Sunday, June 06, 2004
"Never mind all this. How'd the party go???"
Twenty-five years, redux.

Twenty-five years we've given this party now. Twenty-five years spring and fall. We were giving the party before the younger guys were born -- the first party was some three months after we got married. We were giving the party when I was eight months plus pregnant with the older younger guy. We were giving the party when the younger younger guy was three months old and his older brother was almost three. Back when, we started cleaning for it weeks beforehand because of the inevitable trash and destruction that two toddler types could wreak.

This year was different. The house was a-shamble and I was stressed beyond ken. I worried that I'd never get the place in shape for the party. I had nightmares of monsters stalking, waiting to pounce.

The last week was a push to clear out the family room of all the miscellaneous stuff and bookcases filled with more stuff. There were multiple trips to the Goodwill with boxes and bags until the younger younger guy, who was my mainstay and steady helper, was embarrassed to make yet another trip and asked one of his parents to go along with him.

The last but one day, the younger younger guy was helpful beyond belief because he worried about my sanity.

... but in the end the place was clean. His nibs got home from work at 3P to help with the final prep. I even had time to wash and wax the floor. The counters were cleared and washed. The refrigerator in the garage was stashed full of sodas and beer and white wine that had been chilling since Tuesday. The plates and cups and glasses and 'ware were in place.

The coffee pot was set to go and the corkscrews were laid on the counter. We were putting the sofa covers back on after laundering when the door bell rang. Someone who'd flown in from Seattle for the party was on our doorstep: "Hope you don't mind me showing up a half hour early. I've come so far...." I left our early guest and his nibs downstairs while I showered and changed out of my dirty, dusty clothes.

The party went fine, Arleen, and thanks for asking. We saw loads of old friends, some of whom we don't see that often. Jim from Seattle shows up maybe once every five years. Others show up twice a year without fail. Some couldn't make it because they had children graduating high school, children who'd come to flings themselves. Most of the folks with younger children decided to leave them home this time. There were a mere handful of kids, but plenty of adults.

The party originated back in 1979 as an engineering group get-together. His nibs' engineering group had tried group get-togethers with spousal equivalents at a Chinese restaurant, but you didn't get much of a chance to talk to everyone, and so, the FUTS (Future Systems Engineering) Fling was born. Twice a year, spring and fall, the engineering group got together with spousal equivalents and children for a potluck feast. We provided the wine and beer, flavored sparkling water, sodas, coffee, tea, plates, 'ware, cups and glasses and everyone else brought something to eat.

At the beginning we made lists and had signups to make sure that there were n hors d'oeuvres and m main dishes and d desserts and s salads ... Because the company sponsored the event, the company reimbursed us for our libation and paperware costs and reimbursed the dish-bringers for the costs of whatever they'd brought. Eventually, I relaxed and stopped taking signups. People weren't there for the food and wine. They were there for the others. If everyone brought salad, it meant that everyone felt like eating salad and we'd have a strawberry-spinach salad and a potato salad and a fruit salad and a .... If everyone brought dessert, everyone felt like dessert.

No one ever went away hungry and there was always a wide variety of things to eat.

Eight years after the flings began, I went to work for the company too. The following year his nibs left the company, but the flings kept happening at our place because they'd always happened there. A few flings after that, the company founder/president refused to continue paying for the FUTS flings because he noticed that after each fling, one or more of his employees left to work for his nibs at his new company.

Cut free of the company purse strings, we continued to provide what we had always provided and folks continued to bring their dishes. Even without the company sponsorship, the flings thrived and we began inviting engineering nerd types who no longer worked with us at the company and hadn't been eligible to be invited as long as the company had been sponsoring the event. Eventually, some nerds who may have been only marginally connected also joined the ranks.

I stopped working for the company in 1992, but the flings continued ... and continued ... and continued. Eventually, the invited guest list totalled probably something like a hundred plus nerds and SOs and twenty plus children. Not all would come every time, but by having the party twice a year, we could be sure of seeing almost everyone at some point every year, year and a half. We watched children grow from babies to teenagers, drop the party, grow more, come back for a visit. We had two twenty-year-olds at the party Friday night, and a couple seven-year-olds and some in-between. No babies, but then the average age of nerd has been pushing up there and the youngest nerd is now ... over forty.

It's been a long time. A quarter of a century. Hard to believe.

We all like each other, like getting together, like catching up on the news, angling for work, offering work. The big subject of conversation Friday night was, "You're selling this place? BUT WHERE WILL WE HAVE THE FLING????? Is this The Last Fling? Say it isn't so."

Maybe it was The Last Fling or maybe Dale won't sell by the fall and will still be available as a party venue. Maybe we'll have the party at Hill and everyone can take Cal Train up and make plans to spend the night in San Francisco, as someone suggested. Maybe we'll have the party at Dogpatch where the parking is better.

Maybe someone else will take over the hosting duties.

Or maybe it was The Last Fling.

The party was good as it always is, and as I always know it will be even as I'm stressing out during the pre-party run-up. The FUTS folk are good folk, intelligent, interesting, nice. We always have a good time, no matter what sort of stress it is to set up for the party.

That's why we've hosted it for so long.

That's why people have been coming for so long.

That's why everyone was asking, "BUT WHERE WILL WE HAVE THE FLING?????"

: views from the Hill

Bertold Brecht:   
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

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