Chapter 23 2001 - Family Affair

Chrissy Mall was turning 16 at the end of the year, and I wanted to give her the biggest Sweet Sixteen party the world had ever known. At least that was I’s statement before Angela brought him down to earth.

“I think she would be more inclined to keep it a small family affair, with a few of Chrissy’s close friends. The last thing a teenager needs is to get lost in one of your imaginary extravaganzas.”

“One can dream, can’t they? I just want the best for my little girl!”

“Your little girl is becoming a young lady, and it won’t be long before she is behind the wheel of a car. That’s when your real troubles will begin,” Angela warned. “And the twins aren’t that far behind. Before you know it, they’ll be teenagers, and we’ll have double the trouble.”

“Still, Chrissy needs to have a nice party. Who should be invited, then? Family, of course, that’ll be my parents, your parents, Spike, Emily and their kids. Uncle Arthur and Aunt Jenny. Maybe even Betty can come in from Oregon. We haven’t see her for several years.”

“A few of Chrissy’s friends from school would probably like to come as well. See, we can still keep it small, yet have a good time. No need to alert the media.”

”Then there’s dad’s side of the family.” I began counting the aunts and uncles, and all of the cousins and their kids. “Hmm,” he was lost in thought and looked absently to the ceiling, “and carry the two. Yikes, I don’t think I can count that high!”

“That’s the problem with planning an event like this. We can’t leave anybody out, or they will be offended. I guess our little family affair will be an extravaganza after all. Congratulations on your victory,” she added sarcastically.

“I can’t help it my dad came from such a large family! And it’s not like he’s at fault. After all, I’m their only child. It’s probably because he came from such a large family that he only wanted one.”

“Well, we better make a list, then” and she began writing. Nelly and Ricky, David and Jennifer, Faith and Michael, Lee and Joe, Craig and Faith, Will and Mandy, Lenny and Gwen. “I think that’s all the aunts and uncles. Fourteen. Then we add your cousins, Nelly had four, didn’t she?”

I nodded, “Three of them are married, and two of them have two kids each.”

Angela did a quick calculation, OK, four plus three plus four more. That’s eleven. Plus the fourteen. That’s twenty-five.”

“Uncle David only has two kids, but they’re both married. Steven has five from six to seventeen and Joel has three.” He counted on his fingers, two cousins plus two wives, plus eight kids between them. I ran out of fingers, but I think that’s twelve.”

“OK, we’re up to thirty-seven. Your aunt Faith only has the one, and she’s still a teenager herself. Thankfully, that’s only one.”


“Aunt Lee has two with Joe, plus the two she had before her divorce from Bill.” Angela counted silently, “with all the kids, that’s another fifteen.”

“You forget the great-grandson.”


“Fifty-four. Craig and Faith didn’t have any kids, but they do have a dog.”

“No dogs. And didn’t we already count Faith?”

“That was the other Faith.”

“Here’s the bank breaker. Will and Mandy were a baby factory. They’ve got seven. I think we need a pad of paper for that one.”

I ticked off seven. “Cousin Abigail had two from her first husband, three from the second and two from the third.” He ticked off seven more. “At least she’s not married now.”

“I heard she’s pregnant again, so maybe we should include one more as a maybe in case she marries that guy.”

“Abby’s oldest has a husband and daughter as well.” Two more ticks.

“Bonnie has two, plus her husband. That’s three.”

“Charlie and Charlene have three.” Four more.

“David is divorced, and Cynthia has custody of the two kids, but we better count them, just in case.” I added two.

“Elaine and Harry have three.” Three.

“Frank and Joanne have four.” Four more ticks.

“And finally, Gail. But she’s not married.”

“Nothing to add, then.” I counted up the ticks in groups of five. “Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-three!”

“OK, we’re up to eighty-seven. That’s going to be some guest list!”

“You forgot about Lenny and Gwen. They only have Gerald.”

“OK. Eighty-eight. One for every key on the piano. Nice number.”

“But we didn’t include our immediate family in the count. We named them, but didn’t count them.”

“Ok, adding eleven. Is that it?”

“I think so.” Angela added the two figures. “Ninety-nine! Still, I can’t help thinking we’re leaving someone out.”

“DId you count the five of us?”

“Well, that’s a given. We don’t need to send out invitation for ourselves. But it does make the potential head count one hundred and four.”

“We haven’t may any room from Chrissy’s friends. That just family.”

“Oh! That’s right. Better add another twenty. One hundred twenty four.”

“We better write them down by family group, and see if we have everyone’s current address.”

They wrote out the long list, double checking the count, but Angela had the nagging feeling that someone was still missing. They reviewed the list a third time before she exclaimed “How could we forget your Uncle Ed?” Angela added Ed, Mary, Samantha and Sarah to the list. “That’s one hundred twenty-eight.”

As they prepared the invitations, they began to group the names for individual addresses. By the time they were through, they had complied more than fifty individual addresses.

“That’s over a hundred eighty dollars in postage alone!” I exclaimed.

“Check your decimal point. We’re only talking eighteen dollars.”

“Enough to keep the Post Office running for another year, I suppose.”

“Just wait until we have to do our Christmas cards! We can add a few dozen more to that list.”

“Can’t we just put the Christmas card in with the invitation and save some postage?”

“Saving pennies while spending many dollars elsewhere doesn’t may a lot of sense. Besides, it’s tacky.”

I conceded the point, frugality was not his strong trait.

“So, where are we going to put all these people if they all show up? Most of them are local, so it’s not unlikely. We only have space in the picnic pavilion for forty-eight. I guess we didn’t plan ahead.”

“Picnic seating for forty-eight is plenty. It sits empty most of the time. But we can add some temporary tables. The space allows for at least ten. That should be plenty. We can rent what we need, ten tables, eighty chairs.”

“OK, what about food?”

“Emily is a caterer, silly. I think she can handle that.”

“But she’s a guest. Now who’s talking tacky?”

“She has staff that can handle the details. I’m sure she won’t mind. She loves big events.”

With the guest list coming together as the RSVPs started to pour in, the event was shaping up to be the major event that I originally wanted, and not use a simple family affair. Although the November weather was still mild, they knew that early December could be cold and stormy, and without adequate protection, the whole affair could turn into a miserable mess. Henry and Buddy worked together to construct a connecting temporary passageway between the house and the pavilion. Although they were both in their 70s, it didn’t slow them down, and with a deadline to meet, they made sure that all the bases were covered.

Angela and Emily worked together on the menu, and decided that simpler was better. Rather than a formal sit-down meal, they agreed to prepare a buffet, with a variety of foods to meet the tastes and preferences of their many guests. Angela and Annette offered their support as well.

I and Spike handled the musical entertainment, and arranged for one of their favorite groups from the ’70s to make a special appearance.

With everyone so busy, Chrissy felt a little pushed to the background. “Dad,” she complained to I, “whose party is this anyway? Yours or mine?”

“It’s all for you, my dear child, all for you.”

“Then why are we having your favorite band here? What about my choices?”

I realized that he had gotten carried away again, and did not consider Chrissy’s own preferences.

“OK, you’re right. Who would you want instead?”

“’N Sync would be nice. You would do that for me, wouldn’t you?”

I gulped a little at the thought. “I’m not quite sure they play birthday parties,” I advised.

“O-Town? Ricky Martin?”

All of these acts were surely booked for months to come.

“Tell you what, let me pull in some favors, and I’ll see what I can do. I won’t disappoint you.”

I started the next day making contacts with his friends in the music business, and although he couldn’t come up with a major act, he was able to pull together a supergroup of sorts consisting of various members of some of the top acts. As publicists press releases and fan rumors began to grow, the anticipation and word of this unique event began to spread, and when a few of the national magazines picked it up, and even MTV reported on it, I knew that the monster had gotten out of hand.

It was evident that the accommodations for the family affair of just over one hundred were no longer going to be adequate. “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

“Emily’s catering business is not going to be able to handle a crowd like that,” Angela stated, after hearing of the guesstimates of the potential numbers that could be arriving. “We are going to have to scramble to feed thousands.”

“We don’t have to feed anybody but the invited guests,” I declared. “But we will need to arrange for something bigger than our pavilion to accommodate the crowds.”

After a newer, larger temporary pavilion structure was acquired, space was available for a couple thousand. In the week after Thanksgiving, fans started to gather and temporary campsites were established. Despite a small rainstorm, fans remained steadfast, and an overflow crowd for the one off concert was accommodated, although space was at a premium. Chrissy’s Sweet Sixteen party ended up being one of the major events of the year.