In Which I Neglect to Send in the Clowns

In Which I Neglect to Send in the Clowns

I'm hosting a big event. What could possibly go wrong?

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This shall constitute my official apology to the Kennedy High School marching band, circa 1983. Mistakes were made. They may have been made by me. Stick around; I will explain.

I’m getting ready to host a large family gathering, a milestone event that involves a ceremonial aspect, several meals and a party. There’s a lot to do, and there are a large number of logistics to manage beyond the big important stuff. I’m referring to the kinds of tiny details I never pay attention to willingly in real life. As in, I found myself trading multiple emails with someone about the color of the paper bags that will be filled with snacks for guests staying in the event hotel. As if anyone will notice what color the bag is when they’re eating all those cookies. As if somewhere there waits a Pythonesque Bridge of Death manned by the Paper Bag Troll, and when he asks me, What color? I will say “Blue bags! No, yellow!” and I will be hurled over the bridge. Perspective needed!

Even though I have an expert helping me, and she thinks of everything, with this event fast-approaching, I still have the nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten something important.

I think this general anxiety goes back to when I was in high school. I went to Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, in case I haven’t mentioned it 28 times already. My senior year, I was in charge of the Homecoming Day Parade. This was probably the first major event I ever planned. The parade was a pretty big deal—to us, anyway. People made floats out of their Camaros and their parents’ beater station wagons. The marching band was in the parade, as were the majorettes and the cheerleaders, and there was a tradition that a couple of students rode horses at the front of the whole thing. I was supposed to make sure it went smoothly, under the supervision of a faculty advisor. This advisor no longer works at the school and hasn’t for many, many years. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she left immediately after working on Homecoming with me and never looked back. We fought regularly, because in my educated opinion at age 17, she had no idea what she was doing. She would insist on some detail that I was sure would ruin everything, and then I would say, that’s not a good idea, and then she would quit. And then she’d un-quit. And then one day, I finally became fed up with her neuroses, and I quit. I told her, in essence, that she didn’t need me if her goal was to do as she pleased. I believe it was the day before the parade when she asked me—begged me, is how I like to remember it—to please come back and help her. She was completely frantic. I was gratified, and of course I said okay.

I may be recalling the details incorrectly. But I’m safe in bringing it up, because I’m sure no one remembers it with any more accuracy than me. Because I’m sure no one else cared!

Anyway, after all this time, I’m willing to cop to being responsible for what happened next. Probably as a result of all the infighting, a ball was dropped. I screwed up. Or maybe she did. But I’m taking responsibility for it, as I said. I already mentioned that students on horseback traditionally led the parade. In prior years, an adult would dress as a clown and follow the horses with a shovel, cleaning up the inevitable.

That year, there was no clown. There was no shovel. There was no clean-up. If I’m taking credit for the parade, I best also take credit for the fact that the horses were immediately followed in the parade order by the entire school marching band.

Therefore, I apologize, belatedly, to the band members for their soiled shoes.

In the weeks (months?) leading up to the event I’m now preparing to host, there has been no shortage of infighting; however, I’m pleased to say no one has quit. Yet. And as far as I know, there are no horses in the plan. But I think it’s easy to see why I have this nagging sense, this recurring nightmare, if you will, that even now there lurks the potential for me to send a mass of people marching through horse pucky.

Stay tuned.

For more from Paula Whyman, see and her online parody newspaper

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