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Surprise! We hadn’t cleaned enough for the party to come. Fortunately for me, my lovely mother and my lovely fiancee allowed me to get a little bit more sleep, arising only when it was time to start putting up the decorations. With my grand height, nimble fingers, & not-so-swift feet, I was able to put all of the decorations up wherever Adrianna and Susan thought they would look best.

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I want to take a moment to point out how bizarre it feels to decorate a party that is being thrown for you. I had an existential moment. When I wasn’t schlepping around a step-ladder and tacking up some snazzy Chinese themed knick-knacks, I was making pathetic whiny noises about my still throbbing foot. I may not have Achilles’ heel, but I feel very much that the ball of my foot can sympathize with his mighty Grecian agony. Seriously, foot injuries suck, making everything you do into a painful, sucky event. While our neighbor Paula arrived to help, she came too late (more thanks to our initiative than to any slacking on her part), and I was reminded again that it is not always the early bird that gets the worm.

My spirits were lifted, however, as our guests began to arrive. They came first in a trickle–kudos to Aunt Erma and Uncle Bill for being our first invitees to make it up the driveway, despite coming what I believe was the farthest distance–then in a river, then in a flood. Even Adrianna’s family made the drive from Oklahoma (I guess they beat out Bill and Irma). It was great to see so many different spheres of my life mixing and mingling as my friends who have been as close as family met my family. The Provinces and the Karrs also hit it off, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Gerry Mallory brought over (besides his sparkling wife and dazzling conversation) a bottle of Bai Jiu (白酒) and kindly shared its bittersweet flavor with myself and several of our guests.

Even though Adrianna and I asked for no gifts, our families can’t say no, and we got a heart-warming collection of cards and small gifts, as well as a bottle of snazzy scotch from the Provinces for Susan. The Chinese food, ordered from the local China Taste in Gardner, was a big hit, and everyone helped themselves to a heaping portion (though I didn’t see many daring to use chopsticks). For those of you wondering how the bonfire went, you’ll be sadly disappointed that it was never set ablaze–my pained foot turned out to be for naught.

Those readers who pay close attention to titles may be wondering by this point why I chose to use a lame, deck-related pun. Well, it all started when we decided to take a group picture. Adrianna’s father prepared us, gathering friends and family alike onto the front steps, hoping to capture the warmth and congeniality of that night into a single, frozen frame. Then, it happened. Crack! Bang! Gasp! The deck directly beneath my suddenly caved in, dropping everyone a good six-inches in a heartbeat and threatening to cave beneath us completely. Click on a picture to see larger images.

Shrugging it off with smiles and shaking heads, we ignored it and took a few great pictures. As the last guests left, I had completely forgotten about the pain in my foot, soothed instead by the warmth of human kindness.

Of course, the night didn’t end there. Krystal (mentioned briefly in pt. 1) was having a birthday party that night, and once we had tucked Susan into bed, Adrianna and I drove out with Luke and his fiancee (their relationship and its eerie similarity to mine and Adrianna’s. It’ll be a fun post for the future). At Krystal and Justin’s house we finally had our bonfire, as the flames roared above the treetops, bathing their house in a bright golden glow. Inside, I was brought back to a simpler time, as Ben, Luke, Will, and I recreated the patterns that had guided our lives during the many years of our friendship.

Friends are friends

Friends are friends

Two parties, one night, and a great going-away party. Though I won’t see Kansas for a year, that night, and its many twists and turns, will remain etched in my mind for decades to come.