About eight or so years ago, Helen (adorable wife) and I began a Christmas tradition of hosting a Meat Loaf dinner for a group of friends from our former neighborhood. I’ve shared the party with Easin’ Along readers twice before and apologize for the repetition, but we always have such a grand time that I felt it worth sharing once more. Remember, when you combine food and fun, it is retirement activity at its finest.
The date we picked for this year’s event just happened to be the birthday of our dear friend Rose. Rose’s birthday is always a lot of fun and she has endured some of the best birthday pranks ever played on a birthday girl. A few years back, a member of our group arranged for her to ride on a float in the local Christmas Parade. Rose was lured to a float-in-waiting where she was brought aboard and whisked down the parade route wearing the robe of a Snow Princess. On another occasion, Rose was tricked into going shopping with her friends and, when she arrived at a downtown department store, an enormous crowd that included the Mayor burst into a raucous Happy Birthday tune. His Honor proclaimed it “Rose’s Day” and gave her the equivalent of a key to the city. Fortunately, Rose has a fantastic sense of humor and always plays along…she’s a great sport.
This year, however, she made everyone in our crowd swear an oath of no tricks. A decision was made to have an “in-house” birthday party while keeping our Rose in the shade. Therefore, our annual Christmas meatloaf dinner had a birthday party theme.
On the afternoon of the dinner, Priscilla brought over banners and balloons to liven up the atmosphere. Helen had gone into her usual frenzy to ensure the house was ready for company. The tree was decorated and the Snow Village (complete with RV park) was on full display as was a beautiful bowl of fresh white flowers—Roses, of course, in honor of the birthday girl.
My job was to make the meatloaf. Not to brag, (ahem) but I make a pretty mean meatloaf. I start a day early with preparing the vegetables and finish it up on the afternoon of the dinner. I’m meticulous about this meal and try to time it so that it comes out of the oven just in time to serve hot on the table. The meatloaf was in the oven when the first guests arrived.
Everyone had been told to arrive a bit early. Party hats and noisemakers were distributed to one and all as we warmed up and prepared to be very rowdy when the honoree checked in. Rose was in her usual cheery mood when she came through the door whereupon the greeting committee stopped her dead in her tracks and placed a bright pink tiara on her head. Cheers rang out. We had achieved a complete surprise. Rose wasted no time joining in and, if she was a bit annoyed with us, it never showed. Like I said earlier, she’s a great sport.
Mealtime was filled with great laughter and a lot of storytelling from days past including tales from the thirty-nine trips to the beach our wives have enjoyed on annual gal pal excursions. The guys repeat often-told stories of our annual camping trips in the Cherokee National Forest that we never tire of hearing.
Near the end of the meal and after Rose was treated to a beautiful birthday cake decorated with roses of many colors, a member of the group arose to present the annual “Red Hat” award. This award goes to the person who had faced adversity during the year and had pulled through in glorious fashion. Bob, a hard-core Marine veteran received this year’s Red Hat. Bob modestly accepted the award and wore it with distinction.
We lingered long into the evening as no one seemed eager to leave. Helen and I considered it a compliment. I insisted on a group photograph to mark the occasion and proudly display it here. Happy birthday, Rose. Friendships are the spice of life and we’re blessed to have these special people in ours. It is our sincere wish that, for many years to come, we’re still Easin’ Along…together.