Old-fashioned surprise party was a real treat

A good old-fashioned potluck family and friends get-together was the perfect way to celebrate a key birthday.

My friends and family threw a birthday party for me last weekend. They all think they are very devious and clever because they surprised me, as I never saw it coming. In my defence, I had been down with the flu for a couple of days and my senses weren’t as keen as they normally are. I was off my game.

In retrospect, all the much-appreciated calls about their concern for my health and recovery weren’t really in my best interests. They just didn’t want a good party cancelled. Knowing that group, they would have carried on with the party, even if I had been too sick to attend.

But it was a good old-fashioned potluck family and friends get together. Music, food, drinks and laughter and people catching up and carrying on. I don’t think we do enough of that anymore.

I couldn’t help but recall some of the parties we used to attend. It seemed years ago everyone had a home with a rec room or a  family room and we all took turns entertaining. Maybe we went to Bob’s birthday here, then Mary and Bill’s anniversary there, or maybe there was no reason at all.

We all brought something to the party. There would be a big platter of celery filled with Cheese Whiz. Someone would bring a big bowl of homemade nuts and bolts and there would be endless bowls of chips and Cheezies and homemade dips.

The men would hang around the bars — it seemed every house had one — and the women would start the evening in the kitchen. Eventually the group would mingle and the evening would be in full swing.

Maybe it would be a theme night like a Murder Mystery with everyone in character or costume or maybe it was a game night with decks of cards, dice or board games scattered around. The kids were with a sitter or at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. They didn’t come to adult parties.

The one TV in the house was turned off. You didn’t watch TV if company was over, and the one telephone in the home very seldom rang when there was a party. You see, people were too busy talking to each other face to face, laughing, catching up and carrying on.

Before long the real food appeared. Crock pots full of meatballs, electric frying pans sizzling with chicken wings, hot Corning ware dishes full of steaming casseroles, plates of deviled eggs and salads of every colour and texture set alongside trays of cold cuts. I could never really figure out why we needed to eat at 10 p.m., but I remember it was always so good.

Don’t forget the desserts. Shredded coconut and miniature marshmallows must have been super cheap back then, because they seemed to be part of every recipe and there was always one lady that could make Nanaimo bars better than anyone else.

My surprise party was perfect in spite of the fact that I had no hand in the planning. Friends were singing and playing guitars, long tables were covered with food, snacks, drinks and there was a huge homemade birthday cake.

But most of all, it was neighbours, friends and family sharing a great time. Any one of you can do it, just make a few phone calls and put a party in motion. As far as I was concerned, I had pretty much won the lottery last week-end. At least that’s what McGregor says.

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