The 5th of July was supposed to be an easy day off, where I was invited to “just bring leftovers” from the 4th to our local regional park for a small(?) gathering of about 35 people. Why is it these things never turn out as advertised? When I agreed to this a few weeks back, my understanding was that someone else was handling all the planning and coordination, and other than cook enough food on the 4th to insure leftovers on the 5th, all I had to do was show up, unload the leftovers, and park my butt in a chair for the remainder of the day. Sounds simple, right?
Things actually started unraveling a couple of weeks before the event, but I wasn’t aware of it. Most of the folks we would be hanging with are the church-going type, and with the exception of a few, go to churches that don’t have early morning services (at least the local Catholics are sensible about this; they provide plenty of opportunities on the weekend to take care of obligations). Being one of the only heathens (non-believer, heretic, infidel, whatever) in the group, I had already “volunteered” to show up before 11:00 to secure a group site that (supposedly) had been reserved in advance. I figured this wouldn’t be a big deal, as it basically involved showing up, hauling an ice chest and lawn chair to the shelter, and parking my butt in it until everyone else showed up after their church services. Besides, I’ve done the sitting around in the park thing recently, and it wasn’t all that bad.
What I didn’t know was that the organizer of this little soiree hadn’t been able to reserve one of the shelters. At least not until Friday when Pigdog calls me and informs me that we don’t have a site lined up. Now Lewisville Regional Park is “154 rustic acres of forest and meadows” according to their web site. Those acres of forest make it hard to find people, and it happens to be located in an area where cell phone coverage is one bar if you are lucky. I hear even the Verizon guy stays away from this place (which for me is part of its charm). Now we have no guarantee of tables and shade for 35 people, many of whom are not from the area. Since park rules for reservations state that reserved sites must have a butt-in-chair person there by 11:00 to secure it, my job duties have now increased to showing up at 11:00, finding an unoccupied site, and securing it against angry latecomers who can’t put their butt in a chair. Oh, and sending out smoke signals to everyone else since AT&T can’t provide 2G coverage, much less 3G coverage in the area.
Ok, I’m not happy about it, but I can do this. Until Pigdog mentions that he is bringing a canopy in case we get stuck in one of those rustic meadows with no shade. Oh, and can I bring mine along as well. Ok, no problem other than hauling it out of the garage, cleaning it up a bit, and throwing it in the back of the truck. Oh, and setting it up in a rustic meadow if I can’t find a butt-in-chair-less shelter. Ok, I can still do this, but it is sounding less and less like “show up with leftovers and put butt-in-chair.”
Sunday morning arrives, the alarm goes off at 07:00 so the Catholics can get up and go to church (early, as they are taking Pigdog’s dad with them and have to go pick him up). House is a bigger disaster than usual as the only thing done before bed was show up, put the leftovers away, and collapse. At 07:30 the phone rings. It’s Pigdog: “Hey, can you have your wife bring my dad back to your house after church; we won’t be home.” Ok, sure. Let me get those left in the house up to make it a little less frightening, take a quick shower, and get everything ready to go so I can be at the park by 11:00 to find a site without a butt-in-chair. No problem. Except for the raging headache, borderline exhaustion from the last 3 days, and that nagging feeling that it might be hours before my butt ever got into a chair again.
I’ll skip forward past the frantic house cleaning, other than to publicly thank Older Daughter for pitching in and helping out. Some would say small price to pay for all the food and fun, but she did have to sleep on a futon and wasn’t planning on getting up that early, much less to clean the disaster area that we call home. Now it came time to assess leftovers. Plenty of pulled pork and chicken, as I had set some aside the day before on purpose. Not a hot dog to be found, except the frozen package in the freezer. And suddenly it occurs to me that we don’t have any way to reheat the food. Unless I haul along a BBQ or two. So it is out to the garage for one of the Smokey Joes. And a chimney. And charcoal. And utensils. And paper towels. And gloves. And, and, and… You get the idea. Before I know it, the back of the Tundra is full.
Now understand that my Sunday mornings are normally spent alone in peace and solitude while the Catholics are at church and performing the rest of their normal Sunday morning routine (grocery shopping, post office, etc.). My activities generally consist of butt-in-chair with coffee while reading the funnies online. Not very strenuous… Now it is time to leave and I am just finishing up my first cup of coffee. My butt hasn’t been in a chair for more than 5 minutes the whole morning. All I have to do is bring leftovers and show up…
So we drive to the park and arrive right at 11:00. The preferred shelter has exactly one car parked in the lot, and 3 people with chairs and an ice chest walking toward it. The preferred first meadow option is right there, and already occupied by butt-in-chair. Just as well, as there was only one table there and no shade. Even better was that we passed an area on the way in with several tables under a bunch of trees and right across from the swings. Back we go, and the day begins to improve. The site is unoccupied, doesn’t require the canopies to be set up, and there is plenty of privacy while still having enough room to run around. Not only that, the parking is close enough that I don’t have break out a pack mule to make the journey to the tables with a truckload of stuff.
Ok, enough complaining. I set up the Smokey Joe, heated up the pork and chicken, and grilled up the package of hot dogs. Since I only brought one of the Smokey Joes I had to stand at the grill for a bit longer than I wanted, but eventually my butt landed in a chair and the day improved. It was all worth it, for as you can see from the picture below that people were having a good time, there was plenty of food, and no fights broke out. Politics and religion were discussed only briefly, and grapes are real handy for waking people up when they fall asleep in their chair.
Plenty of lessons learned and/or reinforced from this past weekend, but the most important was that serving others is a reward in and of itself. Even if you have to do more than just show up with leftovers and plant your butt in a chair…