Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's time to party like it's 2009

Mrs. Hall slid into her black patent leather pumps while Mr. Hall rummaged through his closet. Emerging with something green and red and wrinkled, he held it up to her scrutiny. "Do you think it's appropriately hideous?" he inquired, but the look of horror on her face revealed that no reply was necessary. "Perfect," he said. "I'm ready." There must be an unwritten rule amongst the legions of haberdashers, Mrs. H. mused, that requires them to make Christmas ties of such unmistakably ghastly material, that no one will ever be tempted to wear them any other time of the year.

Fridays in December are always a little more festive and last Friday, the Halls began their festivities a trifle early. Closing up shop shortly after 4:00, they toddled on down to Oakwood Crematory, just south of the Syracuse University campus, for their annual cocktail party. It's quite a varied group, from funeral directors and vault salesmen, to secretaries and sextants. Kelly's restaurant usually caters the event, and folks mill in and out, in a leisurely fashion, remarking on the sogginess of the surrounding terrain and how the whims of the current economy favor or disfavor their businesses. Mr. Hall surveyed the room, looking for his colleagues, and spying no business suits nor many grey heads, concluded that for the first time, he knew fewer than half the guests in the room. He sighed deeply, and touched Mrs. H's elbow. "Finish your shrimp and let's head on over to Daniel's early tonight. I feel like Methuselah in here."

It was a quiet trip the whole way back, and dropping his homburg in the big black car, Mr. Hall said,"There's a Manhattan with my name on it waiting for me." But as soon as they slid into the bar, it became evident there was more than that. Steven Iltsch (prominent funeral director and Past Potentate of Tigris Shrine) and his lovely wife Pam, and that popular bon vivant Hugh Norris and his charming spouse Joyce, cheered him on and welcomed him with "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow!" Mrs. H. had arranged for some of his friends to meet him this Friday to celebrate his birthday and to toast him on to a new year. Several glasses of wine and a few dinner courses (including of course, a birthday cake, bearing the legend "Happy Birthday Mr. Hall", that Colleen had picked up and stashed at Daniel's) later, the merry band rolled out fat and sleepy. Mr. H. deposited his present, a boxed set of season three of "The Man Show" next to his homburg, sighed contentedly, took Mrs. H's hand and drove home.

The Thursday before last, the Halls had to work late, so it was nearly 4:45 by the time the big black car headed south on Route 81 towards Endwell. Batesville Casket Company was holding their Christmas party in the Southern Tier this year, at the Traditions on the Glen resort. The Mansion At Traditions At The Glen was built in 1919 as the residence of Mr. Eliot Spalding - treasurer of the Endicott Johnson Shoe Company. In 1935, the property was sold to IBM - who first used the mansion as an employee country club. In 1938, the company converted it into a hotel for visiting executives coming into Endicott to master the growing line of data processing machines. In 2004, the mansion and its lovely grounds were purchased and restored to an 18-room inn with overnight accommodations, meeting and banquet space, and a championship 18 hole golf course. It's a little late in the year for golf, said Mr. Hall, but they'll probably have a nice dinner there. The whole resort was decorated beautifully, with bows and swags and poinsettias aplenty; certainly enough to draw the eye carefully from the hors d'oeuvre and carving stations to the casket display on the other side of the room. Wine spritzers and sales pitches were the order of the evening- Mrs. Hall was careful not to drop crumbs from her little Italian Christmas cookies into the crepe as she leaned over the merchandise to check it out. "It's just like going to the Auto Show", she exclaimed "with all the new fabrics and colors and styles!" After a quick examination of the new web hosting service Batesville offered and the announcement of a potential central registry for obituaries in tandem with Ancestry.com, the Halls decided they had seen it all and thanking their hosts, pointed the big black car homeward. Next episode: the fun continues!

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