“Are you going to the annual Mulberry Trails Christmas party?” my neighbor asked me casually over the fence.
Mulberry Trails is the quiet little suburb I call home and, apparently, the focus of an upcoming party. My heart beat a little quicker at the prospect of attending an actual party but then reality set in.
“Oh uh, no. I usually don’t get invited to parties. It’s no big deal, just my lot in life. I also wear a size ten shoe and my butt makes it impossible for me to pull off the whole skinny jean thing so I’m pretty much used to life being unfair,” I said while trying to laugh off the awkwardness.
“No, this party is for all the women of Mulberry Trails. Everyone gets an invitation. I’ll see you there,” she said and walked away.
I mumbled some kind of goodbye as I pondered the information that still hovered before me. A party. In my neighborhood. For everyone.
I have always been about 87% sure that I am someone so certainly I would be getting an invitation. I quickly ran into the house to check my email for any inconspicuous evites I might have missed. I scrolled through my mail and found my bank statement and the elementary school lunch menu. My bank account was on the plus side and the school was serving baked potatoes the next day—my daughter’s favorite. The day just kept getting better and better.
I decided to check my spam folder, just in case. I scrolled through 346 emails all advertising some kind of weight loss. It started to give me a complex. Sure, I’ve had my struggles with skinny jeans but I wouldn’t say I have a problem. I never knew spam could be so judgemental. I vowed right then and there to never read anything in my spam folder again. My ego can’t take it.
Maybe my invitation got stuck in the mailbox! I thought as I simultaneously started sprinting down the street. I opened up my mailbox and searched every square inch, of which there are only ten. I felt along the corners for any signs of a lonely party invite just waiting to be found. Nothing.
By that time it was almost three o’clock so I decided to hang out and wait for the mailman. Three o’clock on the nose, he pulled up.
“Hi, Mrs. Haas! How are you doing today?” he said jauntily as he began sorting the mail.
“Got anything…special for me today?” I asked hopefully.
“You mean from that certain store you and your husband are so fond of ordering from?” he said nonchalantly.
“Ok, Ted. First, ew. And second, isn’t there some kind of mail recipient/mail carrier confidentiality clause that I can enact here?” I said.
“Oh, don’t worry. I see nothing, I know nothing,” he said in a tone that told me he knows that I know that he knows.
“Good. You don’t happen to have an invitation in there for me, do you?”
“An invitation for what?” he asked as he finished filling the last mailbox.
“It’s for a Christmas party,” I said cheerfully.
“Oh, you mean the Women of Mulberry Trails Annual Christmas Party?” he said. “No, I delivered those invitations a month ago. You didn’t get an invitation? Everyone is invited to that party.”
It was like a knife to the heart. Even my old pal, Ted, was in the know about this party.
“I’m beginning to think there is another definition of ‘everyone’ that I’m not privy to, Ted,” I said as I walked away.
The next day I got a text from another neighbor that read: “I lost my invitation. What time is the party tonight?”
I texted her back: “I don’t know what time the party is. I wasn’t invited.”
She sent me a text with two emojis: a little sad face and a unicorn.
I texted: “Why the unicorn?”
She texted: “Unicorns always make me happy and if I wasn’t invited to the ‘Everyone is Invited’ Christmas party I would need something to cheer me up!”
I texted her back with a robot emoji, the tap-dancing twins emoji, and a shoe emoji. Because screw her, that’s why.
I spent the day in an existential funk. Flashbacks to college philosophy flooded my mind as I began to ponder my own existence: Am I someone? And if I am, in fact, someone, wouldn’t that garner me a position in the category of everyone? Who am I? Am I? Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. Wait, who said that? Socrates? No, he’s the guy who drank a hemlock mojito. I can’t remember who said it. Hell, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. Wait. Did I eat breakfast? It’s almost lunch time. I better make a sandwich. Or should I just eat cookie dough?
Leave it to my stomach to ruin a perfectly good philosophical rant.
After a quick lunch break, I decided to prove that I am someone through science. Science has never been a strength of mine so I Googled some science stuff and learned that we are made up of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus (whatever that means). I hypothesized that if we are all made of the same things then we are all technically someone and therefore should all be included in the subcategory of everyone. I jotted down some scientific calculations that looked more like a grocery list and realized I’m worse at science than I had previously suspected. In an attempt to sharpen my science skills, I spent the afternoon watching season three of The Big Bang Theory. A lot of laughs, but no real scientific break throughs and I didn’t get laundry done either. Great, now my family will have no clean underwear for tomorrow. Thanks a lot, Mulberry Trails Everyone’s Invited Annual Christmas Party.
As the time of the party drew nearer, I got dressed up and even put on some make up. My husband looked up as I walked down the stairs.
“So you finally got your invitation?” he said brightly.
“No, not exactly.”
“Honey, we both know how it ended the last time you showed up at a party you weren’t invited to. That police officer was quite clear that the next time it happened there would be a psychiatric hold and a lot of mandatory testing for you,” he warned, speaking of the very incident we vowed never to speak of.
“I’m well aware of the perimeters of the law…now. That’s why I intend to stay clear of their bushes and not peek through any windows…like last time,” I said contritely.
“What do you plan on doing then?” my husband asked with obvious concern.
“It’s Christmastime, who can resist a caroler?” I said, thinking of the brilliant idea just as I said it.
I ran out the front door before he could dissuade me.
As I walked down the street, the party house glowed before me. It looked so warm and inviting. I stood there for a moment hoping that someone I knew would walk by, see me all dressed up, singing Christmas carols and invite me in.
I started with “Jingle Bells” because everyone loves “Jingle Bells.” I then switched gears and performed a moving, if not slightly off-key, version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” (okay, if I’m being completely honest, it probably sounded more like tuning hour at the accordion factory, but my heart was in it). My finale was “Baby it’s Cold Outside” which really made me wish someone was listening because I sang the heck out of both parts of that song.
But no one was listening.
I finally admitted defeat and walked home. As I climbed up the stairs, I felt the tears come, hot and stinging my cheeks. I secretly wished I was just emotional about my rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” but I knew better. I sniffed as I walked passed my daughter’s room.
“Mommy? How was the party?” she asked sleepily.
I wiped my sleeve across my eyes and sat on her bed.
“Oh, I didn’t go to that party.”
“They didn’t invite you,” she said matter-of-factly.
“No, but it’s okay. It’s no big deal. They probably just forgot,” I said.
“It happens to you a lot, Mommy,” she said sadly as she looked up at me.
“Yeah, but that just means I’m good at it now. I’m a pro!” I said and tried to laugh.
“Then why are you crying?” she said sounding more like my mother than my daughter.
“Okay, it hurts a bit,” I admitted.
“I know. Remember when I didn’t get invited to that birthday party everyone else was invited to,” she said wisely.
There it was again—everyone, that exclusive group my daughter and I just can’t seem to infiltrate.
“It never feels good to be left out, but you know what? Nothing hones a sharp wit and biting sarcasm quite like good old fashioned exclusion,” I said, this time with a real laugh.
“Oh good! I have something to look forward to!” she said and hugged me.
I hugged her tightly and thought, Yeah, we have a lot to look forward to.