Friday, we staged a surprise Sweet 16 birthday for Ashes. Well, as much of a "surprise" as one can plan, considering that all her friends had called Ashes up directly to tell her they'd be going. Even though the invite clearly said to call Josie's cell phone. Kids and directions, I tell you.
The hall looked lovely, and so did Ashes. She clearly had a terrific evening.
So, once the celebration was in full swing, did I just sit back and bask in the glow of success, of one parental decision finally going right, of finally, at long last, not screwing up one thing in our kid's life, which will be waved in our faces like a wiggling tallywacker for the rest of our miserable lives?
Well, no, actually. At that point, I was on to another exciting mission.
I was overcome with a fierce desire to take a picture of...the other woman.
You see, among the guest list, we had of course invited Pauline and Amber, along with Bob. Bob, as longtime readers will know, is one of my favorite people in the world.
I first met Bob in theater, many years ago, when I just out of college and directing my first theatrical production. Bob had been forced, kicking and screaming, to try out for the play, and, as we were desperate for menfolk, he was cast, in the role of the Duke of Hamburg. It turned out to be a smart casting decision (again, for once in my miserable life), as Bob turned out to be a pretty damn good actor. Plus, he could do one mean John Wayne impersonation.
A few years later, as a result of another theatrical production, he started dating Pauline, and eventually, they moved in together, along with Amber and Pauline's mother. Suddenly, we were seeing Bob all the time.
It was one of those rare occasions where a significant other actually fits in with a long-standing group. You ever notice that? You have a group of friends that have been friends for years, like some freakish thing out of St. Elmo's Fire, and then, without consulting the group, one of the friends starts dating someone, and it invariably occurs that that person they're dating doesn't have the same sense of humor, doesn't laugh at the same jokes, and just, well...doesn't fit in, exactly?
That WASN'T the case with Bob. Although about 20 years older than Pauline (and why should THAT matter, I ask you?), we loved having him around. He was knowledgeable and articulate, and above all, funny. And we all stayed together for about eight years, until Pauline and Bob had the unfortunate bad taste to go and break up.
The one bright spot was that Pauline and Bob stayed friends, and since then, we've been lucky enough to have Bob pop in on family vacations, parties, and orgies at the most unexpected moments (okay, I was kidding about the orgies part). I kind of view him as our own personal version of Bob Hope, coming in, with a grin and a golf club, making everyone laugh, and then, after a few hours, making a gracious exit.
The thing is, though, time moves on, and for the past few years, Bob has had a significant other. Her name is Monica, and she's a lovely lady. But, naturally, while I've met her once or twice, she hasn't exactly been a fixture at our parties. I mean, we're an open, inclusive bunch, but Pauline and Monica interacting on a regular basis might be a little...well, uncomfortable.
However, Bob brought her to Ashes birthday party on Friday. And halfway through the party, it occurred to me: this might be my only opportunity to take a photo of Bob, Monica, and Pauline together, in my entire lifetime.
Once the idea was in my head, of course, I couldn't get it out. It was like one of those stupid seventies songs that you hear in the elevator and stays with you the whole day. Like Daybreak or I've Never Been to Me. It was there, and I felt compelled to do something about it.
So, I enlisted aid. As Ashes was busily opening her endless stream of presents, I sidled over to Amber. "I need to do something tonight," I whispered.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I need to get your mother next to Bob and Monica so that I can take a photo of the three of them together. It's all I can think about," I said.
Amber looked at my strangely. "So, you have an overpowering urge to take a photo of my mom with Bob and Monica?"
"You do realize that you're completely crazy, right?" To which, I nodded, triumphantly. She smiled. "Count me in."
And so, the two of us arranged to have Pauline move to Bob's table. Then, I moved to the table with camera in hand, and asked, completely innocently, "Can I take a photo of everyone?"
Then, when everyone posed and smiled, I fiddled around with the camera (such a dunce!), and completely by mistake, took a photo of Monica and Bob and Pauline. (Ted and Alice weren't available.)
An hour later, I flipped through the photos I had taken, and marveled at my handiwork. It was a little grainy, the result of the fact that my daughter had been using my camera for her YouTube videos, and I had forgotten to check which mode it was on before I started snapping photos. But the important thing was: I had my photo, as precious to me as if I had taken a photo of the Beatles, reunited, or Bill Clinton posing with Hillary and Monica.
Later in the evening, I shared my photo with a few others, including Pauline. "Isn't it great?" I asked. "This will be a treasured keepsake, for the rest of my life."
"And just look at how they're posed!" said our friend Jo-Anne. "Look at the body language. It's, like, totally a commentary on their relationship."
I found that line incredibly funny. After I was done laughing, I turned to Pauline. "But you look much prettier in the photo," I said.
Pauline shrugged. "I just wished I had moved in closer to Bob. Can you imagine me, leaning my head on his shoulder?"
At which point, my spider sense immediately started tingling.
At last...a new mission!