I wasn’t quite ready to attend the Birthday Ball without John. I heard it was a spectacular night, but that was one of those things that we did as a couple. It might be more accurate to say that it was something I made John do as a couple.
Like a lot of men, John wasn’t keen on dressing up in a suit, much less a tuxedo, which on occasion I had asked him to rent. But when our daughter Morgan married, he decided that he would buy a tuxedo, because he was hard to fit, and the rentals made him look like a gorilla dressed up for a Las Vegas floor show. So he bought what he called his “monkey suit” and to get his money’s worth, wore it everywhere he could get away with it.
Over the years, we hosted three or so Birthday Ball pre-Ball parties, which he embraced in name only. For the first party, I had to call on him to mow the lawn, which was not normally his job. It happened that there was a football game on that he didn’t want to miss, so I have a photo of him holding a huge portable radio to his ear with one hand, and guiding the mower with the other. This was before iPods and such, and that was the only radio we had that wasn’t wired into our stereo inside the house.
When Morgan was small, maybe 4 or 5, she had been introduced to the story of Cinderella, who met the prince at the ball, if you remember. Morgan thought that we were going to the Prince’s ball, and couldn’t wait to hear who the Prince chose to dance with. She secretly hoped it would be me, she told me, because it would be nice to live in a castle. I don’t know where she thought John would live.
Another year, we got home about 1 a.m. and the house was all locked up. We didn’t have a key, and no one answered the door bell. We could see the babysitter asleep on the couch, but no amount of banging on the doors or windows would wake her up. We walked around the house in our dress-up clothes, and saw that on the second story, Cassidy’s and Morgan’s windows were open. Not wanting to wake up the whole neighborhood, we stood outside their windows and threw pebbles at the screens, whispering loudly, “Morgan, Cass! Let us in.” Morgan finally woke up and came downstairs, where we had to tell her through the window in the door how to unlock it. Once in, we sent her back to bed and spent a good ten minutes shaking the sitter awake. Boy, to be able to sleep that deeply!
So instead of going to the Birthday Ball, I drove to Red Wing, where I met Winona native Candace Meyer Gordon, who is a realtor there. We drove over to Hager City to have lunch at Donna Gordon Nesbitt’s (another Winona native) house, and from there to St. Paul, where we saw Loretta Swit (MASH) in Eleanor: Her Secret Journey, a one-woman show about Eleanor Roosevelt which was staged at the Fitzgerald. We had a great time, and it took my mind off my new Birthday Ball reality. On the way home, we stopped at Nesbitt’s Nursery, near Prescott, for a gourmet organic breakfast cooked by Leah Nesbitt. Worth the trip just for the great meal.
And while I was gone, my sister packed up all of John’s dress pants, sport coats, and suits, and put them in the car to be given away. I noticed she left John’s tuxedo, and she suggested I keep it for the kids for dress-up. So I am. Now I have to figure out what to do with all of John’s shoes. He wore an 8.5 EEE, sometimes EEEE! I used to joke with him that he could save a lot of money on special order shoes if he just wore the shoeboxes. But if anyone out there would fit that size, give me a call!
Next year, I’ll be ready for Birthday Ball. Hope they’re ready for me.