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A Sticky Situation

To read more humor please buy my latest book:
Where Are Pat and Ernie Now?

"It may be warm in California," Shane had told Lisa before the trip, "but it’s dry heat." Shane is my son. Lisa is his fiancé. They live in New Hampshire.

"It’s been cold back east," Stacey, my daughter said, as we picked the three of them up at the Santa Barbara airport. "Looking forward to some warmth."

"You’re in luck," Pat said. It was 90 degrees. In September!

They looked at the billowing clouds over the mountains. "In New Hampshire, those clouds would indicate rain," Lisa said.

"Not here," I said. "Probably won’t rain again until November. Which is good because of the party."

The three of them had flown out to help us celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We were having a combo party-of-the-century with Pat’s sister and her husband, who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. The party was going to be in our backyard. We had people coming from all over.

We wanted it to be a nice early fall party, with the warmish day turning into a crisp evening with a slight breeze and near full moon. We had a 12-foot square dance floor delivered. "You are lucky to be on the coast," said one of the set-up guys. "We were just in Los Olivos. It was 106 degrees." It was only 92 degrees in Santa Barbara.

We began setting up tables in a u-shape around the dance floor. We ran power for the music, dumped ice into coolers. Set up lawn games like badminton, croquet, cornhole, and giant jenga. In the kitchen people were preparing salads, key lime pies and side dishes. There were fans going. People were sipping out of chilled glasses that stayed frosted about 30 seconds. Outside, Patrick dumped charcoal into the giant cement grill in preparation for grilling kabobs. I thought briefly that we could have just laid them on the sidewalk and let them cook.

At 2:30 on Sunday, an hour-and-a-half before the party was to begin, it was 98 degrees and climbing. And the humidity was rising. People were going to swelter! We set up every umbrella we had. They cast small shadows on the lawn and the corner of one table. People were going to get heat stroke! Did the app on my iPhone tell me what to do for heat stroke?

Billowing clouds increased, but did not seem to be affect the heat at all. Several of us decided to jump in the pool to cool off before the festivities started – if anyone came. That’s when we heard the first rumbling.

"Sounds like thunder."

"Can’t be. Not in Santa Barbara. Not today."

There was more rumbling. And a flash. "Was that lightening?" Another flash over the mountains. Probably out in the Valley. Miles away. Another loud rumbling. Right over our heads. The next flash was like an x-ray and cleared out the pool. I felt a drop. Rain? No way!

I ran to help cover the tables that were already laid out with dishes, silverware and wine glasses. By the time I got to the house and back with some sheets, it was pouring. Sideways. Patrick was holding an umbrella with one hand while trying to keep the charcoals going with the other. I took over umbrella duty. I had to keep shifting the umbrella as the rain and wind came from the left, then the right, then from the front. I hoped the umbrella didn’t have a metal tip. Later they would call it a microburst. Quite rare. People were going to fry from the lightening! Or die from flooding! Or get blown away. Our party would be on the news. "Tragedy in Santa Barbara, as anniversary party gets microbursted. Several members found blocks away holding smoldering kabobs."

What now? It had taken days of preparation. And dozens of people, a u-shaped table with 12x12 dance floor, and badminton, croquet, cornhole, and giant jenga were not going to fit into our condo living room. Never mind the cement barbecue grill.

Then… the rain stopped. The wind subsided. The skies quieted. And the people came. And we laughed. And ate and drank and danced. And played party games. It cooled down. And Santa Barbara settled back into its glorious self.

"We should do this every year," I said.

"Right," Pat said.