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Washington Voices

Front Porch: Parties are about people, not elaborate planning

Sat., June 7, 2014

It’s graduation party time. With seniors all over the city throwing their caps in the air this weekend, the calendar is crammed with celebrations.

For some mothers, the graduation celebration is the pinnacle of party planning after years of throwing Pinterest-worthy birthday bashes that channel motherly love and pride into elaborate creativity.

They’ve planned and successfully pulled off themed festivities that range from superhero scavenger hunts to spa makeovers, complete with cute invitations, crafty decorations, an array of amusing activities, thoughtful favors and the most tasty, creatively iced cake since the beginning of cakes.

And somehow these mothers seem to possess enough adoring energy to take in-focus pictures and chronicle each happy event for posterity on a four-page spread in one of junior’s scrapbooks.

I’m in awe of these mothers. While the seniors throw their caps, I tip my hat to them. But I have to admit, when it comes to party planning, I’m a pooper.

While I love the people part of a party, before the fun festivities, there’s usually a lot of cleaning, shopping and creative cooking. After years of obligatory experience, I’ve failed to master or enjoy any of those activities, as longtime readers may remember from previous columns. I’m just not good at them.

That’s why, though I’ve thrown a few messy, themed-birthday bashes, most of our celebrations are low-key events and usually when we gather friends and family over food it’s an impromptu affair like a last-minute backyard barbecue.

When there isn’t time to plan, there isn’t time to compare my paltry party attempts to pictures of other events on Pinterest. There also isn’t time to panic. Heart palpitations and sweaty palms are the kind of deterrents that turn me into a party planning procrastinator.

Still, graduation has been on the calendar all year and on the radar for about 18 years. It’s a pretty big deal and we sent out invitations at least a week ago. Since then I’ve scoured the Internet for ideas, shopped, cleaned, cooked and come to the conclusion that this isn’t an area I will ever earn an A.

After ruining the third dessert in two days and bemoaning my inadequate ability to make a topper that even remotely resembles a mortar board and tassel, I remembered that the guests are coming to celebrate Emily’s accomplishment. That’s all and it’s more than enough.

They love her (and most of them love me) so I know they won’t care how successfully I’ve cleaned, cooked or created graduation-themed decorations. That’s not why they’re coming. They’re coming because they care.

In fact, when I recall the best parties I’ve attended over the years, it’s the people I remember, not the food or the fanciness. People make the party, whether you’re meeting new acquaintances, reconnecting with old friends or relishing relationships that have stood the test of time.

Parties are a place to pull people together, to celebrate milestones and events in a way that builds and reinforces our relationships. That’s why parties are happy occasions, permeated by hugs, laughter, good conversation and a lot of “remember when” stories. That’s why parties are fun.

So I’m tossing planning like a graduation cap. Let’s get this party started.

Contact correspondent Jill Barville by e-mail at

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