The night couldn’t have been more perfect. For days the Robertson’s had planned, organized and stressed about their end-of-summer cocktail party. Having gone to great lengths to ensure their guests experienced only the best of nights, the couple was pleased to see that so far, everything was going quite well.
The conversation was flowing, as was the wine and laughter punctuated the evening like a malfunctioning typewriter. The music was floating headily on the fragrant California breeze and the swinging candelabra strung in the limbs of the half-dozen ancient oak trees gave the entire night a quality that The Bard’s Oberon and Titania would easily be at home in.
Yes, it was a night that would be remembered fondly by all in attendance (and envied by all who didn’t make it onto the guest list).
Mrs. Diana Robertson, or “Di” as she preferred to be called, played the perfect hostess. Drifting from one guest to the next, everyone felt as if they were the personal favorite of this magnanimous lady who by all accounts, was the quintessential definition of what it was to be a lady of class. Her husband, Clint, was no social slouch either. Slapping backs and offering cigars, Clint rose to the occasion each time his wife insisted on hosting one of her ‘affairs’ (although he’d much rather be flying his Cessna 182 or enjoying a quiet scotch in his study).
Di smiled gaily as she spotted one of her newest acquaintances, Tanya across the candlelit courtyard. Tanya, having just moved to the city, had been introduced to Di through a mutual friend several weeks ago and the two women had immediately hit it off. Excusing herself from the couple she had been chatting with, Di tip-toed gracefully through the throngs of party-goers and made her way to her friend.
“Ya- Ya!” Di exclaimed with her usual enthusiasm. Di never called anyone by their given name, choosing rather to christen them with her own carefully chosen nickname. Di’s nicknames were something of a rite of passage in that part of town and they were more coveted than an invitation to one of her ‘affairs’. “I’m so pleased you could come!” she said as she squeezed Tanya’s hands in greeting.
“Of course I came! I have been looking forward to this since you were so kind to invite me,” Tanya smiled in return. While she really did like Di, she could not stand her new moniker and hoped that she might soon convince Di to modify it in the coming weeks of their budding friendship.
Di beckoned one of the waiters to refill their glasses and the two women were soon completely engrossed in conversation. As the talked, Tanya couldn’t help but become a little distracted by an odd site in the corner of her vision. Standing by one of the buffet tables, almost completely obscured by the shadows, was a young man behaving rather strangely. Careful to stay on the fringe of the party, this young man was dressed impeccably but rather than joining any one of the half dozen small groups of guests standing nearby, he was pacing- almost feverishly. Back and forth, back and forth; like a caged dog walking his pen’s perimeter, it was practically mesmerizing.
Unable to squelch her curiosity any longer, Tanya decided to take advantage of the pause in conversation. “Di, who is that young man, uh, over there by the far buffet?” She asked as politely as she could.
Turning her head in the direction of Tanya’s indication, Di squinted a second before recognition filled her expression and caused her to smile. “Oh my dear, that is our youngest- James. Isn’t he handsome?” Di said as she took another dainty sip from her champagne glass.
“Yes, he is a beautiful boy,” Tanya replied a little uncomfortably. “I hate to pry, but your son seems a bit… agitated. Is he quite all right?” Tanya asked over her glass of Chardonnay.
Looking back at her son as if she hadn’t noticed the frenzied movements earlier, Di responded simply, “Oh, he’s just anxious” as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Not wishing to insult her new friend, Tanya allowed Di to change the subject to the newest hatchlings of the two swans on the Robertson’s property, all the while stealing glances at the Robertson boy.
Veterans of the Robertson’s parties attended the affairs well aware of one ‘oddity’ that could present itself during the festivities- the arrival of the Robertson boy. The Robertson’s youngest son, James, or Jimmy Jimmy as he was almost immediately dubbed by his mother, had always been a bit odd. Jimmy Jimmy was now back at home after a string of ‘unfortunate incidents’ at three of the nation’s top boarding schools. Jimmy Jimmy was a sweet kid, but unfortunately, he did not inherit his parents’ natural ability to charm a crowd. Shy, reserved and a bit high-strung, Jimmy Jimmy had developed several strange tendencies that seemed to only manifest in times of stress or heightened anxiety. The most obvious of these was his pacing.
Curious about the strangers in his parent’s home, Jimmy Jimmy stole into the backyard and silently observed the festivities. While some faces he recognized, many were new- and that made him uncomfortable. Wishing he could take part in the party but knowing his shyness would prevail, Jimmy Jimmy began to pace in agitation. Soon, a worn path had developed in his parent’s once perfectly manicured lawn. This observation further upset the sensitive boy and he felt like bolting. Practicing the calming techniques the doctor had taught him, Jimmy Jimmy closed his eyes and breathed in two deep breaths. Better. Feeling eyes on him, Jimmy Jimmy peaked one eye open to see a strange lady staring right at him.
While he knew his behavior was not completely normal, most of his parent’s friends knew about his oddities but more importantly, they knew not to stare. They would smile and say ‘hello’, sometimes offering a drink or piece of food, but most just ignored Jimmy Jimmy, as instructed by his parents. But now this strange woman was staring openly at him and all he wanted was to scream at her and run back inside. But something was holding him back. Continuing to pace, Jimmy Jimmy tried to ignore the rude woman and would have been successful had she not started to walk towards him.
Jimmy Jimmy increased his pacing, moving at almost a run now. Tanya moved slowly towards the disturbed boy, taking slow steps. Finally, only a few paces away, Tanya turned her back and pretended to ignore him. Hearing the boy slow his canter, Tanya slowly revealed a cocktail plate loaded with bacon and offered it to Jimmy Jimmy. With the bacon outstretched, Tanya quietly cooed, “Come on, you can take it. It’s ok, come on”. Jimmy Jimmy seemed to be considering the offer when,
“What on earth are you doing?” Di’s voice pierced the night, her outrage apparent as she made a B-line towards Tanya and her son.
The commotion startled Jimmy Jimmy who immediately took off and hid in some bushes out of sight. Tanya, also a bit startled, watched the boy run off before turning back to her irate friend.
“I was just trying to introduce myself, Di. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend or scare the boy. I just thought he might like something to eat,” Tanya stuttered as she began to think about what her actions must have looked like to Di.
‘Oh? Is that all? Because it looked to me like you were offering a plate full of bacon to my son like he was some kind of skittish dog,” Di and every guest within earshot was now staring reproachfully at Tanya.
Belatedly realizing that that was exactly what she had been doing, Tanya hung her head and silently cursed her chosen profession. “Being a dog trainer was really starting to impede my social life,” she thought as she fled to her car.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Ok, so first off I’m not thrilled with how this story ended but I’ll just have to make due for now and revisit it sometime when I’m not about to face plant into the keyboard…they can’t all be super-duper amazing. For the last few days we have been working to get Zorro a little more accustomed to living with us and acclimating to our routine. He’s been doing great and is steadily getting used to his new ‘pack mates’ (that would be me, Andy & Joey). Of course it’s a work in progress, and when he gets stressed or anxious, he starts pacing. He paces if Andy leaves, he paces if we are moving around a lot, he paces if he hears a loud noise, he paces if we have visitors. All this pacing and I swear, this dog must be clocking at least 10 miles a day easy. The pacing is also slowly diminishing in frequency, until this afternoon when we had our first visitors over. Andy’s mom and her boyfriend came to meet Zorro causing him to instantly start making laps around the house. All this pacing got me thinking, what if people were as obvious about their anxiety as Zorro was? What if, under uncomfortable or stressful situations, a person just started pacing without any explanation? The story kind about kind of took on a life of its own, taking me in a direction I wasn’t intending but it basically explores that idea. If you’d like to see Zorro in action click here.
TWO: Today, while venturing out of the house (we only leave in short increments to wean Zorro on to the concept of being left alone) we made a stop at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market before heading to one of the posh doggy store’s on the Avenue (Park Ave., that is). While shopping for a collar and leash for our new puppy-dog, we were told all about the amazing work of the dog trainer who had just left the shop. Thought it was an appropriate occupation for poor Tanya.
Love & Squirrels.