There aren't many holidays I actually care about.
July 4th is just picnics and cheap fireworks. St. Patricks Day and New Years ceased being remotely enjoyable after 25. Thanksgiving is a cavalcade of guilt and horrible travel experiences. Most of the rest of the calendar holidays are there to give kindergarten teachers lesson plans. And don't even get me started on that manufactured trap of unfair expectations and depression in mid-February.
That leaves Christmas, my birthday, and the Super Bowl. And not in that order.
Every year we throw a party for the big game, and up until this year that generally meant one Patriot fan and one Giant fan hanging out in our living room eating Bacon Explosion until Oodgie was drunk enough to play Rock Band with us.
But this year, when the word went out on the streets of Austin that we were having a Super Bowl party the response was enormous. Pretty much everybody we'd ever met, from our next door neighbor to the homeless guy using taekwondo on apparitions outside Alamo Drafthouse, had promised to come. And with space to actually host that many people for the first time in our lives, we were pumped for a Mardi Gras-sized shindig.
Alas, parenthood rarely allows for such straightforward planning. Particularly when viruses are involved.
On Friday, when Oodgie picked Cheeky up at "school," our little Sea Gal had the demeanor of a George Romero extra. By Saturday night she was hallucinating, punctuating slurred references to closet monsters and Mesoamerican architecture (spoken in the original Toltec) with blood-curdling screams that had us debating emergency room visits. Her lethargy on Sunday morning--with her little arms hanging loosely at her sides as she watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with glassy eyes--prompted a serious debate of canceling the party.
The thought of a game day scratch went against every fiber of my NFL-loving being, but to spring a plague-victim on a crowd of unsuspecting guests seemed irresponsible. So we sent a note out to everyone letting them know the story. Beer was chilling, and the Saints and Colts were going to play anyway, so if your leukocytes were sufficiently resilient you were welcome to join us. But germaphobes or the infirm were welcome to bail without consequences.
I'll bet you can guess the next sequence of events.
Two friends who just recovered from the flu ducked out. Three sets of parents, all with similarly afflicted kids, dropped out as well. Symptoms were reported by an invited co-worker, while another could barely cough out an e-mail apologizing for his own recusal. Then lame excuses like "we don't want to be a burden" and "we've got a lot of work to do on Monday" started to take hold. Our party for thirty had rapidly become a party of eight.
It was shocking how quickly the domino's fell. Apparently God had sneezed on Texas and left only a handful of survivors standing. I debated whether it was time to pack up the family and head to the Boulder Free Zone.
But in a weird way it was almost a relief. A more intimate affair isn't a bad thing, especially if fewer people are blocking the TV. I was feeling guilty about my torn allegiances between socializing with friends and my sick child (as demonstrated by a tense showdown over whether she'd take her medicine which roughly corresponded to Pierre Garcon's dropped pass in the second quarter) and the collective bail-out made me feel a little less selfish. And most importantly...more beer for me.
Maybe next year we'll be safe and send bottles of Tamiflu with our invites. I just wish it came in dinosaur chicken nugget shape so Cheeky would take it, too.