In 1999, I was working for a technology consulting company. I took a vacation with my family to England and Scotland. Upon my return home, I made an off-hand joke to my boss: "Hey, I've got my passport. If you have any international projects, I'm your man!" The next day he informed me that there was an international project, and that I'd be shipping out to France in two weeks.
I was added to a team based primarily out of the Indianapolis, Indiana office of our company. What followed was over a year of travel throughout Europe, and one trip to Hong Kong. We spent many long days and nights of hard work and hard play, getting to know one another, making friends around the globe, and excelling at our work.
In many ways I was the odd-man-out: the project had been going for almost two years by the time I joined up, so many relationships (good and bad!) were well established. When we returned home between trips, I was in Columbus, over three hours away from the rest of the team, so there was little socializing with them during my down time.
But as time went on, I became close to almost all of my teammates. I was invited regularly to events and goings-on in Indianapolis, many of which I made a real effort to attend. The most important was the St. Patrick's Day party. Leo, our project manager, invited the team, their families, and many of his friends into his house for one heck of a St. Patrick's Day event. Even after the project was over, I made it a point to trek to Indianapolis every year for Leo's party. It's been the one consistent time for me to reconnect with all the members of our team.
From an outsider's point of view, it must've been pretty boring: we'd tell the same stories every year, laughing at the hijinks from our travels, and groaning at all of the aggravating beauracracy and politicking we were forced to endure. But for those of us who had shared those moments, the stories were an important connection, and an important reminder of where we'd been, physically and emotionally.
Two years ago, the party swelled well beyond comfortable for Leo's house and yard, so last year he coordinated with the school around the corner. Sponsors were arranged, prizes made available, and a fabulous feast was prepared. The first annual Leopalooza was held.
It was a blast, with maybe three hundred people (or more?) in attendence. Guinness and beef stew, lamb stew, corned beef and cabbage, plus plenty of stout and ale made sure everyone was satiated. Live music played on a stage. It was less personal than the gathering in Leo's house years prior, but it was still a great chance to reconnect with my friends, and meet some new ones. The money raised from ticket sales was used to create a fund for students at the school, in memory of Leo's late wife. A great time, and a good cause: it was perfect.
This year, Carina and I had hoped to take the twins with us to the party. We were a little disappointed to learn that it was adults only (due to alcohol sales), but we failed to find a baby sitter. So we took the twins with us, and decided we'd play it by ear: I suggested taking turns at the party, so that one of us could attend while the other watched the twins. Carina decided to just stay with the twins, while I went.
I booked a hotel with a pool, so that the girls could go swimming and not be stuck in a hotel room all night. Of course, Tyler forgot to pack her bathing suit, so that foiled my plan. All was not lost, though: as soon as I arrived at the party, I was informed that some folks were willing to staff a "kid room", so that the twins could be supervised and Carina could join us! Of course, it wasn't quite that simple...
Carina and the twins showed up, and joined us at our table in the main room. The girls got to listen to Roger Drawdy and the Firestarters for a bit, because no one had actually prepared the aforementioned kids room. It took about ten minutes to find the person with the keys, and then when the door was unlocked we learned that no one would actually be supervising the twins. Carina and I decided that the twins could behave themselves: they are nine years old now, so we need to start giving them a little more liberty and personal responsibility than we have in the past. I gave my cell phone to Tayler, showed her how to make a speed dial to Carina's phone, and instructed her to use it only in an emergency.
Within ten minutes, three emergencies occured: they wanted to know what time it was (and failed completely to look at the clock on my phone), they wanted to know where the bathrooms were, and they wanted a piece of cake that they had seen someone in the hall eating. For the most part, they behaved well, and followed directions. At one point, Tyler did wander out into the hall, were she saw a happily inebriated couple sitting in a pair of chairs. Tyler, true to form, happily chirped "Hello drunk people!" before skipping back to the room.
Finally, Carina took the girls back to the hotel, for some planned "girl time" (whatever that means!). I stuck around, chatting with my friends, and catching up on things from the past year. We had way more drink tickets than we could use, and were trying to make new friends by sharing the tickets with strangers. This plan worked only moderately well.
About an hour after the kids left, I was ready to go, so I bummed a ride from a friend. When I got back to the hotel, I found everyone awake (waaay past bed time), curled up in the bed watching Scary Movie 3. It was hysterical, and the twins seemed to genuinely enjoy most of the humor. All day today they spoke about their favorite scenes, and giggled anew as they remembered something else.
After breakfast, we joined Bob and his family at the Childrens Museum of Indianapolis. It was a wonderful facility, and we all had great time wandering around. It was a bigger place than I realized, and we only saw less than half of everything available.
After a quick lunch, we had an uneventful ride home. It was a pleasant weekend, and another fun Leopalooza. I'm already looking forward to next year's!