When people leave Uruguay you throw them a going away party. It is called a Despedida. Considering that this year we had so many people leaving, it only made sense that we had one big despedida. That being said, the people leaving all had their plates full and no one was taking the initiative. Plus, I had just finished planning a huge Kick Cancer’s Ass party and couldn’t bring myself to plan yet another event. I honestly cannot remember details on how it got planned. All I know is that Brad rented his rooftop, I sent invitations and donated the rest of the meat from my own party, and the others…well I am not really sure what everyone did, but regardless we had a date set.
The afternoon before the event, I was roped into a Bodega trip. It was going to be the last one with Erin and Tavis. Despite the fact I had already been, I felt like I needed to return to this one. That meant that the kids were on their own planning and setting up for the party. I love my friends, but party planning is not their strong suit.
By the time we all arrived from the bodega, we had several bottles of wine in us. But I knew if I stopped going and took a nap I would never go out again. So, I headed to Brad’s house. And big holy shit! The fire was not started, there was no real set up of the place – no place for food or drinks. I mean insert a palm to forehead emoji. So I run around gathering plates and utensils. I get out the glass for drinks. I start setting up places to eat and serve the food. I manage ice. Katie makes cute little flag table settings, one for each country our people are moving to. And Brad and Seba finally start the fire. You see, considering who was leaving our whole school was practically invited. And all that was sitting out was a bag of chips. I wanted to take everyone by the necks and shake them – THIS ISN’T A BLOODY FRAT PARTY! This is our time to say goodbye to you, to remember with you, to celebrate the time we had with you.
By the time guests started arriving, we were all a little more organized. I continually told myself that it wasn’t my party and relaxed a little bit. The food started coming and people started eating, which always sets Uruguayans at ease. Laughter rang, especially at the fact that Brad used a meat thermometer for the parrilla. I thought the Uruguayan men were going to tear their hair out watching him stick the meat each time.
We danced, we drank, we ate. Then we repeated. Pictures were taken of the group and then those leaving. Greg and Nancy left early. Greg wasn’t feeling well and had really only come for me. Michael peaced out a little later. I have no idea when Ana left, which wasn’t unusual. Finally, we were down to the stragglers – the leftover party guests who were ready to party. But I just didn’t feel like going inside and dancing to Shakira. It was freezing cold outside, yet Brad, Seba, Vero, Mark, Cheryl, and I all stayed by the left over fire. There was some conversation, but for the most part we just stared into the flames. For me personally, I was thinking about how much I was going to miss these people. From my mornings with Greg to poker nights with Brad to date weekends with Katie to Michael coming into my room disturbing my planning – I was really going to miss my people. The flames bounced around memories and what ifs and what’s to comes. It was like being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future all at once. And I got very somber. Not sad, but somber – just pensive enough to recognize the change in the air. We were weeks away from our final goodbye.
By the time our faces started to freeze, we made our way into the warmth. And that is when a young friend of Katie recommended playing Kings, a card drinking game from college. Two rounds and one accidental faux pas by Seba and I was out. I was too reflective and old to stick around for that shit. I said my goodbyes and made my way home. I also looked at my watch and realized it was my first night out to 3am. I must really love these people to stay up that far past my bedtime. And I do. Very much.