Some Kids Are Guitars, Some Are Hurricanes

The party guests all Ubered home by 11 p.m., leaving Smartacus and me with a thousand dirty wine glasses, too many cookies, several slabs of leftover pizza the caterers made in a wood-fired oven in our driveway. And a good memory or two.
Is this how the Romans lived?
I’m never hosting a party again, by the way … too exhausting. I was sore even before the party, having potted some oversized plants — maybe mums? And my left heel felt like a Clydesdale had stepped on it after I’d schlepped around tables the size of wooden ships.
Parties wipe you out — before, during and after.
It was all for a good cause: Rapunzel’s engagement to the young dude they now call Uncle Truck. (He drives a big Dodge Ram. Hence, “Uncle Truck.” My granddaughter says it with glee, while flouncing up and down on her diapered butt.)
Anyway, the lovely and patient older daughter orchestrated the whole twinkly backyard bash; she’s mad, this woman, preps for parties like her late mother did, worries every little thing.
Basically, that’s how the magic happens.
Of course, nobody can do it alone. On the morning of the big bash, the professional balloonist arrives, then the guys with the rental tables, then the caterer sets up a tent.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “balloonist,” this is someone who makes a living supplying bouquets of balloons to parties … like giant clumps of grapes. Call it show biz. Call it set design.
Call it Cupidity.

The human hurricane, left, and the bride-to-be.

FYI, Cupidity is a system of beliefs, kind of a pedagogy, that encourages kind gestures. As a dad, it’s my nature to sort of sniff at that, no good deed goes unpunished and all. But more and more, year by year, I see the value of being a decent human being. I mean, me of all people?
Cupidity = kindness = a better world.
Now, some kids are guitars, some kids are hurricanes. The lovely and patient older daughter is a human hurricane, a dervish, a Roomba of pre-party energy. I love and admire her very much, while staying clear as she arranges flowers, futzes with photos, barks out orders to her young apprentice, Smartacus.
She also has this amazing, cashmere hair, by the way.
In short, my oldest daughter is the kind of person you can drop out of a troop plane and say: “Sarge, go destroy that Tiger Tank!” And she will. She’ll argue with you a little about your strategy, your timing, but in the end, she’ll parachute out of that plane, flip backward a few times and go win you a war.
You know, the vagaries of life continue to amuse me — the serendipity, the happenstance, the blind curves … how we deal with hard and ugly truths. Scoff all you want. That’s just my opinion.
And I have this theory (“So many theories,” as Suzanne notes, “so many theories. …”)
Well, here’s another one: Firstborn children intuitively know how overwhelmed their new parents are, and they step up to compensate, to appoint themselves as assistant parents. It’s totally Darwinian. They do it intuitively for the survival of the species.
That explains the high energy of firstborn children. And when her mama died almost four years ago, the lovely and patient older daughter stepped up to be our demi-mom.
Whew. Thank God. Thank you, baby.
Such a party she put on. In the half dark of late fall, the backyard looked made of tinsel. You hang enough lights in the trees, you cram enough wine on the bar, you get the fire pit raging, and everything else kind of takes care of itself.
By 8 p.m., full of Cab, the groom’s dad and I are discussing how timber wolves are decimating the wild deer population of the Northern Great Lakes.
By 9 p.m., my frontal cortex quits working and I am yodeling college fight songs, in honor of Rapunzel and Truck, who met at a Big 10 school.
“Hail, hail to old Purdue … Ever grateful, ever true …”
You know, as dads, we are collectors of Jimmy Stewart moments, triggered by the buzz of being surrounded by family and friends.
I blame them.
Seriously, this time of year, I wear family and friends like favorite sweaters — I’m not proud. I lean on them like big sturdy trees, trying to regain my balance, trying to locate my shoes.
And Saturday night, amid the serendipity, the happenstance, the hard and ugly truths, was yet another in my string of Jimmy Stewart moments.
Some guys collect Mustangs. I collect Jimmy Stewart moments.
Ever grateful. Ever true.

Email the columnist at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. For past columns, books or gifts, please go to his website, ChrisErskineLA.com.