Repost from January 2011
Standing in line for kindergarten orientation one sultry August evening in 1997, I met my wonderful friend Dixie Lee (named for both the South and General Robert E. Lee; her parents clearly did not want her mistaken for a Yankee!). She is a beautiful redhead with masses of tumbling hair and a radiant spirit full of fun and mischief.
I was intrigued at first by the fact that she and her family had just moved here that very day from Raleigh and yet she was completely unruffled and calm, as were her two children, ages five and six, sitting quietly and well-behaved at a nearby table. On my moving days I turn into A SHE BITCH FROM HELL ON ROLLER SKATES and the very idea of calmly attending a class function at the end of such a day would be out of the question; yet there she was, cool as a cucumber. I thought to myself “God, I’ll have what she’s having, please waiter”. It didn’t matter if she achieved these two well-mannered children due to a heavy injection of Southern Comfort into their juice boxes; this was clearly one Southern mama who could juggle some balls.
As years have passed it became tradition for me and mine to host a Christmas Eve party and Dixie and her husband John to throw the New Year’s Eve bash because they live close to the beach, which is a lot more fun than suburbia.
This year would be no exception and the event, complete with Dixie’s legendary shrimp gumbo, was all set for Friday night.
Rewind to early September and Hurricane Earl. John was following The Weather Channel’s dire predictions that we would all be blown to hell and back and decided to err on the side of caution and put plywood up on a huge front window on the second story of their beach house. This decision led to a nasty fall off a ladder and a broken ankle. One medical misadventure after another followed this break, and the poor fellow’s medical mishaps look to continue at least through mid-February. We have therefore taken to calling him Hoppin John. We were surprised to get a phone call from Hoppin John Thursday telling us the party was off because they just found out their septic drain field behind the house had stopped leaching and would have to be completely dug up and redone. Guess what this meant? No toilets, no guests, no party. The Spousal Unit and I were still invited to come for dinner, as long as we understood the bathroom situation and agreed to go potty before we left our house; we also needed to BYOB, in this case, bring your own bag, since there was literally no pot to pee in. No problemo.
Several years ago John, Dixie, and the kids showed up for an Indian food dinner party at our house wearing towels on their heads and red dots in the middle of their foreheads, so this whole non-working potty situation had all the earmarks of a good giggle.
The Spousal Unit and I decided to show up bearing trash liners labeled with all the toilet jokes and names we could conjure—Portapotty, latrine, WC, the porcelain altar, the Hershey Highway, and so on. The Unit would also bring his own cat litter and a litter box scoop and a bottle to wee-wee in, just in case. Another warm and wonderful New Year’s Eve passed with our buds, but not before I carefully counted out every sip of wine I ingested, knowing that what goes in most surely must come out!
The whole trash liners substituting for the potty situation took me back to a hilarious dinner party I threw at the very first house I ever owned on Long Island in 1982. My then-husband and I decided we would buy a weekend/vacation home on the Island. My wish list was quite firm and non-negotiable. It couldn’t cost more than $35,000; it had to be on the water, but not the ocean. It needed a marina nearby, but not too close. It had to be completely charming and scream out my name the first time I opened the door. A stone fireplace was mandatory. That was the same winter I entered my “white period”. Every time I ran into Christie Brinkley she would be wearing layers of white on white and the effect with her pale blond hair was absolutely stunning. Eggshell, off-white, oatmeal, winter white, sand, ecru. I even threw out all my brightly-colored Christmas decorations that year and bought all-white. So, in the spirit of my extreme whiteness I bought myself a beautiful, mid-calf white fox coat to top off all my layers of snowy white, and threw in a pair of beige Tony Lama cowboy boots just for fun.
The first two real estate agents we visited one snowy Saturday in December 1981 literally laughed us out of their offices when I presented my wish list. At the third, however, we were taken seriously (or at least she pretended to), and she proceeded to show us a dozen houses, none of which ticked off any of my boxes. They were all grossly over-wallpapered, hot, tiny, charmless boxes, nowhere near any water, unless you counted the snow outside the windows. It was getting close to dark and I was very frustrated at what looked to be a wasted day of house hunting. “Are you absolutely sure you don’t have ANYthing on the water that fits our budget?” I whined to our agent. “Well, there is one house, but I can’t possibly show YOU that one”, she said, as she doubtfully eyed me up and down in my full white regalia, my dark, handsome husband on my arm, and the rented Mercedes we were driving. “This place is a train wreck and it might even be dangerous to go in there.” I begged and cajoled, and moments later we pulled up in front of a little log cabin whose backyard swooped down to the water.
It was now almost dark and the agent had warned us there was no heat or electricity and that we would need to be quick if we wanted to see it at all. She clearly disapproved of our decision to view this house and probably thought we were both quite mad. As she opened the front door we could hear the sounds of running and scurrying and she sighed deeply, “This wreck has been abandoned for at least eleven years; goodness knows who or what is in here”. Sure enough, as we entered the living room I spotted a possum, several squirrels, and even a duck scampering out of our way. This place gave a whole new meaning to the term Fixer-Upper! But as I stepped into the room and saw the soaring ceiling and the screen porch overlooking the water, and caught a glimpse of an authentic 1940’s kitchen, I was hooked. This was THE ONE, no doubt about it. We spent an hour at a local bar while our agent tried every argument she could muster as to why this was not a good decision, but insanity prevailed, as it so often does in my world, and we closed on the tumbledown little cottage in January 1982.
Electricity was restored but there was nothing that could be done about heat, running water, and the toilet situation until spring because the ground was frozen solid. Being a I WANT WHAT I WANT RIGHT NOW, WITH MY DRESSING ON THE SIDE type of girl, nothing would do until I had our first dinner party. It was one month later and the animals had all been relocated, two kerosene heaters were in place, and electric blankets were piled on the beds. It mattered not that there was no running water and the toilets couldn’t be flushed. We invited three couples who were our very best friends out for a Saturday night dinner, but warned them they would have to “do their business” in the trash liners we had carefully placed in the single toilet. It was a testament to friendship that everyone showed up and we had a blast, trash liners and all.
You just can’t make this stuff up kids! Hoping you and yours had wonderful New Year’s Eve “potties” of your own and let’s all crash headlong into 2011!!!