Saturday night was the annual auction/fundraiser for Ethan’s school. I thought it would be a good chance to meet other parents and to personally thank those who have sent prayers, notes, dinners, toys, and general good thoughts our way since Mike died.
I also knew there was a good chance that I would chicken out and not to go.
I’m not a fan of these kind of events. – unless, of course, I know I’ll be able to snark with someone. For all his shortcomings, Mike was my go-to snarker at this kind of things. We could stand in a corner (drinks in hand, natch) and comment on anything. We didn’t have to mingle or talk to anyone, just “be.”
But, Saturday night, I was flying solo. Knowing that I would invent a million and one reasons to stay home that night, I emailed the committee and volunteered a few days before. At least this way, I rationalized, I was less likely to wimp out. Besides, I didn’t RSVP for the dinner, so I could go, work my shift at the registration desk, and come home.
Saturday night, I put on a sequin top, nice pants, and heels, and I drove to the hotel. Or, the hotel I THOUGHT was hosting the event. As soon as I got close to it, I didn’t think there were enough cars in the lot. Maybe the lot extends behind the hotel, I thought. It didn’t.
I almost turned the car around, but “I volunteered!” so I was determined to try to find the venue. I took out my iPhone and typed in the URL for the school’s website. Surely the address for the hotel would be on there.
It wasn’t. The name of the chain was listed, but no address. A quick Internet search, and voila!, only five of the hotels in the city. I decided I’d try the one closest to where I was, and if that wasn’t it, then I’d be able to go home. I tried, right?
I made it. Right hotel. Just on time.
I found the registration desk and slipped behind it, introducing myself to the woman who appeared to be in charge. Quickly, I was on a roll. Meeting and greeting. Welcoming and registering. And I was really enjoying the company of the four women working alongside me.
There was a lull in the activity, and we all started talking. “So, is your husband at home with the kids tonight?” one of them asked me.
Tears. Great big tears. Out of no where and uncontrollable.
“No,” I said. “He died in January…”
I couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t a full-blown sob, but more of a “running facet” kind of cry. Tears wouldn’t stop flowing, no matter how hard I tried to turn them off. Soon all four of the ladies were hugging me, slipping me their phone numbers, and trying to get me to stop crying. I was a mess.
Still, after that breakdown and working my registration shift, I wasn’t ready to go home. I hadn’t registered for the event/dinner so I decided I would just work the rest of the event. Schlepping silent auction items to the back tables to be picked up later. Directing drunken partygoers to the nearest bathrooms. Counting money. Alphabetizing kids’ photos. Organizing wine bottles. Helping drunken partygoers check out and collect their stuff (most of which they would probably regret buying in the morning, but hey! it’s a good cause, right?).
I met some great moms. Most of the mom volunteers were divorced or separated. (Apparently, if you have a snark partner, you attend the event. If you don’t, you work the event.) Some knew of my situation, but most didn’t. No one asked probing questions, but everyone offered their support and love. I even joked with one mom who is going through a very messy divorce. “No matter what you think of him, no matter how much you hate him right now,” I told her. “You do NOT want him to die. Trust me.” Then we all laughed. A comfortable, I-know-kind-of-what-you’re-going-through kind of laugh. It was nice.
I didn’t leave until after 1 a.m.
Oh, and the best part: I won the Golden Ticket Raffle, meaning I got to choose any live auction item before the bidding started. I selected tickets to a Brewers game with a tailgating party. Turns out the tickets are second row, behind home plate. Ethan will love it.
Side note: one of my favorite conversations with Ethan took place as I was trying to explain tailgating to him the next morning. “Why would we get IN someone’s trunk for a party? Sitting in a trunk doesn’t sound fun…” and “So if there’s food and drinks IN the trunk, why isn’t it called a ‘trunk buffet’?”