WETTING DOWN: USMC Tradition
After a promotion, it is customary to celebrate by spending your first pay raise on your fellow Marines at your favorite tavern. Tradition has it that the new grade insignia was placed in the bottom of a glass of spirits, and the Marine drank the glass dry.
WETTING DOWN: Our Story
Tom and Neil (a fellow Communications classmate and current neighbor) were being promoted at the same time. Following tradition, they wanted to participate in a Wet Down. However, they both decided that it would be better (financially-speaking) to host the party at home, instead of at the Officer’s Club. (You may start with just a few people in your party at the O Club, but as soon as people know it’s a Wet Down, they ALL flock to you…thereby increasing your tab for the evening!) So we decided to go with a backyard BBQ, complete with beer, burgers, brats, and deep-fried turkey!
I just couldn’t sleep anymore (thinking about everything), so I was up by 7:30 (listening to the rain POURING down). I also wanted some time to be able to relax, if possible, so I wasn’t running around at the last minute. The only thing left to do to get the inside of the house ready, really, was clear off all the surfaces that were full of crap (i.e. the dining room table, the coffee table, the kitchen counters), so all that stuff went into huge Rubbermaid containers and into the guest shower! Voila! Instantly clutter free! There were also minor things like vacuuming, moving the dining room chairs to other seating areas, and moving a last few boxes. I also wanted to add some personality—but we didn’t really want to hang stuff on the wall in case we moved furniture anytime soon (we’re not sure if we’re leaving the couches where they are)—so I just put some framed pics and bamboo up on temporary shelves which are just sitting on the floor (crap, I just realized I don’t have a picture of that wall) and it looked pretty good (it might actually stay there for awhile!) and decorated the mantel/fireplace area. We had also installed two curtain rods earlier in the week. Let’s see, what next?
Oh, the turkeys. I was still defrosting the turkeys in the sink. Tom swore they were done, but I just couldn’t believe that a 24# bird was done in two days so I just kept both in water. Then I thought, you know—we should really research just how to deep fry the turkeys. I mean, I had asked the king of turkey frying (my cousin, Brian) how to do it, but I didn’t think to ask all the particulars. (You’d think we’d have learned just from watching him do it 20 times, but it was our first time and I wanted to make sure we didn’t screw it up—especially since many guests were involved!) So, in my research, I learned that you really shouldn’t have a turkey over 20#…so I didn’t even want to attempt the 24 pounder, but then we would have only had an 11# bird, which was not a lot of meat for the number of people we were expecting. Tom assured me it would be fine, although he’d really have to watch it (to cover the turkey, the oil would be closer to the top than recommended). We decided to inject the birds with marinade (I happened to have a pre-made Creole Butter mix which smelled heavenly) and then we did a cajun rub on the outside. Then they sat in the frig to marinate and dry off. Here’s my fridge-ful of turkey.
Then I had to make my salad. I was making KFC’s cole slaw (I chose that because it’s simple and doesn’t take long). The only bad thing was that with all the turkey in my frig, we had nowhere to put it so it was neighbors Tom and Karen to the rescue!
In the meantime, Tom was working on getting the outside ready (it had stopped raining and was overcast—actually very nice and breezy). Our neighbor, Roger, came over to mow the lawn for the second time (the first time the night before was to mow it, the second was to obliterate all the little grass clumps). We definitely owe Roger for that…but then, Roger just loves his riding mower—we think he’d mow the whole neighborhood if people would let him!!
Tom ran some last-minute errands…getting the propane filled (we needed one for the turkeys as well as for our grill, so I bought one the night before at Sams…except it was empty) and picking up just a few more plants and stones (to hide the cord to the fountain).
Oh, yes, the fountain. And the garden. That’s a story in itself! Before we knew we were hosting the party, we had decided to change our front contractor-provided landscaping to something more unique (every house has red mulch and the same shrubs). We were going to move all the shrubs to the front of the house (under the bedroom windows) and plant the front area with grasses and such—and fill it with river rock (a whitish stone) instead of mulch (moving the mulch to the shrubs) and edging it with red scalloped brick pavers. Well, earlier in the week, Tom had it laid out with the plants and grasses we had, and honestly, it was a little too barren for me. So, I told him as long as he was taking all the time and making the effort to do this, we weren’t going to do it half-assed…so I ordered him to go buy more stuff. (I’d much rather do it now then wait and try to do it later since it wouldn’t just be a matter of planting stuff. There’s a layer of weed-protectant sheeting that you had to cut through in order to plant, and once the stones were on top, it would be harder to add stuff later.) I also told him I’d love a fountain—it just looked like it needed one! Of course, when I said I wanted a fountain, I thought we’d go buy a small/cheap one and that would be it. Oh, I should have known better! Tom rushed to all his magazines and found a fountain…to build himself! So he ran right out and bought the supplies. (This was before we knew we were hosting the party. Had we known, we would have waited to start building it.) So, over the course of a few nights, he built and installed the fountain. It really does look great in the garden and we’re thrilled with it. The other major project was replanting all the shrubs and moving all the mulch—which HAD to be done before the party, since the mulch was covering the entire sidewalk! That was completed Friday night around 10pm (talk about last minute)!
Around 4, Tom was just getting ready for his second shower of the day and I was just getting ready to sit down and relax…when the doorbell rang. Turns out, it was one of Tom’s buddies! He apparently couldn’t stay long and had somewhere else to go later, so he just showed up early! Ack! It’s a good thing we were done cleaning and whatnot! So Tom talked with him while he got the grill and deep fryer set up. Shortly thereafter, Kate arrived (she would have been there earlier but got tied up in traffic).
About this time, I was starting to get anxious. I was worrying about simple things like how to arrange the table (where to put the silverware, napkins, and plates in relation to the food) and where to put the cups and how many cups to put out…stupid stuff, I know, but never having thrown a party before and wanting everything to be perfect, I was worried! Kate assured me none of it really mattered, and she took the role of just telling me what to do! (Thanks again, Kate!) We got the music started in the living room (gotta love the digital cable music channels—Party Favorites!) and on the porch (a large selection of compilation CDs—I had started to make some mixed CDs then thought ‘Why am I bothering? We have a ton of CDs ready to go’ so I dug them out and that was that). The volleyball net and horseshoes never got set up—which was just as well since everyone was busy chatting. (Although, I’m sure there would have been some good volleyball pics!) We could not have asked for better weather. It stayed overcast all day, so it was actually almost cool (compared to what the weather has been lately) and there was a nice breeze the entire time.
Then stuff just sort of started happening at once. The doorbell rang and one family arrived (whom I happened to know) and my first thought was…”Oh, kids.” Hmmm. Hadn’t thought kids would be here. I mean, we knew two of our neighbors had kids and they would be there, but we honestly had not thought about other people bringing their kids! (Can you tell we’re just SO not in that frame of mind?!?!) Then just as I directed them to beverages and whatnot, the doorbell rang again—and I had no idea who they were. So I introduced myself and they said who they were friends of…okay, cool. Then I happened to look out on the back porch and there were about 10 people out there (who just walked around from the front) who I didn’t know. Okay, the party was officially started! It was just really weird not knowing everyone. And they didn’t know who I was, either. When I introduced myself to people, it was “I’m Jen. This is my house.” It sounded weird, but everyone said “Ah, I was wondering who Jen was!” (We have a sign outside our front door that says “Jen & Tom Hudson, Established 2001” (a wedding present from my aunt). Everyone we talked to loved the house and we got SOOOOO many compliments on it…it was such a good feeling!
Then a plate of burgers came in and Tom said it was time to eat! I lovingly told him that I really wanted more than five burgers on the table before I invited all our guests to eat (probably numbering 20 by that time)! So, about 15 minutes later we had burgers and brats aplenty—plus the first turkey was done so that was being carved. It also turned out to be our first party foul—it wasn’t quite done. So, into the microwave it went and all was good (and no one even knew, until now that is!). Then dinner was announced and people filed in and all went well!
I stayed out of the area (giving little tours to people I knew) and then I filled a plate and went to sit down. Most people were outside, which was great, and only a few were inside. I walked into the den and felt immediately at ease—it was filled with our neighbors! I sat down and said “Finally, some people I know!”
Tom was the consummate host. He was literally busting his butt cooking and frying and running around. I hadn’t been out to the garage (where the cooking was going on, because it was too windy to do in the back yard) but when I did venture out there, there were another 20 people out there—much to my surprise! Then I looked and there were cars up and down the entire street! (I wished I would have taken a picture.) Tom’s best guesstimate is that there were probably 45-50 people there throughout the night.
Then things are a blur. There was visiting and hostessing and the time was just flying by. We had plenty of food, and everyone loved the turkey! The cool thing was the people who showed up… we invited our actual next-door neighbors that morning when we saw them outside (it seems they’re hardly ever home) and we didn’t expect them to come but they did! And she even brought a chocolate dessert!! We had a really good time visiting with them and it’s great that we now know them better. We also got to meet another set of neighbors that we’ve only seen in passing. The wives all talked and I got the scoop on our contractor and the development corporation (from the wives that have been here over a year). Then I turned around to someone else I didn’t know…turns out, it was our kitty-corner neighbor and his wife (with introductions like “Ohhh! So you’re the one on the riding lawn mower!”). You know, I honestly don’t know if they were invited or if they just came over…but it was all good. The really cool thing is that I saw someone I knew from Quantico—I didn’t know she was living in the area and she showed up at the party because she knew a friend of a friend who lived down the street! I was walking down the driveway and I saw her and I was like “Hey! I know you!” It was funny.
Things started to clear out around 11 (and I thought “Oh my! It’s only 11? I could have sworn it was later!”) and the music got a little louder and the guests a little rowdier! Roger was walking around with a bottle of Goldschlager trying to give out shots (so I obliged in a few), then later I was walking around with a bottle of Jagermeister to pass out shots—and there were more than a few takers!
Overall, the party was a success. I really do need to give a huge thanks to our neighbors—they all offered any assistance we needed and really came through… from Roger mowing the lawn and blowing off the driveway, sidewalks, and garage to Ursula (Roger’s wife) bringing two side dishes (as well as getting me some last minute lemonade)…from Tom and Karen loaning us the use of their refrigerator to Tom making a run for some Captain Morgan…and at the last minute when our grill went kaput, both Roger and Tom bringing their grills over! (And I do mean last-minute….there were burgers on the grill when it died.) Then, of course, Heidi and Neil (who are also neighbors, but they were also the co-hosts)…Heidi brought two side dishes and Neil picked up the keg and some extra tables!