Last night was Kevin's work Christmas party. These parties give me some anxiety every year. Because the universe has a sense of humor, I've ended up being the boss's wife. Somewhere, in a different timeline perhaps, sixteen-year-old rebel me is laughing her fool head off at this thought.
I mean, seriously. How did this happen?
It's a big party and was at a winery;catered and with a gift exchange for employees with fairly expensive gifts. (for a gift exchange, like $100-ish tools, etc.)
My goal is to just not do something to attract attention at these type of events. Also, Kevin is uncomfortable in these settings. He wears the title of boss uncomfortably and really, really doesn't like being the center of attention.
The seating is open and first come, first served. Last year we sat at a table that ended up being awkward as the night wore on. This year Kevin promised one of the wives that we would sit at their table. This is awkward because she is the wife of the dispatcher, whom everyone hates. H.A.T.E.S. She, of course, is not aware of this which is a relief and yet even more awkward. I sat next to her, as we have a quasi-friendship from these events, and Kevin sat with his right-hand-guy Martin on the other side. So, Kevin fulfilled his promise while not appearing to be on Team Hated Guy.
I made it through dinner without cursing inappropriately, or tripping, or spilling. I managed to remember folks names and shake hands, do all the appropriate stuff. I accepted an awkward hug from a really drunk employee, I did not visibly react at one of the drivers who has a new girlfriend (again) and obviously newly-colored hair. I chatted with one of the wives who is in recovery and doing really well. I shook hands with one of his new guys who is INSANELY attractive and was even verbal. I did not throw a punch when one of the office girls hugged Kevin a little longer than I liked.
As the plates are being cleared from the table, the dispatchers wife mentioned that she loves the gift exchange and LOVES it when people steal. I reply that it just makes me anxious, I don't enjoy it, at all. "Oh but it's so much fun to watch!" she says. "Nope, I'd rather go to the gynecologist than steal a gift."
I mean, seriously. THIS MOUTH.
Kevin was AGAPE yet laughing. Incredulous. That poor guy. But he chose me so there's that.
Fortunately everyone laughed. I looked at Kevin and said "Came in a little hot with that, didn't I?" He laughed and was all "Um, YEAH." Martin said "You know, you could have just said DOCTOR." which made me laugh even more.
A few minutes later, I told Kevin I was going to go to the bathroom before this whole gift exchange thing started. He says what he always says - in jest and in truth - "Don't embarrass me."
I stood up, took two steps and heard Martin quietly but emphatically say "WATCH."
Yeah, I nearly walked into a waiter carrying a full tray of full water glasses.
GOODGAWD. Thank goodness for Martin.
The evening continued and it went fine. Kevin ended up stealing a gift from one of his guys at the next table, with the intent of giving it back afterward. He just really, really, didn't want to go in front of a big room of people and this was his solution.
This is where I say it's touching to see how well-liked he is. People clapped and cheered his name when he stood. He hates that even more when I acknowledge this. He just doesn't see it about himself. He thinks it's just his wives rose-colored glasses. But it's not and that is just lovely to see.
AND his guy whom he stole the gift thought that it was so incredible when he gave it back to him. Everybody won.
The party winds down and now everyone is relaxed and chatty. One of his guys LOVES Lucy and her facebook posts, so he made sure to say hi and make a joke. One of the wives follows me on Instagram and made a point of complimenting my photography. Another one of his guys remembered my name and called out to say hi. This isn't to humblebrag and say "OH, Look how cool I am" but to just appreciate that people are kind to say nice things. And again, to me, reflective of how well-liked Kevin is.
The owners of the company (father and son) always make sure to find us/me and chat. It's really appreciated and I recognize that not all companies are like that.
While this is happening, the owner's (the dad) wife corners us as they walked away and is talking about how nice the party is. Kevin excuses himself because someone waved him over. He turns back to me about three paces away and gestures "Sorry...you're good?" I nod and take a few breaths. I can do this.
The wife is like talking to an old school Church lady. She's not above name-dropping and legit humblebragging about houses, trips, cars, etc. It's fine. She's fine. Here's where I say that I have the kind of face, aura, whatever that people tell me things.
She begins to talk about how she'd planned on her husband retiring by now. How much of a struggle it was to come to acceptance that he doesn't want to retire and how she had to come to terms with that and make a different life for herself.
Umm, this is pretty heavy for a Christmas party and for someone you see only annually.
So, I say something Kevin often says "Well, he's lucky that he has the privilege of being healthy enough to continue to work and do it because he enjoys it." This lands, thankfully, as intended. "Oh yes, we are blessed with health." she responds. WHEW.
Then she inquires what I do for work. She remembers something about children. This is incredible to me that she would have any ounce of any idea of my work. I explain my job and she nods emphatically. "That's important work that you do..." She said something how long I've been doing this type of work, which then prompted me to say "I've worked in non-profit my whole adult life, with at-risk families in early childhood, women in crisis, and now in early intervention for early childhood."
"You're doing good work. You're doing God's work."
AGAIN: this is not to humblebrag. Like Kevin, this makes me super uncomfortable and now I'm trying to figure out how to disengage. By some stroke of luck, she is waved over by someone and I can bail outside to where Kevin is talking about cars and I am back in my wheelhouse.
Kevin nudged me "It go okay? You're alright?" and I nodded "Yeah, better than expected. It's good."
Then his mechanic WHOM I ADORE and is a GIANT of a man, gives me a big bear hug. We have reached the "I love you guys" portion of the evening. To which Kevin is all "Welp, time to GO."
We got into the truck and sighed a collective sigh of relief. "Well, that's done for another year." Kevin says. "And without any major disasters" I say. "YEAH" he laughs, a little relieved and incredulous.