This morning I woke up hungover, and a little sheepish about my night last night. And once I was up I checked in with a friend who is very sad, and spent some time talking about the current crisis in his life. And then I realized I was running behind, and scurried myself into the shower and a pretty skirt and headed off to the restaurant, late. On my way there I hoped some of my lieutenants would have arrived and sorted through flowers and nametags, but on the drive the flower person called me, lost, looking for directions. "Also," she said, "I have jars but no flowers." Okay, so I'm arriving alone, not early, with no decorations. Yikes.
When I was looking for a place to park I saw the mother in law and her sister standing outside of the venue, waiting for someone. Ack. I had to slink past with my boxes and decorations and rush up the stairs to get the room ready. We were on the patio and the cloudy sky threatened to rain at any moment.
So I was afraid it would be a terrible shower. I wrote out the nametags, some people brought presents even though it wasn't meant to be a present-y sort of shower, so I had to figure out what to do that wouldn't offend the present-bringers or marginalize the non-present-bringers.
And ladies started to trickle in and hover and buzz, as ladies do. I was too scattered to make much small talk but the magic began to happen as I put a couple of people in charge. My mom showed up with two lovely vases of flowers from her garden -- perfect. Susan B. went around gathering recipes that people had brought. Susan D. passed out index cards and asked people to write down how they had met the bride-to-be. Britney took over the name tags. Beth organized the boxes of art supplies. Pretty soon we gathered and passed out the index cards and people had to mingle to discover who had met the bride-to-be in seventh grade, and who had met her at her cousin's wedding, and who met her at their office. I put in a decoy card, a fake way someone had met the bride-to-be, and had the bride herself go around trying to figure out who had the fake ("I met the bride in a hospital emergency room...."). People were mixing and mingling, while the waiters took drink orders.
And then we sat down to our tables and while we were waiting to order brunch we passed out art supplies to each table and everyone decorated their recipes with stickers and crayons and ribbons and glitter and colored pencils. People made collages and besides their own recipes they made "recipe for a happy marriage" and pretty poems. After lunch the bride sat on a stool in the center of the room and held up each recipe and pointed out who it was from. They were a beautiful array of bright colors, all in different handwriting, all with very different decorations. There were stuffed shells and west african peanut stews and black raspberry beet brownies and apple dapple cake and chop suey and baked beans and a recipe made with seaweed you can gather on the coast of Maine (including a pressing of seaweed on a page). I slid the decorated recipes into a plastic sleeves of a binder and we passed around a cover page that we all signed like a yearbook. The book came out as this colorful hodgepodge of family and friends, a funny and playful and heartfelt mix of flavor and color. Britney volunteered to make copies of the recipe book to share with everyone at the shower and it felt like a wonderful afternoon. The present bringers didn't seem concerned that their boxes were on the table, because they were really invested in the recipes they had brought and decorated. The non-present bringers felt like equal participants, and everyone was genuinely curious about what everyone else had contributed. It felt authentic and friendly and warm.