The Welcome Party, Part 1

Marta smoothed out the small table cloth again and stood back to admire her handiwork. There was no rush – perfect homemaking takes time and attention to detail, she reminded herself. Besides, Tarquin was on the grounds somewhere with the Watercolour Tutor and Arabella and Cinna were shopping with the Nanny for the new season. Good thing too. After an entire summer their party dresses were looking worn. Everything had to be perfect for her upcoming function. Her future as an independent career woman depended on it.

The name tags were placed in alphabetic order on a new side table she had bought especially for the event. They were perfectly printed with the script “Welcome to Snobsville Grammar”. One for each parent, child and sibling to allow for the perfect opportunity to mingle without embarrassing memory lapses. Marta had toyed with the idea of putting the wearer’s profession underneath each name to provide easy talking points for the less capable conversationalists among Snobsville’s elite. On the one hand it would deliver the optimum mix between polite chatter and centrally controlled audio- inoffensive background music. On the other, she hadn’t been able to decide between ‘Happy Homemaker’ and ‘Aspiring Home and Style Bloggist” for her own name tag. In the end, she thought the whole idea might be a bit gauche and ordered just the names to be printed. Because often, less is more.

Details. The devil is in the perfect, minute details, she reminded herself.

Marta stood back and admired the room – soft lighting, fresh hydrangeas, (because old is very definitely new right now), neatly presented bar in the corner, (not too intrusive, we don’t want anyone lingering to be revealed as a lush), and very smooth table cloths…she sighed with satisfaction. Her eyes involuntarily narrowed before she corrected herself. She didn’t want to get wrinkles right before the big event. She focussed in on one of the ‘circulation tables’. They were specifically sized for three men or four women to sit at for the perfect rate of guest circulation, assuming a refreshment rate of 1-2 cocktails per 30 minutes.

Each was adorned with three hand-picked pine cones on a perfectly aged silver platter, in keeping with the autumn tones and theme she had chosen for the event. Usually she would ask the Nanny to go hunting for them on the grounds for an added personal rustic touch, but this Summer had been extraordinarily hot and the first glimpse of Autumn was yet to arrive. She had to be content with commercially acquired cones from a lesser variety of pine flown in from Tasmania where it was almost always Autumn. But the forestry manager had assured her they were definitely hand-picked. This was important to her, because details really do matter.

In the far right corner near the bar, where she hoped the husbands more prone to excessive imbibing would sit, was a table setting with two cones instead of three. “Dammit.” She whispered under her breath, refraining from grimacing to ensure her skin remained fresh and vibrant for the evening’s festivities. She considered leaving it – party goers who frequent tables in the corner were not known for their eye for detail.

But there’s that word again. Detail. Success is in the detail.

She sighed. She would commission the gardener to scour the grounds for the first pine cone on his final walk through before the party. Failing that he could go to the local park where there was bound to be a couple of newly dropped cones.

Well, she was satisfied enough if not for the errant cone. As she walked out of the party setting, she noticed the door to the Lego room was wide open and silently scolded Tarquin. She had reminded him a dozen times to keep it closed. It is never appropriate to boast and draw attention to your excess of belongings. She hoped she could instil such well-mannered values in her children, but between art classes, sporting endeavours and an extra-curricular curriculum as set out by the family’s General Tutor there just wasn’t time for deportment classes too. So it would fall to her to ensure their social skills. She shuddered as she took one last glance of the room behind her before leaving it in her wake. It was her one failing as a mother so far. Despite the colour coded box system, somehow the room always looked unkempt.

She looked at her watch. Tarquin needed to finish his watercolour submission to the Snobsville Gazette. He was to write an accompanying essay about what inspired it, and it needed to be penned by morning to make next month’s paper. She would need to have it finished within the hour to avoid staying up all night after the party, which would mean puffy eyes the next day. If Tarquin missed his deadline he would likely remain unpublished by his 6th birthday and one of Marta’s goals would remain unfulfilled. Such an ugly word.

She took one last look at the room behind her. The waterfront view was nice, but didn’t really suit her autumn theme. It was a niggling complaint that she didn’t quite have the answer for. After a few moments’ thought, she conceded that waterfront views are always in fashion. This is a detail she really couldn’t change.

Finally satisfied, though only barely, she walked out of the room to get to work on Tarquin’s submission. She had just under an hour to complete it before the House and Garden editor was arriving to peruse her party set up with his favourite indoor photographer. If he liked what he saw, her Home and Style blog was just within reach. Marta looked down at her attire and realised she would need a quick refresh of her clothing before the hair and make up artist arrived. White capris were just fine for work, but they are easily smudged by the careless hands of the creative help. Besides, it was nigh on Autumn – time to put capris, especially white ones, away. As she sat down at her computer she remembered she would need to give written instructions before Nanny pressed her linen dress for this evening as well. It had to be just right. So very much to do, and so little time.

Something told Marta this would be an evening Snobvillians would talk about for months to come.

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