Friday, May 21, 2010

The Annual Party

Summer traditions are things that are inbred in all Americans. It is part of being human. We participate in summer traditions over our youth and they become part of who we are. The memories are vivid and we try to extend those traditions to our children, so that they might experience the same, warm memories. I can give you examples of the summer traditions I remember from childhood (in sequential order):
Memorial Day - The pool must be clean and ready (We were fortunate to have one)

The 4th of July - Festooning your bike in red, white and blue for the parade

Fireworks - Thank God the parents were in charge

Weekends in the pool - Bathing suits were normal attire for the whole day

Backyard barbecues - Again, thank God the parents were in charge

Flies - Sorry, but they always seem to go along with barbecues (and potato salad)

Hot Summer nights - Cicadas are everywhere - Find their shells to wear on your shirt

Lightning Bugs - How many can be captured and why is the jar empty in the morning?

Sweet Corn - Going to the Farmer's Market to get the best

Labor Day Weekend - The last big holiday before school (though not anymore)

I'm sure that you could add many other events to my list. It's just what I remember off the top of my head.

There is one other thing, however, that will always be a part of me: The Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.

I can't remember a year when all the neighbors didn't come over to our back-yard to listen to the race. We all bought drivers for $1 apiece. The race was charted (by Dort Zeiler, an avid fan and neighbor) and lap money was rewarded to those leading at 10-lap intervals. The booby prize went to the first driver out. You got your $1 back. The big prize was in winning the race. You'd be able to walk away with much more than your $1 investment and bragging rights for the whole summer. All in attendance played, both young and old. It is one of my fondest memories and one that I brought with me when I moved to Texas.

Such is my dilemma.

I brought the Indy Party tradition to Texas. It was the best way I knew to immerse my friends into the thrill of listening to the race. I had a party and re-created the "chart" that I remembered from my youth. That was back in 2000 (I still have the chart). Kids and adults were aplenty and everyone participated in the race. After all, it was a tradition.

I upgraded the "chart" to an Excel spreadsheet. It helped with the effort of tracking the race leaders and allowed my guests to see how their "driver" investment was faring. I had to update the cost of drivers after the first party. A $1 dollar investment does not a big payout make. Last year's price was $10 a driver.

I've done this every year since 2000, but now I've tired of the effort. My kids are now teenagers and would rather hang with their friends. My house (and pool) are aging, so the clean-up and preparation in advance of the party is daunting. Last year was the first time I experienced "dread" on the day of the party. I couldn't attend to all that needed to be done to my satisfaction. It was no longer fun.

I've decided not to have my annual Indy 500 party this year. Perhaps I'll relent in the future, but this year it seemed to present a hollow goal. My memories are from youth and my kids have now grown older. They don't have the same interest in the race as they've had in the past. It's now just me and my friends, which just hasn't motivated me. After all, I can have a party any day. But an Indy 500 party? That was for my kids...and for me, in memory of my youth.

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