Christmas Musings

I am the fifth to admit that I overdo things. That’s better than last, mind you, though not as good as third might be.

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I delude myself that I am simple, efficient, and practical. I only own a Pinterest account because I had a writing job that involved saving pictures for crafting articles. I eschew the latest fashion or home-decorating trend. My children receive rules and guidelines but no sort of life-planned-out Supermom schedule. And, despite being in this Stay At Home Mom profession for over a decade, I do a terrible job at housekeeping in general.

I’ve decided I’m trying to get fired -but that’s a side topic for another post.

Back to fifth place: I’ve had a busy two weeks. In fact, we need to go back at least three months because events then affected the crunch of now.

Not that I voluntarily hurt my tailbone in a really really really bad way. I did, however, schedule a surgery on November 6. I also neglected to remember that Thanksgiving was on the fourth Thursday and would therefore arrive not-too-long-after that surgery. Then, I forgot that we all usually attend The Festival of Trees… which precedes a holiday most of the world celebrates… and that led to a service project for the boys’ principal, an annual Christmas newsletter to be sent with cards, decorating for Christmas, a son’s birthday party (with a theme and guests), and cookie-making and distribution.

Congratulations on getting through that last paragraph. You can rest, here, with me.

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Even though I do not re-label juice boxes for birthday themes, I tend to take on a lot at one time. I also have a high standard of perfection. Maybe I think things are more exciting that way?

I mean, I not only did everything in that too long; didn’t read paragraph, I also have been trying to uncover the house from the molding lump it degenerated into whilst I was recovering/ignoring it. Add shopping for presents and food, plus wrapping all the gifts for everyone, and my cup runneth over six feet below the surface of the well.

I mean… I spray-painted Costco milk boxes to look like Minecraft blocks. My Christmas newsletter was a paragraph for each of seven well-known poems, incorporating bits of A Visit from St. Nicholas AND news about each family member. My cookies were all from scratch.

Maybe I really am one of those Supermoms, just one who sometimes wears pajamas in public ’cause I love my comfort.

Maybe everyone overdoes his life, and it’s not just me.

…Tell me it’s not just me?

 

This week in review, because I’m taking tomorrow and the next day off. So, there!
Wednesday, December 19: Down-Home Marital AdviceWhat’s your take?
Thursday, December 20: The day my kids got out for Christmas Break. So… I got the days mixed up and posted The WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Molly and Gerard!
I also apologized for messing up, in The Most Sleep-Deprived Time of the Year.
Friday, December 21: Skinwalkers, XLVI.
Saturday, December 22: Christmas Cookie Limericksterrible rhymes about my baking exploits.
Sunday, December 23: This post.

I also almost thought about planning on the possibility of catching up on my Reader’s Feed. If you see that I left a comment way back on December 12, then I finally have. My apologies if you’ve felt slighted in the meantime.

Vance’s First Party

Little Vance hid behind his mother’s cape.

“What’s wrong, Vance?” his teacher asked. She kneeled, scratched at an ear, and peered at him.

Vance shivered.

“I think he’s shy,” his mother said. “This is his first Halloween party.”

“Owooooh!” the teacher howled. “Perfectly understandable.”  Rising, she said, “Why don’t you pick a scary story from the cauldron, and we’ll read it.”

Vance shuffled forward. He removed a favorite.

“Ah! Attack of the Garlic! Excellent.” Pawing it open, she began reading.

A mummy, ghoul, and another vampire joined Vance on the rug. Maybe this party wouldn’t be so bad, after all.

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Written, tested, tasted for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie Contest.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty

“Let’s all sit down,” Rob suggested, as much as a suggestion was from his direct way of speaking. He coughed a bit before preparing to talk more and guided Wil to a seat on the plasticine couch. He then moved to his usual plastic and metal guest chair. His family turned and looked up at him expectantly.

Rob rubbed his face. “Wil,” he said, “Read your other letter. I need to talk to Jakob.” Jakob looked surprised and glanced up from his arms-on-knees slouch at Wil, Cynthia, and Rob. Wil was about to ask what he needed to say to Jakob, but Rob held up his hand. The same hand bent to gesture at her papers and he gave her a pointed look.

Wil looked down at the second part of her mail that she hadn’t read yet, a note folded haphazardly. It was the same way Wil often put things into envelopes: folding first; then realizing it wouldn’t fit, trying to crease the pages in various ways, and finally stuffing it in. Finding an edge, she opened the letter and spread it out on her lap.

To a background of deep voices occasionally rumbling inaudible words, Wil read the following:

Darling Wilhelmina,

How are you? I hope you are well. I also hope this letter does not shock you terribly. I don’t even know where to begin, so I will just start writing what comes to mind. Hopefully, you will understand.

I didn’t mean to have you. I mean, I was happy thrilled that you were born but I was not intending for that to happen.

I met Rob Winters your father when we were both young, at some party or something. Yes, a party. He was so very serious, but he asked me out on a date. Perhaps you are too young to be told about this sort of thing, but sometimes adults go on dates and end up drinking doing some things and then you find you’ve slept with them at their house even though you didn’t really like them that much. I find this happens a lot with me, but, well, let’s talk about you again, Dear.

That’s it, Wilhelmina: I had you. When you were first growing inside me, I thought about adoption. You know, finding one of those cute smiling couples who really want a child and can’t. But I knew you would be special. I even tried to keep you for a while after you were born but realized I couldn’t.

I gave you to your father -dear old boring dependable Rob, and told him that you were not to be told about me. I didn’t want to stress you out, you see.

The thing is, now I am older and I think I could meet you.

Maybe you don’t want to. -I know! Let’s think about this for a while. I’ll send another letter in a while and maybe you’ll want to talk then.

Please?

Sincerely Love Yours
-Guinevere Greene

P.S.
Just in case, my cell phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. -G.G.

Wil stared at her birth mother’s curvy letters, allowing an elephant’s worth of information and emotion to sink into her mind. From a distance she admired the extravagant, looping signature, the fancy words, the tone.

She looked up. Rob and Jakob had finished; Jakob’s expression looking a bit stunned but trying not to. Cynthia lay calmly, looking at her with concern.

For once, Wil felt nothing.

 

Continued from Fifty-Nine.
Keep reading to Sixty-One.

Want to start at the very beginning? It’s a very good place to start.

Mental-ity

I don’t read re-posts. We-e-e-e-ell once in a blue moon I will.

Accordingly, I don’t like to stick them into my own blog (the one you’re currently reading). I often read great things I’d like everyone else to see as well, but feel like I’m stealing someone else’s brilliance and pasting it over my lack of writing anything for that day.

‘Tis true, however, that I’m sometimes at a loss for time because of my dear, sweet, distracting children. Summertime’s here, which means they’re wild and free and completely under my tutelage.

I can be creative, though. I can! I’ve written some wonderful things. Some of those are contributing posts over at The Bipolar Writer.

If you haven’t been over there, go right ahead and check it out. If you’re lazy like me and don’t want to bother, I’m doing you a solid and pasting an article right here that I wrote back in April. It’s titled What’s So Normal About Labels?

 

I was conversing with my dear, oblivious husband the other night. I’d had an epiphany about my negative perspective of everything. Beginning to expound, I said something about depressive people thinking one thing, then moved on to try to finish with what other people thought.

The hubby helpfully suggested, “So, you mean what normal people think?”

Normal. People. They’re not normal. They just like to be called “normal.” Pshaw, I say.

Given that there are probably just as many wizards -er, mental illness sufferers out there as “normal” homo sapiens, things really seem to indicate that they should have the nickname, and we should be called normal.

What can we name them, then? How about “Aberrants?” “Defects?” “Outsiders?” or “Vulcans?” -You know, because they clearly aren’t feeling human emotions, so they’re overly serious aliens.

All right, all right. I’m sure we can come up with a more flattering name. In our spare time. Perhaps we can brainstorm during that extremely small window of time when we’re awake, and the sun and distractions are not.

Got anything yet? Yeah, not a good time for me, either.

Since coming over here to James Edgar Skye’s enlightening blog, I’ve felt a lovely camaraderie. It’s like the dark little corner of the party actually had people hiding there that I just couldn’t see before.

“Oh, hi!” I whisper to a fellow curled-up body. “Depress here often?” We cry a bit together, agree that cynicism is the best outlook, and part ways when one of us pretends to need a drink.

Since this discovery, I’ve been wondering how many people out there fit into one category or the other. Confirmation bias keeps telling me that most people struggle with mental illness. As I said, doesn’t that mean weshould be normal?

Checking out a more reputable site than my own mind, I learned that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a given year. That’s freaking high. Despite all these people hanging out in closets or staring morosely into the bottom of glasses, that still means that MOST PEOPLE (4 of the 5) are not.

Dangit.

I guess we actually are the ones out of our Vulcan mind. But that doesn’t mean that I want to be grouped in the dark corner, apart from those who think they don’t have problems.

If they’re “normal,” that makes us “abnormal.” And we ARE NOT abnormal. We are fighters. Deep feelers and thinkers. We are authentic, strong, emotional, real -and tired of being labeled as defective.

Eureka! The real problem here is that we need a label besides all the others slapped on by those 4 out of 5 liars.

I vote for Human.

So, you Vulcans: listen up. We’re not broken. We’re not useless, imperfect, or crazy. We are Human.

Now, fellow Humans: get out of that corner, and let’s show them what we’ve got.

Go ahead; I’m just going to grab some punch.

Following Dreams

I wake after little sleep. Only hours ago, I walked the lonely aisles populated by night dwellers. “You look how I feel,” the cashier had said, voicing my thoughts before I’d worked out how to speak.

Today’s my child’s birthday. Mentally, I list what needs completion: cleaning, baking, decorating, dinner, church, children.

Husband stretches and wraps an arm around me. “I’ve got to go,” he coos. “Choir rehearsal this morning.” Surprised, I check my calendar.

Someone has posted a quote about making life what you will. Follow your dreams.

I rise groggily from the bed. A busy day awaits.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

Party of One

Woman

Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.

“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.

She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.

“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.

 

Flash Fiction Entry

The Garage Between Worlds, Part II

Continued from yesterday

Sean stepped away, running his hands down her goose-pimpled arms. He held each of her hands and looked intently into her large hazel eyes. He hadn’t seen Rose clearly without glasses for many years; but still had not recalled her eyes ever shining with such radiance, such depth of emotion.

“I will never leave you alone,” he told her sincerely. Rose smiled, and looked away shyly. A lovely, long, brownish sheet of hair coyly obscured part of her face. He brushed it to the side and secured it behind her left ear. He ran a finger gently down her cheekbone till she returned his gaze again.

Rose nodded; said, “Okay, Sean.” He nodded as well. They smiled.

Together, they turned and started across the sliding sand toward the music. A drum now faintly accompanied the lively guitar chords. Rose thought she could make out a rustling maraca or two.

“A path,” Sean suddenly said. Rose started at the interruption, and so did a tiny bird that had been resting near them in a small pineapple bush. It flapped in consternation, then took offended flight into a plant a little farther along.

Rose looked down at where Sean indicated and saw that, yes, a few round stones poked through the sand of the beach. Looking up, they saw the foliage carefully curved around the open space above the stones. A veil of swishing flowers hung from a tree on the left a few feet ahead. Beyond it, an unlit tiki torch sat where the trail seemed to end.

Cautiously, they walked forward into the arched jungle tunnel. Rose’s feet tickled in the sand and cooled on the wave-rounded stones. She ran a timid hand across a hanging leaf as they passed.

Sean stopped at the torch, so Rose paused just behind him. “What is it?” She whispered.

“It’s the end of the trail,” Sean told her, also in a whisper. Where they had assumed the rock-path ended, it had instead curved. He looked ahead at something, his face showing uncertainty.

On tiptoe over his shoulder, Rose saw the real trail’s end. A few yards ahead, the stones continued to a bamboo enclosure of sorts. She could see a small fence of braided palm leaves, strings of lights, flowers; and could hear the music more clearly. She heard laughter.

Sean turned his head. Rose saw concern in his ocean blue eyes, concern for her. She thought of the old shed door and its safety.

Then, Rose remembered what was beyond the door into their poky garage: A dirty kitchen. A cluttered front room. Her own bedroom, barely traversable. Then, there were the children’s rooms. The children themselves. She loved the children, but always felt so tired when they came to mind. She bit her lip again, and swallowed.

“Let’s get a little closer,” she decided. Surprised, Sean nodded. He reached down with his left hand to protectively hold her right. They started forward again.

Their bare feet barely shuffled across the sandy walkway. Rose’s long hair barely swished against her back. The upbeat instruments continued, with punctuations of talking and more laughing. The sounds of both grew louder as Sean and Rose slowly drew closer.

“A sign,” Sean quietly announced. He stopped; Rose looked where he pointed. A windworn sign hung casually from the end of the palm-leaf fence, just under a bright wreath of tropical flowers and multi-colored lights. Black, friendly paint spelled the words: Annual Parents’ Getaway.

Sean looked at Rose. He rubbed his bottom lip with his right hand in consideration. Rose looked at Sean. Her left hand found a few loose strands of hair to twist as she deliberated.

“Ah, I see you finally arrived,” A new voice said.

Sean and Rose jumped. Rose pulled at Sean’s hand in an effort to run back down the trail. Sean pulled at Rose, in an effort to free his hand in case he would need it to defend them both.

A tall, smiling, Polynesian man stood next to the sign. He managed to make his dazzlingly white grin even larger. It was he who had spoken, they realized. A deep, affable chortle sounded from his faux animal print-clad midsection. “No need for that, you two,” he assured them.

Rose stopped pulling; Sean retained his defensive stance. “Oh?” He asked. “Why not?”

Impossibly, the man smiled wider. “I am Stephan,” he said with a small bow. “You are late. If you’ll calm down, I will be happy to explain about this place.”

Sean barely relaxed. He pulled Rose close to his side. “Okay.” He said, trying to sound calm.

Stephan laughed again. “This is a magic place,” he began. He swept a hand around to indicate the trees, path, birds, sand, and ocean. “We are here for you. We are not a TV show, timeshare gimmick, or even a dream.” He allowed this information to sink in, then continued. “You have earned an evening here.”

A throat cleared behind the divider, behind Stephan. They could barely hear it over all the party noise beyond. A hand thrust a clipboard near Stephan’s muscular arm, which he hurriedly read as he frowned slightly. He raised his left hand, using his right to count each finger. He did so two or three times, then shrugged and cheerfully gave up. The other hand and clipboard retreated.

“Well,” Stephan smiled, “You really are late. It would appear you’ve been needing to come here since about five years ago.” He chuckled.

Rose looked at Sean, confused. “What do you mean?” Sean demanded. “What are you talking about?” Rose squeezed his hand, gratefully.

Stephan sighed, still managing to look unbelievably happy and helpful. “This place is a magic place,” he repeated. “Besides existing just for parents, we enjoy certain time benefits here.” He met each of their gazes to be sure they were paying attention. “When you are done, you will come back to the same time you left.”

“That’s impossible,” Rose automatically responded. She was surprised, however, at how hopeful her accusatory tone sounded. Stephan chuckled again, reassuring.

“It’s true,” he simply told her. “Plus,” he added, straightening, “You earn your time based on the number of children who are waiting for you at home.” Here, Stephan laughed outright. “And,” he said, wiping a happy tear from his eye, “that means you two get to stay at least all night if you wish.”

Rose blushed slightly. Sean looked unconvinced.

Their host was unaffected. “Come in and see for yourself!” He invited, stepping back and gesturing to his right, to the music and the laughter.

Hesitantly, Sean walked forward. Rose was still holding his hand, or his hers. They paused at Stephan’s side, and saw he spoke the truth. On the other side of the papery wall was a veritable mob of couples talking, joking, smiling, drinking, eating, embracing, lounging, or even swimming.

Yes, Rose saw, there was a gorgeous pool just beyond a stage of tireless musicians and dancing couples. Waterfalls ran down lava rocks amidst rain forest foliage, terminating in a huge swimming area of varying depths. It was the sort she had seen people post online, saying how they’d go somewhere like that someday. She had known better when she saw them; known she would never see a paradisaical setup like that in person.

Yet, here it all lay before her. “Wow,” she breathed. She looked to Sean, to gauge his response, and saw the affable Stephan just behind him.

“Go right ahead,” Stephan supplied. “Everything is open to you: the swimming pools, the bar, any food…” He coughed a discretionary sound, then added, “Even some private rooms, once you get more comfortable.” Sean turned quickly to look suspiciously at Stephan, who shrugged a pleasant shoulder in innocence.

“Sean,” Rose said, “I see Tiffany and Michael!”

Now Sean turned quickly to Rose. “What?! Where? Did they follow us here?!”

“Oh, not our Tiffany and Michael,” she quickly explained. “Tiffany and Michael JONES, our neighbors.” She pointed, near a vivaciously-red flower topiary near the closest waterfall.

Sean looked, squinting, then his face cleared. Still, he hesitated.

“Look,” Stephan said, startling them, “No one is actually an alien in human suits or something. I promise it’s all exactly as it appears.” He smiled ever wider. “Go on, and ask your friends you just saw.” He gave Sean a friendly push, laughed uproariously, and walked off toward the private buildings he’d mentioned earlier.

“Well, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to at least go ask,” Sean told Rose, reassuring himself. She nodded. They stepped forward together, Rose timidly keeping very close to his side. Everywhere they looked they only saw happiness, relaxation, love. They skirted the dancing group near the music. They walked past candlelit tables of men feeding women tidbits on forks, or women spooning bites past their husband’s waiting lips.

Soon enough, they reached their lounging neighbors. Tiffany noticed them first. “Rose!” She exclaimed, overjoyed. She and Michael stood to meet them; Rose and Tiffany hugging while Sean and Michael shook hands and patted arms.

“We’re so glad you two made it!” Tiffany exclaimed. She looked over at Michael, who nodded and smiled. She treated the encounter like an accidental run-in at the grocery store.

“So, this is real?” Rose asked, shyly. It seemed an odd question to pose with the physical evidence of their friends nearby. Tiffany and Michael, however, only laughed.

“Don’t worry,” Michael said to Sean. “We didn’t believe it when we got here two years ago.” He shoved Sean playfully on his arm. “Too good to be true, huh?” Sean smiled weakly.

“He nearly punched Stephan when we first found it,” Tiffany added solemnly.

“Oh. Yeah,” her husband remembered. He looked down. “That was embarrassing.”

“Anyway, it’s real. It’s true.” Tiffany reassured Rose. She turned to Sean. “Some couple set it up years ago, according to what we can find out. Stephan says it’s not like a TV show, but there’s gotta be something sci-fi about how it all works!” She laughed.

“Yeah,” Michael agreed. He looked thoughtful. “Honestly, we don’t really care anymore. It’s just nice to have a break.” He reached back to pick up his drink. Condensation ran invitingly down the sides, and a small umbrella rested on its very top. He raised it in mock toast, and added, “Go on, and enjoy yourselves. If you remember us, we’ll head back together when you’re done.”

“But, Michael,” Tiffany reminded him, “We only have three children. We can’t stay as long as they can.”

Rose blushed again. Sean looked indecisive.

Michael chuckled a bit, and drank a sip from his fluted cup. “Well, if you want to head back in a few hours, let us know and we’ll go together.” He winked at Sean.

Dismissed and convinced, Rose waved a friendly goodbye. “Thank you,” she told them.

“Enjoy!” Tiffany and Michael chorused, then smiled at each other, sat, and continued their private conversation.

“Sean,” Rose said, as they meandered toward the inviting pool. “Hmm?” He asked.

“I’ve been thinking that we could spend an hour or two here, then go back.” He paused, and his eyes met hers as his left hand found her right. A million questions flitted between them. “That way, we could have fun, and be sure we get back to the kids in case there is no time thingie,” she explained.

Sean thought it over, then said, “I say we try to make a run for it and see if anyone stops us now.” He looked around furtively, as if the swaying trees and happy couples were set to pounce at any moment. “Ready? Let’s go!” He took off toward the fence with the sign, pulling Rose and her flying hair behind him.

They reached their goal unmolested. In fact, except for a few entertained glances their way, no one had seemed to even notice. Rose shrugged, but then Sean was off running back toward the beach.

She followed, caught in some of the flying sand of his barefoot sprint. He reached the cave with Rose puffing somewhat just behind. The door to the garage was still ajar. Rose could see their battered minivan skulking in the shadow of boxes beyond. Sean reached out to the door.

“Sean?” She ventured. He turned, and paused at her flushed face, disheveled hair, and pleading eyes. Automatically, he stepped closer and put his arms around her again. Rose reddened, but caught her breath to continue.

“What if it’s all real, and it disappears if we go through the door again?” She searched his face, practically begging for assurance.

He considered. “If it all goes away, I will take you somewhere like this as soon as we possibly can,” he promised. She smiled and looked shyly away, curtaining her face. He once again gently brushed her flowing hair aside; gently kissed her lovely cheek.

“Okay?” He asked. Rose nodded.

Taking a deep breath, she pulled out of his arms and walked toward the dilapidated brown door. Sean hurried to walk beside her. They entered the musty garage, then immediately turned to look back. The beach was still there, the palms were still swaying, the ocean still shushing against the shore.

“Quick, go check the time!” She told Sean. Realization entered his eyes beneath mirrored lenses, and he sprung to the door of the house. His movements were impeded slightly at the return of his former bulk. Peeking through the garage side of the kitchen door, he announced, “Eleven o’clock. Is that what time it was when we left?”

Rose considered, then remembered the beeping clock as they crossed the kitchen. “Now it’s Eleven-oh-one,” Sean amended.

“Then it works!” Rose called. “Unless it’s been twelve hours or something,” she added, thoughtfully. Sean looked back at her, then ran to join her again.

“Let’s try it, then,” he said, nodding toward the waiting beach. “It’s worth it to me to make you happy.” She looked up at his face, so familiar and so loving.

“I’m happy just to be with you,” she said. He smiled a half-smile in response. “But, I do like how I look on that side of the door,” she added playfully. Sean’s smile spread.

“Me, too,” he laughed. “I mean, about me, too.” He took her hand. “Maybe we should check out one of those rooms before running back this time,” he teased. Ignoring her scandalized look; he walked through the door once again, pulling Rose happily along.

Hello, My Name Is

“Welcome to our little engagement.” A middle-aged woman smiled up at me. She was dressed like a 50’s commercial of a housewife at an evening ball. “Please, find your name tag and join the group.” She gestured to the table in front of her with a well-veined hand ending in Avon-pink fingernails. Her smile was practiced and her actions just slightly exaggerated.

I glanced over my shoulder, expecting to see a camera crew. But, no; there was just a normal wall, various potted artificial trees posted at two unobtrusive doors, and an empty, dark hallway beyond the open doors.

I turned back to the white tablecloth of name tags with their friendly hostess. She smiled graciously again, waiting. Looking down at the options, I was not certain which name was mine. What sort of party am I at? I wondered as I read over them.

“Perhaps,” the woman began, reaching forward and brushing slightly against her rose corsage, “This one, dear.” She picked up a sticker and proffered it to me in the light grip of those nails. I took it, read it, nodded slightly at her expectant look, and adhered it to my chest. She held out her hand for the backing, and smiled up at me as she disposed of it somewhere behind the rectangular table and her folding chair.

“Refreshments will be served in half an hour. Please enjoy yourself before then.” I had been dismissed. She stared at the doors behind me, where I could hear the sounds of more guests approaching. I took one last look at her vintage updo; large, starburst earrings; and rouged cheek. Then, I stepped around the table and into the room beyond.

Intentionally-dim lighting shadowed a small open area with more of those artificial ficus clumped artistically round the walls. A few other women were standing idly: one, drawing a drink near a white tableclothed food area; two chatting with feigned reactions of hilarity at the opposite end of the table; a final woman looking pensive as she meditated on the fine silk leaves of the east wall’s foliage.

I walked slowly toward the drink area as well, though I was not really thirsty. I tried to walk in a way that looked graceful and confident. I knew that I really looked barely-stable and uncertain. As if to make that point, my left toe caught on the floor and I stumbled somewhat. No one seemed to notice and I successfully drew closer.

I stopped and examined the table settings, using that as an excuse to also smooth down the cotton dress I seemed to be wearing. The punch and its drinker were to my left; the chatting women and plant-studier were to my right. A pile of clear plastic plates sat in front of me and various stratifications of empty cake plates, platters, and bowls led eventually to the conversing couple.

“Hi! I’m Confident in Public but Not in Intimate Relationships,” an unexpected voice to my left said. She was a perky and -yes- confident voice. I envied the self-assured tone and slight Southern drawl of her enunciations. Turning to see what face was associated with this introduction; I was greeted by a mid-length, auburn bob curling slightly around a friendly, open face. The hair and face were attached to a slender woman sporting a dress much like my own, in a bold shade of red instead of my pastel blue. The exact words she greeted me with were written boldly on the white square sticker attached above her left breast. She was the punch-drinking woman, and was standing next to me with a hand outstretched expectantly. Her other hand was holding a cup full of red drink.

Not having another obvious option, I took her hand. She applied just the right amount of pressure; a grip that was comfortably, confidently tight but also soft and gentle. “Ah,” she nodded, as I released her tight grip quickly, “I see.” She had read my name tag. I blushed and moved my eyes away from her direct gaze. I pretended interest in the laughing women, who took that exact moment to pause awkwardly in their falsely familiar exchange.

Confident took a sip from her cup, and studied the other women with me. She swallowed and nodded toward them. “That’s More Creative Than Logical and Talks Too Loud. They’re fun. You should go introduce yourself.” She studied my tag again, and generously added, “I’ll go with you.”

She started forward purposefully, and I trailed behind. I tried to imitate her gait without looking like the circus monkey I was certain I resembled.

“Hi, Creative. Hi, Loud,” Confident greeted the women. They smiled and turned to Confident expectantly. “Anything happen while I’ve been gone?” She teased. They laughed; Loud’s a noisy, irritating imitation of sincere gaiety.

“I’d like you to meet my new friend,” Confident gestured to me, standing hesitantly to her right. I saw their smiles fade a few levels as their focus turned on me, then a few more as they made out the words on my sticker.

“Hi,” I said, trying to sound like I hadn’t noticed the dimming effect I’d had. A bit too late, I held out my hand to shake theirs. They reciprocated, in turn. I knew my grip was not as perfect an act as my “friend’s,” but I attempted to imitate the feel of hers as I touched hands with silvery-clad Creative and orange-dressed Loud. Having completed this ritual, we all stood around idly wondering what to do next.

“Well,” Confident supplied finally, “Don’t let me interrupt you two.” She smiled and winked at them. “I know you were having a great chat just now.” The others looked relieved, smiled back at her, and nodded in agreement.

“Oh, yes,” Loud answered emphatically. I saw Creative step back very slightly though she still looked at her companion with pretended pleasure. “Creative here was just telling me about a very funny friend she met back on her first day of college.” She laughed annoyingly again; Creative joined in, more quietly and less annoyingly.

“Sounds great!” Confident responded, adding an assured giggle of her own. I smiled weakly. “We’ll go pop over to see Introvert. Then maybe you can tell us all about it when we come back.” They nodded agreeably (“Sounds good!” Loud exclaimed.) and we continued on to the artificial plant and a quiet brunette still appearing to examine it.

“Hello, again, Innie,” Confident said as we approached the last woman’s area. A petite, long-haired woman of some mid-age turned slowly to blink at us through round eyeglasses. She smiled slightly and intelligently at the space between us.

Confident failed to catch Introvert’s eye. Shrugging, she laid her punch-free hand on my shoulder in a friendly manner. “My friend here just arrived so I brought her over to meet you.”

The small woman turned her body to me, and I was able to read her label: Introverted Intellectual. I smiled. This was always a sort I could speak with, at least somewhat. The conversation depended on whether I had any experience with the topics she had, and how conversant she felt at the time.

As I mused, Introverted frowned and studied my name. I felt a compulsion to turn or hide it, and she was only the fourth person to be introduced to me.

Introverted’s small frame stayed slightly hunched forward, almost seeming to give to the weight of her hanging hairstyle. Her head and glasses pointed upwards to meet my eyes. “I’m pleased to meet you,” she told me softly, sincerely.

“Pleased to meet you,” I replied, pleasantly surprised but also cautious. I knew no one was actually pleased to meet me.

I caught an action from my peripheral vision: Confident taking another casual drink to fill the silence. “Ah,” she began. Introverted and I politely turned her direction. “I see some more ladies have arrived.” Confident nodded toward the door and we looked as well. A party of four or five newcomers was clumped around the hostess’ table, plus two more just through the door. The green, pink, gray, turquoise, brown, white, and yellow movement was a garden of blowing flower tops.

“I’ll just pop over and settle these folks in,” Confident continued. She smiled at me; I timidly returned it. She smiled at Introverted; she was still studying the entranceway. “Don’t worry, dear. I’ll be back again to introduce y’all later.” Confident walked off confidently, ready to bring her necessary order to those tangled weeds.

Introverted and I relaxed in the brief silence and shared solitude. I wondered how many more people I’d have to meet, and who would have to meet me, before the distraction of food.