My special holiday calendar, the one I date from Halloween to New Year's Eve, doesn't have any parties posted on it.
There's no mention of open-house invitations, potluck suppers or cocoa-and-caroling outings. Notices of cookie swaps, gag-gift exchanges, even football-watching fetes, are absent on its pages.
All it shows is a couple of family birthdays, a few self-imposed deadlines and a reminder that my peroxide-dependent blondness will require some roots-bleaching by the end of the month.
Upon reflection, this seemed a bit strange because I remember when this roughly 60-day period felt like a dizzying whirl of nonstop social functions squeezed into the requisite shopping-decorating-cooking, holiday-preparation routine. There was one December Saturday night some 20 years ago on which my husband, Fred, and I had four separate soirees to hit.
But now, I had to think back months even to come up with the past three parties I attended -- a Tupperware sales gig, a toddler's birthday-and-baptism bash and a baby shower. While they all were fun happenings, each was a far cry from the whoop-til-you-droop wingdings of my younger years.
Videotape from one memorable autumn party, for example, shows Fred's and my particular band of merry pranksters gleefully setting back the hands of the living room's grandfather clock from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m. during a long-ago salute to Daylight Savings Time.
My recent party thrills have been less rowdy.
For me, the highlight of the baby shower came during a game to gauge the inches in the expectant honoree's great-with-child girth. The contest's winner whipped a tape measure out of her purse, slipped it around her upper leg and submitted its measurement as a guess -- a successful ploy since the circumference of her thunder thigh and the mom-to-be's swollen belly were exactly the same.
It was a pretty amusing move. But it was still small potatoes compared to some years-earlier shindigs in which, I recall, almost every attendee demonstrated his or her signature schtick, such as balancing a beer glass on salt grains or impersonating a crazed squawking chicken.
My own particular specialty was swallowing my hand, right up to the wrist bone, a tricky little maneuver that I figured was versatile enough to serve as my spotlight talent in the Miss America pageant if I ever got nominated.
But this year, Fred and I weren't tapped to do any tricks because we weren't even asked to a Dirty Santa party -- in my experience, the most basic of Yuletide observances where, in a previous year, my best friend and I staged a huge catfight over possession of a two-billed ball cap with a permanently affixed beverage-holder and sipping straw.
When I discussed this with Fred, he said, "It's just like Chicken Little; if you don't go to parties, you don't get asked."
That's not exactly the lesson I took from Chicken Little, a tale I'd always equated with alarmist reactions. But Fred's explanation did raise some red flags for me; maybe people are holding parties all over the place and we aren't getting invited because we're now viewed as duds.
So I'm taking steps to reverse this situation and planning to be Champagne Bubble Girl at any celebratory drop of the hat.
Looking ahead to 2013, for instance, I note that an extra week of Mardi Gras parades has been added -- surely cause to party down. And next year I'm set not only to qualify for Medicare but also for a one-time fishing-license fee (no need ever to re-up) in Tennessee, grounds for major jubilation.
If I want to party-plan even further into the future, there's that e-mail from my brainy nephew, a college physics major. He contacted us weeks ago to reserve our guest room for the projected August 2017 total solar eclipse, an event that supposedly will have Clarksville, Tenn., as a prime viewing point.
Already, I envision the stellar celebrations I might orchestrate to mark the heavenly happening.