three-week ordeal.
We played musical chairs because many of the group didn’t read the part about bringing chairs. And because of the ants. We laughed.
Our disposable plates were Styrofoam. I weighted the stack with a bag of hot dog buns. One of the kids picked it up and a plate flew across the group. When he ran to catch it, another plate flew, and another. We laughed.
Another gust blew all the potato chips off one guest’s plate. I watched, giggling, as they landed on my husband and he sat perplexed as if it were a deliberate act.
We forgot things we needed; we brought things we didn’t use. Some of us stood up to eat. Some of us got blistered by ants. The kids had a great time.
Our picnic was scheduled to be over by 6:30. Even with our late start, at 6:10 over half the group had gone home and the rest were packing to follow.
It wasn’t the “picnic from hell” but it was definitely the picnic from earth: one of those times you laugh at the foibles and purpose to do it better next time. I hope we do it soon!