So while the rest of San Francisco -along with my boyfriend, was enjoying the Folsom Street Fair, I was in the pre-autumnal splendor of Vermont. I, along with my brother and his girlfriend, flew East to wish my Mother a happy 78th Birthday. Why 78 you ask? Why not! I have been feeling increasingly of late, that life is brutally short. and we need to grab the I-love-you moments and hold them tight as they occur. In an effort to show my mother how much I loved her I asked 36 of her friends to join us at a magnificent Inn ( and horse farm) in Randolph Vermont called The Three Stallion Inn. As I perused the grounds on that rainy Sunday I envisioned Orlando and I having a ceremony of 300 or so of our closest friends and then I realized ...neither of us had enough friends to get to 300, and none of them had enough money to fly to Vermont for a wedding.
You are probably wondering how a man of my meager means could host an event of that magnitude at such a fancy place? You are right -I couldn't "host" it in the monetary sense. I ended up organizing a "no host" Birthday dinner. This involved asking a bunch of people over 75 years old to pony up $50 a plate for my beloved Mother. I was told by the Inn if I got over 25 people then I would get a rate of $36 per person. This calculated with tip and tax came to $49. However when I called the Inn to confirm the total tax/and gratuity with them, I didn't have my original gal that I worked with and I was quoted $47 per person by some other gal- and I shot off the mass -email asking for THAT amount. I should have, in retrospect told them to honor the mis-quoted price but they were already lowering the cost for the conference room rental significantly for me. It was uncharacteristic of me, but I chose not to make waves. As time approached my 25 invitees were dwindling to 20- which meant no buffet deal. I figured the average Senior Citizen would appreciate a buffet so I didn't opt for everyone ordering thier own meal. I put a shout out to any all who we may have been omitted in my original invite. BIG MISTAKE!
My inbox groaned with the weight of suggestions for people who were "overlooked". There was a tone that I clearly didn't understand the financial situation of many of the people I had invited and I clarified with an explanation of my financial situation. I'M POOR DAMMIT! I was inches away from scrapping the whole dinner and was thinking of just doing something with immediate family. I had bungled on a number of points when it came to organizing this thing. The most egregious I felt was selecting to have the event on a Sunday instead of a Saturday. I was thinking it would be a room for of retirees ,but my sister-in-law is a high school teacher and she and my brother and nephew all lived in Amherst Massachusetts! Big ooops! Let me tell you, my sister-in-law is a SUCCESSFUL highschool teacher and you DO NOT want to raise her ire. Luckily she's intelligent which means she can be reasoned with, and she appeared genuinely glad to see me and my brother. I imagined it was because her husband-my brother- is the guy that is ALWAYS there for Mom and Dad while Pete and I are 3000 miles away.
My cousin Sara, who is a REAL writer for Conde Nast, as opposed to the dreck I serve up weekly, suggested that everyone write a little memory of Mom or why we appreciated her because Mom had greatly enjoyed hearing the readings of her sisters-in-laws at the last family reunion on my father's side. I decided to keep it as short as possible and asked a few people who weren't confidant enough with thier writing skills and ended up declining. I figured -what the hell? I'll ask the professional and went ahead and asked Sara to contribute something. I decided I would contribute a few words of my own as well. I figured after Sara and I spoke if anyone felt like saying a few words they may. (YET another flub because my Aunt and one of my Mom's former colleagues made clear their displeasure at not being asked to prepare something that night. sigh!) -A quick side note: My parents are divorced but remain amicable...sort of. Sara is from my Dad's side of the family and my Mom has established herself as THE reigning colorful creative Aunt in all her nieces and nephews eyes. She's been a favorite because she doesn't hold back and expresses herself freely unlike the infrequently taciturn Cooleys. This is ironic because one of the reasons I love my Aunts on my Dad's side of the family is thier sharp observations of truthful behaviour.
It was through this observation that I realized why I am the way I am. I am my Mother. I can rarely hold back from giving my opinion and I greatly enjoy getting attention. Straight men become thier fathers and Gay men , become thier Mothers! I decided THAT would be my speech. I would show all the ways that I am a product of Lois because of me sexual orientation. IT IS the mothers fault! I stayed up the night before perfecting my speech and creating comparisons between her and I. Our mutual love of Torch Songs and Jazz, our impeccable timing on stage, ( She's an actress of course) and our sense of all things grand. We once spent a freebie weekend at a place called The Webb Estate in Shelburne Vermont. I was 17. As she drove the Chevy Vega hatch back up the long drive way with a full summer moon in the sky and Rachmaninoff playing on the car's radio, she said, "We're home Heathcliff." My Aunt (her little sister), says it's her superiority complex. I say...it's the actress in her. I concluded the speech with telling the folks that she had formed her own PFLAG group and toured Vermont highschools to see what they were doing for thier Gay teens in the 1990s. Yep she is -without a doubt a pretty special lady. The crowd was amused and ultimately the evening was a success. Sara's speech went beautifully and it inspired the "snubbed" speakers to say a few words. I wasn't subjected to a massive bill for Guests who cancelled last minute, because the add ons mysteriously never made it to the list ! Very odd and fortuitous. Everyone who attended the event paid for it with the exception of two family members who sent me the money this week. Relief!!!
I spent the remainder of my time in Vermont taking pictures with a camera I am considering purchasing. I was soothed by the oranges and reds trying to burst forth from the trees. As we gathered on Monday evening my mother, father, brother Peter and his girlfriend Megan were engaged in a conversation regarding Gay Marriage. My family of course is on the pro-marriage-for-all-side. I was suddenly caught off guard by something my mother had said. She seemed thoughtful and wondered aloud about what people had thought about what I had said during my speech at her party. This of course generated a "What do you mean?" by me and she explained that since my speech was so "out", she wondered if I had offended anyone and furthermore would anyone mention it to her if they were? I was frayed and I should be honest -I was a little reactionary. I sniffed, " So what? It's thier problem isn't it?" I was a tad sensitive because I couldn't quite let go a comment she had made about my blogging being so "open" earlier at dinner. The woman who had advocated for schools to pay more attention to their Gay teens was seemingly going back in the closet. At least that was MY perception. After I had reflected on it... I realized she may be simply concerned for me, or she has simply become more fearful as she has gotten older. Maybe she was worried I had alienated one of her friends? One of the unfortunate things I have inherited from her was always being concerned with what other people think of me. This is what she was experiencing I am sure. I looked back on my blogs and what I had said in her speech. What had I said that would generate some negative feedback? I determined that my general mouthy-ness couldn't warrant any severe judgement. I didn't advocate drug use or unsafe sex. I am not a pedophile. I DO talk about sex and sexy things -yes -and the things I discuss were not mentioned 30 and 50 years ago-heck barely 20 years ago! I have to say all in all the old lady did good by me. She needs to relax and quit worrying about what others think. I am not going to fault her for being concerned about her circle of friends because I know, the friends that really love her will always love her no matter what -just like she has done for me the last 45 years.