Despite our best efforts at mislabeling and erroneously addressing, our Bar Mitzvah invitations have now been out in the world for going on a month. RSVPs are trickling in at a rate of two or three per day. Taken as a percentage of the whole, the operation has run pretty smoothly.
To recipients, they've taken on the character of sausage -- full of all kinds of ground-up nonsense but very smooth and attractive on the outside. The nonsense includes me going to multiple post offices, a long discussion about how to phrase our wish that everyone attend the party in semi-casual dress and the Chardonnay-soaked Sunday afternoon meetings of the Bar Mitzvah Design Team. The shiny, attractive casing is the almost unanimously-lauded Godzilla-themed invitations themselves, drawing plaudits from everyone, save for Brandeis Hillel Day School seventh-grade students wishing to remind the Jawa how much his interests differ from those of the seventh-grade mainstream.
As I said, taken as a percentage of the whole, the invitation process has been a resounding success. At least 95% of our invites have reached their destination, where they are (hopefully) occupying a prominent space on potential guests' bulletin boards while they finalize their travel plans.
Several members of the Jawa's class at school have already responded, leaving me wondering if rounded, flirty handwriting is something teenage girls must be taught or if it is deeply embedded in their genetic code. Cute invitations! Good luck on your big day, k?
The biggest glitch, by far, involved the person we'd least intended to be glitched: my grandmother. As of last fall, she lives in Arizona, a few miles from my parents though outside the walls of Sun City West. While this means she is not eligible to join the photography club (and thus misses out on coordinated photography field trips, which sometimes but not always feature my mother taking charge and righting the ship -- or tour bus -- should anything go wrong and the rest of the retirees be unable to step up to the plate), the facility she lives in has its own dining room, round-the-clock staff and various in-house clubs, including the Wii bowling club, which, if our limited experience is any guide, consists of several elderly people sitting on a couch, staring straight ahead at a TV and loudly cheering as one of their own enthusiastically simulates bowling with a Wii remote.
Despite being in Arizona, the facility is everything a 92-year-old woman could want, supplying not only built-in friends but also a daily 10 a.m. check-in phone call and gratis monthly mobility scooter maintenance session.
Rather than lodge the residents in hotel rooms, the facility gives each of them individual one-bedroom apartments, which closely resemble half of the apartment I lived in during the second semester of senior year. Though they lack the home-built unfinished wood lofts that doubled the occupancy of each bedroom, they do have the same textured walls and vertical blinds.
Her new pad is unit #242. Twice I have been to visit my grandmother since she moved to Arizona. More than once I have been sent alone to pick her up and bring her to my parents' house. When I am in Arizona, I know that my grandmother lives in apartment #242. Unfortunately, when I cross back in California, I apparently forget that she lives in #242, instead thinking that her new living arrangement is more like a rooming house, where the residents all share the same address.
What, did we think that they gather everyone together in the day room every afternoon, distributing their mail a la Igor in M*A*S*H? Do they all stand (or sit) there holding their hands out, eager for some news from back home? And then, when one receives a Dear John letter, do they all nervously edge away from him, lest his sorrow be contageous and passed on through community handing of Wii remotes?
Where exactly did we think my grandmother lived?
I'll tell you where: somewhere with only one address. Her carefully-assembled invitation bore only a street address. No apartment number. We may have well just addressed it, "Grandma, Surprise, AZ." It would have stood just as good a chance of reaching her.
Two weeks passed with the Bar Mitzvah Team basking in the reflected glory of our successful invitation distribution before I got an email from my mother. On the subject line: "Grandma."
Understand that it's only been a few months since we lost my grandfather. I get an email whose subject line is "Grandma" and I start flop sweating immediately. After a few deep breaths, I opened the email. Grandma's invitation didn't arrive: our first glitch.
Once we realized the problem, it was easy to solve. We sent Grandma another invitation. Meanwhile, respect must be paid. I called her up the next day. "What? I'm not invited?" she asked in mock horror. "I know I'm invited. I just want to have an invitation to keep." Once I peeled myself off the floor, where I'd ended up after the anvil filled with equal amounts of guilt and failure hit me, I promised her a second invite. The new invitation, address including #242, went out the same day and order was restored to the universe.
The second glitch happened last night. Once again it came in the form of an email from my mom. "I'm speaking to (her cousin) Janice as I type. (Her late cousin Marvin's widow) Connie (who has made it her business to dutifully and warmly attend all family events)apparently never received an invitation." Since we both knew there were no invitations remaining, having discussed it earlier in the day, the only option, Mom said, was to call or e-mail Connie. This would pose a problem, as I hate to talk on the phone to people I see daily, much less a semi-cousin I've met three times over the past 20 years. "Did we invite her?" I thought, not that it would much matter if I had to call her and awkardly re-invite her via Ma Bell.
Sandra Bullock checked the list. We'd sent an invitation. The address was correct. I carefully worded an email back to Mom, suggesting that it might be more appropriate if she called to feel out the situation, rather than Connie receiving an awkward phone call from someone who'd have to spend the first 90 seconds explaining who he was before offering up a low-rent invite to his son's Bar Mitzvah. Fortunately, Mom took the bait. Which is good, because there was no way Sandra Bullock was going to bail me out of this one.
Twenty-four hours pass before Mom sends a follow-up email. Connie got her invitation, which makes sense, since she has no apartment number for us to forget.
So far we have approximately 100 Bar Mitzvah guests, which means that about half of our invitees have responded. How likely is it that of the remaining 100, several have inadvertendly buried the invite under Thai restaurant menus and utility bills? How many saw it, filed it in their memory, then forgot about it? How surprised will they be the next time they see it, which very well could be August 22? Is there a category of people who are able to hang onto an un-RSVPed party invitation for a month without forgetting about it? If so, I'd like to meet them.
At least we know two things: my grandmother will be there, and Connie will be there. The rest is more or less up in the air.