Once upon a time, an invitation to a party came in the mail. A calligrapher had written our address in an old English style. The weight of the paper used for the envelope and the thickness of the document inside were beyond anything ever issued from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I’d been expecting it because “people” had called me to verify my address. I opened it carefully, not wanting to make a ragged edge on the expensive keepsake.
The invitation, a booklet really, bore engraved text and beautifully reproduced photographs having to do with the purpose of the party. The envelope also contained an RSVP card and a stamped, addressed, return envelope. Since the party was going to be in Michigan, another card politely asked if I’d like help with making travel plans. Flights, hotels, and cars. I filled out the RSVP card indicating two will attend and checked the box beside “yes” for help. Since Dave would be traveling for work the week before the party and arriving from Chicago, I’d be flying on my own. Not a problem, but I thought the “people” might help me schedule my flight with others flying out of LAX. It’s always nice to have a friend to talk to during the flight. I had wanted the hotel where other guests would be staying so I could make reservations for us there, too.
A few weeks later, another impressive envelope arrived. It contained my prepaid airline ticket. I was embarrassed. When I’d indicated I needed help with my travel plans, I hadn’t meant I needed money for a airline ticket. This one was for first class! No way I could have afforded that. Also included were details about a car and driver that would pick me up at my house and take me to LAX. A car and driver would pick me up at Detroit Metro and take me to the hotel. Reservations made and paid. The Ritz Carlton in Dearborn. Gratuities for all of this prepaid.
I called Dave. Should I clear up the misunderstanding and return the airplane ticket? Should I cancel the Ritz and make a reservation at the nearby Motel 6? He suggested I relax about these things and enjoy them. He didn’t have to say it twice!
Since my travel expenses had been paid, I decided to buy myself a new dress for the night of the party. I actually needed a whole new wardrobe for hanging out at the Ritz, but that would have been going overboard. I found a dress I loved and didn’t beat myself up about paying a little more than usual for it.
The morning of my flight, a limousine with a uniformed chauffeur arrived. Being very independent and used to doing things for myself, it was a real treat to have my bags carried to the car and the door opened for me. Unfortunately, the car arrived too early in the morning for my neighbors to witness my departure. It was lovely not personally slugging it out with L.A.’s notoriously bad freeway traffic. However, I did find it a bit lonely in the back seat behind the glass partition. I wondered if the people around me thought someone famous was inside the car, which had been polished to perfection and gleamed in the light of the rising sun. Skycaps jumped into action when the limo pulled up to the curb. I had enough sense to wait for the driver to open my door. I tried to look important as I emerged. I stood by with as much dignity as I could present, with my five foot nothing size, during the processing of tickets, luggage, etc – pretending my “new status” was the norm. Such fun! The VIP lounge, flying first class, and not having to wait to disembark were grand, but the topper was arriving at baggage claim to find another chauffeur – this one holding a sign with my name on it. Something I’d never thought I’d experience. And there were plenty of witnesses. Again the treat of not having to struggle with luggage or fight traffic.
Upon arriving at the Ritz, I discovered guests had been flown in from around the country and from the UK. So many, in fact, that our party occupied almost all of the hotel’s rooms. Dave arrived a bit later and, once he’d changed from his business suit into his business casual clothes (I refused to bring his cut-off blue jeans shorts, which he thought appropriate anywhere,) we went to the buffet / lounge the on top floor. The Ambassador Bridge to Canada and the skyline of Detroit were lighted up. The whole room was filled with people I’d met briefly over the years and people about whom I’d heard stories for decades.
Ordinary folks with deep ties to Scotland. A pub like atmosphere reigned. Loud. Crude. Terribly funny. And finally, very sentimental. Dave was right in there with them. It was great fun to watch him. It wasn’t often he had a chance to cut loose among his own. We stayed until the wee hours of the morning. No matter. We could sleep in. Order room service. Perhaps call for a car and driver to go out for a bit. Then dress for the party. It was an other worldly way of life.
Our host and hostess, who hadn’t hadn’t been seen yet, would have been amused by my Alice in Wonderland reaction to all this. Both of them came from middle class families and had worked very hard for their amazing successes. (They’re on the Forbes 500 list, south of Bill Gates, but north of the mid point.) Except for the things they can afford to do, they’re very down to earth people. Stories of their generosity were exchanged. Many involved helping young people get educations and find careers. But my favorite was about a man on his way to do a job for them. He called to say he’d be a bit late because his truck had broken down. He was going to call for a tow and he’d be there as soon as he could. They told him to sit tight. The’d take care of that. Before long, a young man from a car dealership arrived with a new truck! A gift. So he could get going and do his job. I was looking forward to seeing them at the party.
Ah, yes, the party. But I’ve exceeded my word limit. You’ll have to check back (in two weeks because I have a special Mother’s Day blog for next week) to read about the president of a foreign country being P.O.’d by the logistics of getting everyone to the ballroom, a rock star who had to wait for his car, the surprise entertainment, and me ending up with gravy down my back.