I found out from a friend with a six-year-old son that one of his playmates has a mom who throws elaborate Christmas parties. I drove up to Kimberley’s condo in Peñasquitos, and from there we drove to another friend’s house. We all sat in our cars, waiting for a few other people to show up before we caravanned to the party. Kimberley quipped, “This is like high school. When else are you sitting in a car following people to a party?”
After a million different turns (which would cause us to get lost when leaving, sans caravan), we finally arrived.
Many of the houses on the cul-de-sac were lit up with Christmas lights. Tamitha’s house had the most. There were characters who moved, singing carols from the balcony; an inflatable Snoopy on the fence, as well as other Peanuts characters; and lots of lights, decorations, and signs on the lawn.
As we opened the door, it bumped into a woman near her son. Apparently, Santa had just come down the spiral staircase and had their attention near the front door. Candy canes were being passed out, and one kid who was crying clutched his mom’s arm tightly.
After getting past the kids, I noticed more cookies than I’d seen at any other party I’ve ever been to: about 20 huge trays with every variety of cookie imaginable. In the kitchen were another five trays of chocolate chip ready to go when they ran low.
I opted for some fudge and M&Ms before making my way out back, where, on a huge screen, Elf was being projected. A bunch of chairs were set up. Some kids watched, and other kids were having a pillow fight.
In the huge backyard, a large selection of regular food was laid out. Near the meatballs and hot wings, I overheard a woman say, “I can’t believe this mashed-potato bar. It has all kinds of toppings. And there’s sushi that Paula brought.”
As I was smothering my potatoes with sour cream and cheese, I overheard one guy say to his friend, “It’s so nice to see families getting together like this during the holidays. With my family, we just fight. That basically means when holidays roll around, we just don’t communicate.”
The backyard had some heating lamps set up, but I made the mistake of talking to the most interesting person in an area where I stood freezing.
Mark talked about music memorabilia his dad had saved from the ‘60s. He also told me about a comedy troupe from the early ‘70s called the Conception Corporation. He appeared on one of their albums.
“I was working on a skit with Peter Boyle. He was in his 30s at the time. He was so nice and patient with me. I was an 11-year-old kid. Sometimes I’d be talking and accidentally brush the headphone cord against the mic, and they’d have to stop and rerecord.”
He told me there was supposed to be a Conception Corporation movie made, but it never panned out. Mark’s dad also worked with Arthur Lee and Love. He had a few stories about the crazy things bands did in their hotel rooms.
I glanced at the movie screen to see Elf had ended and Ice Age was running. One kid complained to his mom that another boy had two pillows and he only had one.
Tamitha panicked as she went to the kitchen. I thought one of the eight Christmas trees in her house had caught fire. Each tree had a different theme. One had all black-and-white animals — penguins, polar bears, and Dalmatians. Another was upside down and dangling from the ceiling.
I listened as three women had an interesting debate. One said how great it is for the environment to buy artificial trees instead of real ones. Her friend replied, “No it isn’t. You’d need to keep it for 200 years for that to help the environment. It has to do with the landfills and things like that.”
Tamitha came out with a huge tray of Jell-O shots, saying, “I almost forgot these.”
An older woman said, “Why isn’t my drink moving?” She realized a minute later it was Jell-O, made with Everclear. When she finished it she said, “That was good. I want another one of those jelly drinks.”
I thought about all the alcohol Tamitha had outside — the various bottles of wine and hard liquor, the three different dispensers with flavored fruity alcohol drinks, and coolers filled with beer. She must have spent a thousand bucks on the booze alone.
After helping Tamitha get rid of the Jell-O shots (by taking two), I asked her how long it had taken her to decorate. She said, “It takes two weeks. I take a week off work to do most of it, though. I have charts, to make sure I don’t decorate the same as last year. My attic is filled with decorations.”
As I went to grab some more fudge, I heard a high school wrestler tell a girl about how he pinned a guy in his last match.
I talked to a woman named Kim, who told me her husband was in a Reader story about the removal of fire pits. She explained all the fire hazards involved, including hot embers that ended up on her roof and how an evacuation wouldn’t work in a certain area of where they lived.
Three women walked in together, and one looked around and said, “I hope there are single guys here.” A man overheard this and said to his friend, “I guess the ho-ho-ho’s are here.”
I went to look for my friend Kimberley and heard the wrestler talking to two different women. He was explaining a move in wrestling called “bridging.” One of the ladies asked, “Is that like yoga? There’s something called bridging in yoga.” He replied, “I don’t know. I don’t do yoga.” He went on about how strong his neck has gotten because of wrestling. As I walked away I heard him plead with them, “Touch my neck. Feel it! Seriously, go ahead.”
I laughed as I found my friend and started to tell her the story. Her friend said to me, “You’re not the party crasher. You’re the party eavesdropper.”