Bittersweet Goodbyes

So yesterday and today were marathon days getting ready for the big retirement party for my Mom tomorrow. Last night I baked and made the cream cheese mints, and early this morning I made a roaster of Stuffed Cabbage with my Mom’s help. No sleeping in this weekend! While we worked on that, Debbie was at her house (she lives next door to my Mom) making a thousand meatballs (or close to that), homemade Cavatelli and oodles more brownies and cupcakes. Ah — we’re almost ready!!!

While we worked on the food, the guys (Tom, Scott and Tommy) went to the hall and set up the tables. They dropped off all the stuff we had been gathering for the past month. Things like soda pop, water, coffee maker, paper products, decorations, etc. We were loaded to roof of my SUV — with another trip tomorrow before the party!

At 2:00, after having homemade pizza lunch that Debbie made (so yummy), we went to the hall to decorate. I haven’t been to the South Beaver Fire Hall in probably 20 years or more. I think the last time I was there was for Debbie’s wedding shower in 1994, or maybe there was an election there before I moved from the township in 1998. As kids, we were there all the time. My Dad was a fireman and my Mom worked in the kitchen a lot for things. There was always something going on there, and Mom and Dad were active with everything they did in the community. There couldn’t be a more appropriate place to hold Mom’s retirement party — after serving this community for almost four decades — and spending so much of her free time in this building.

I was sitting on a folding chair waiting for my nieces to finish twisting crate paper down the walls, while Debbie was messing around with odds and ends. The hall sure looked smaller than I remembered. There was a newer Coke machine in the back — and I remembered the old soda machine that used to be there when we were kids. There was cherry soda pop in glass bottles in that one — or root beer. It was one of my favorite things about going there! Dad would always dig through his pockets for change so we could get a pop. Or sometimes he would tell us no, and we would be so bummed.

When the hall was empty and all the tables and chairs were put away, us kids would run through the big hall, doing cartwheels. It’s the same flooring — white and gold tile. I can remember my Dad cleaning that floor with a mop until it shined. It’s pretty dirty today. Everything has aged in the building and the township doesn’t even rent the building for parties or weddings anymore. The chairs are old, the building is drafty, the water is iron-filled. But, ahhh so many memories here.

Mom and Dad went to many New Years Eve parties here. All their friends in the township would go. And the next day, we would love the hats, tiaras, streamers and noise makers they would bring home for us. Then we would go to the hall to help clean up from the previous night. Remnants of the celebration would be all around — balloons still drifting around (they would drop them from the ceiling), curled streamers covering the floor and crate paper, still strung across the ceiling.

I remember auctions being held there, dances, Halloween parties for the kids (prizes were awarded by age groups), weddings, funerals and more. Mom was always cooking in the kitchen with the other wives of the volunteer firemen — exactly for what, I don’t really know. Some of these women and their husbands will be at the party tomorrow — lifelong friends of my Mom and Dad.

There couldn’t be a more appropriate place to celebrate the end of era and turning over the reigns to another generation. Tomorrow will be bittersweet for all.

Let me know your thoughts!