Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics

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The gray mid-day sky lit up with a brilliant blinding flash. Moments later came a sharp crackle. Its echo reverberated as if it came from inside a deep canyon.

Thus, were the thunderstorms of my youth. Short. Spectacular. And always worth pulling up a lawn chair and watching through the open garage door. It was only a one-car garage, but the space proved wide enough to fit me, my brother, and my father.

You know the kind of lawn chairs I’m talking about. They’re classic. The thin aluminum piping folded for easy and convenient storage. When unfolded you’d sit on its plastic webbing that cushioned your bottom for comfort. Kenny and I would often struggle to avoid being left with the one with the loosest webbing.

Best of all, these classic lawn chairs could get wet. This was often a risk while watching those wandering summer storms. Sometimes a gust of wind would blow the pouring rain beneath the slight eave of roof covering the garage. When that happened with sudden unexpectedness, the three of us would yell, quickly stand up, and rapidly backpedal the chairs to dryer environs.

All the while laughing. It was so much fun.

Now imagine the same meteorological conditions, only in the middle of a big party. But not just any party, an anniversary party. And not just any anniversary party, but a tenth anniversary party. Dozens of people – mostly adults and two little boys by the name of Chris and Kenny – packed themselves into this tiny garage as the bubbling thunderstorm abruptly decided to send down a steady stream that drenched those too slow to make it inside.

All the while laughing. It was so much fun.

Yes, with all the celebrating this month, you may think the title contains a typo. It doesn’t. While the party in question did occur in 1969 literally days before the lunar walk, the event it celebrated occurred a decade earlier. You see, it was during the near 90° Saturday late morning of July 4th, 1959 that my parents Patsy D. and Lena B. Carosa were married. And for those interested in weather history, this hot, humid heat wave was “normal” (according to the Rochester D&C headline) and failed to come close to the 1911 record high of 100°.

With the oldest daughter of one large Italian family and the oldest son of another large Italian family marrying, that party of 1959 could not have been anything but huge. But that was only a hint of things to come.

Within that first decade, and the decades beyond, my parents would team together to throw fantastic unforgettable parties (and other events). For a flavor of these, consider the very first one.

Almost immediately upon returning from their honeymoon, they invited their best man and his wife to their new apartment. My mother decided to play elegant hostess for her first post-matrimonial party. She prepared a litany of elaborate hors d’oeuvres to which the best man responded, “Why so fancy? I only need some Italian bread and a few slices of salami.”

This did not dissuade my mother. The young school teacher and budding home economist, as soon as she was eligible (i.e., when I entered kindergarten) found herself placed as the head of the PTA. She immediately organized an international rummage sale, complete with “foods of the world.” This went well beyond the usual PTA fare and vaulted Mom to a pantheon which all other parents viewed with awe.

You may recall I wrote about the special influence my mother had on my brother and me when we were very young (see “The Problem with Ambition: Sometimes You Can Succeed Without It,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, May 10, 2018). In that piece, I explained how she commanded us to “Think.” She challenged us to take standard lessons and everyday experiences and forge them into new and unexplored ideas.

Similarly, I wrote earlier about what my father taught us (see “You Can Create a Pleasant and Unforgettable Memory by Following These Three Rules,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, June 14, 2018). His word to us was “obey.” It referred to safety considerations. It also, however, often defined what was needed to take the easy path to making something better.

They taught us this not merely through words, but through their actions. The story of the hors d’oeuvres and the PTA rummage sale represent examples we may not have noticed. Here are a couple we did notice. More important, as we shall see in a moment, my father joined with my mother and played a critical role in delivering these.

When my classmates’ parents went looking for a dad to head our new Cub Scout Pack, they choose him. His job was to run the Pack meetings. Under his leadership, each Pack meeting became a memorable event for the entire family, not just the boys of the Pack. My mother, with access to a full library of Cub Scout books, wrote entertaining and educational (remember, she’s a teacher) scripts that my father practiced in advance of the meeting. When it was time for him to perform, he faithfully obeyed the spirit of the script. In doing so, he turned it into a reality that, well, never looked scripted.

A year or so later, with access to a large collegiate library as she studied for her master’s degree, my mother diligently researched Mardi Gras parties. She took the templates she read of and transformed them into a party designed for my parents’ friends. My father read that updated template and instinctively knew how to perform it.

When the time came to hold their Mardi Gras party in the basement of our raised ranch home, they allowed me and my brother a chance to sneak a peek before we went to bed. There, under the ceiling streamers and amidst the many balloons, stood my parents and my aunt and uncle dressed as roman gladiators and goddesses. Yes, 10 years before Animal House would show my generation how the previous generation enjoyed their toga parties, my parents were actually having one. (Which begs the question, did their parents approve of what they were doing?)

By the time the rains came down on their 10th anniversary party, (and the roasting pig looked burned at their 15th anniversary party, and… well, you get it) they knew exactly how to handle it. They had been working together as a team in front of live audiences for so long, they were comfortable in the face of both working the script and adlibbing off the script when situation demanded.

In a way, the interplay between “think” and “obey” represent a beautiful dance between strategy and tactics.

Mom was “think,” Dad was “obey.” In other words, Mom was “strategy” and Dad was “tactics.”

Together they make an unstoppable pair that invariably leads to a common objective: accomplishment

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