I’ve just finished cleaning up from my third annual holiday party. Yep, me, the introverted Afthead throws a holiday party every year, but it’s my kind of party. I pick up five of my daughters friends after school and we craft for four hours. I am their hostess, their coach and their mentor as they learn new skills making gift for themselves, their friends, and their families.
Every year I have a plan. I buy supplies: yarn, pipe cleaners, beads, and Popsicle sticks. In the days before the party my daughter and I make sample projects and test out what is too hard, what doesn’t really come together, and what we can reuse from last year. The event begins with an after school snack while I casually lay out the demo items we’ve created, showing what they could make for their mom, sister, dad, or grandpa. Some things grab their attention, and some things don’t, but ten minutes into the party it isn’t about me anymore: it becomes all about them. I hand them each a gift bag to store their loot and they start crafting.
It is a marvel to behold, an experiment in personalities. We hand select friends who can sit and craft for four hours with breaks only for food and to find the scissors. Learning from our past mistakes girls who want to be the center of attention or who can’t sit still aren’t invited back, because there are lots of parties where you can dance on the table, chase friends or wear pretty dresses. This party is different; I and the girls love it.
This year we hit the perfect mix of guests. There were two new girls on the invite list. I taught one to finger knit and she was a prodigy. Four hours she stood in her snow boots looping yarn over her tiny fingers. She went home with three scarves. The second new girl sat on the floor cross-legged making pom-pom after pom-pom: methodically winding the yarn around one arm of the puffball maker, closing it; winding the other arm, closing it; finding the good scissors, cutting the loops; and tying the yarn around the middle. She’d wiggle the contraption apart and out would pop another pom pom. Then she’d find another yarn and do the whole process again.
The evening’s transition is magical. They start the day calling for my help. Every one of them needs me, my hands, and my expertise. Impatiently they wait calling out Coach Johanna, Jo Jo, Mom, Mrs. Johanna, but by the end they are helping each other and I am forgotten. Today, with an hour left in the party, I was unexpectedly called. They explained that a timer needed so the girls could prepare for a rendezvous. Having no idea what they were talking about they explained, with the condescension of children, what they are learning about Colorado history right now. In case you are also ignorant:
Rocky Mountain Rendezvous (in trapper jargon) was an annual gathering (1825–1840) at various locations held by a fur trading company at which trappers and mountain men sold their furs and hides and replenished their supplies.
The timer rang, and the girls set up shop to trade their precious crafts with each other. There were no fights, no arguments, lots of compliments, and it was all their idea. I contributed cookies to the event, which they appreciated, while letting me know my presence was not needed.
I learn so much from them. Beyond expanding my knowledge of western history, I learn perspective about my daughter’s own strengths and weaknesses in the light of her friends. I learn more about the challenges and struggles they each have and they have together. I learn how each of them has grown and changed since I last had concentrated time with them. But I get to teach too. I teach them that it is important to be kind to each other. I teach them that we don’t have and Elf on the Shelf, because our family thinks the elves are creepy, but we don’t judge their family for having one. I teach about our joint Christmas and Hanukkah celebration. I teach them the wonder of making something with your own two hands and using your brain to take an idea and make it your own. I hope I teach them that even as a grown up there are lots of different ways of having fun with your friends.
This is the one party every year when I don’t worry about what to wear, I don’t need a drink to loosen me up, and I don’t want to hide in my basement to recover. Cleaning up from the event I love the dustpan full of yarn bits and googly eyes. My daughter, having helped and chatted with her friends, starts her projects in earnest when everyone leaves. She’s watched her friends and picked her favorite ideas to make over and over. My extroverted daughter and her introverted momma are both energized when the evening comes to a close.
You can have your cocktail dresses, your high heeled shoes, your signature drinks, and your white elephant gifts. Me? I’ll take a group of kids and some glue for as long as they will have me.