Did you know that Mr. Magpie drove a boxy black Jeep Cherokee (not the Grand — the O.G., whose style I still love; why don’t they bring that back?!) that he nicknamed “Party Girl”? She was a rough and tumble kind of ride. To accelerate, you actually had to depress the pedal almost all the way to the metal, golf-cart-style, and you could feel every bump and divot in the road. The interior felt like the inside of a tin can — no frills, always cool, with a kind of reverberating emptiness to it. It was not, in any case, a gracious ride.
But I loved Party Girl–so much so that I cried when Mr. Magpie sold her just before we moved to Chicago. We reasoned (correctly) that we did not need two cars, and Party Girl was getting old and rather mouthy anyhow.
But Party Girl was a part of Mr. Magpie’s mystique when I first met and fell in love with him. She was his perfect complement. It was almost as if Mattel had designed Mr. Magpie and, duh, Party Girl was his obvious whip. There was something outdoorsy and sporty about her — especially with the ski rack he affixed to the roof — and yet the absurd stereo and subwoofers he’d added to the interior let you know he liked his music, and he liked it loud, and Party Girl was there to bring it. She wasn’t as self-aware and bro-tastic as a roofless Wrangler, or as distasteful and flashy as a Hummer, or as showy and glossy as a luxury SUV — all cars frat brothers parked on Rugby Road –but it felt like she might be loose and accidental friends with them, like she could hang with them if she wanted, but she was too busy going offroading and listening to Van Morrison.
This all tracked with a young Mr. Magpie, who was a “GDI” in UVA Greek terms: a God Damn Independent. He rushed and was well-liked and received a bid but did not pledge anywhere. “It wasn’t for me,” he shrugged. And that was that. His indifference on this matter was as appealing then as it is now: he was his own person, even at 20, when most of us are engrossed in the meticulous construction and presentation of our fluid and uncertain selves so as to fit in and make friends.
He was him, though, a tall drink of water who shopped at the Harris Teeter at 10:30 p.m. on Monday nights, buying Rao’s tomato sauce in duplicate when on sale and full-fat yogurt and cases of Heineken and, one evening, a six pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade for yours truly. I remember him careening up the access road to New Dorms, where all the dorks (including myself) lived, the bass reverberating through the brick of the hideous motel-style dorm building (Maupin, in case you care), and I stood on the second floor watching him in the dark, under the beam of floodlights, absolutely thrilled with myself for inveigling him into buying me booze and bringing it to straight to my dorm room for all of my suitemates to see.
Oh, but oh! I will never forget how handsome he was. How I felt a shiver of excitement thinking that he was parking his car and ascending the stairs for me, that someone on my hall might possibly assume him to be mine, that he might — I could hardly let myself believe it — be interested in me? This little brunette in Maupin — me?! An academically-minded girl who had never had an actual boyfriend? Who had not too long ago been riddled with braces and acne and that unkind fleshiness of pubescence? Who had just recently discovered how to blow dry her long hair stick straight and wear too-short denim skirts and too-tight, padded spaghetti strap tanks and platform flip-flops in what I can only describe as an homage to Jennifer Love Hewitt? Who still liked to bake cupcakes and lick the frosting right out of the can and watch movies with girlfriends on the weekends? Me? When he had the entirety of UVA, including classes older than mine? When he was just about the most beautiful person I’d ever seen in real life, with his golden hair and straight teeth and strong nose and broad shoulders and tanned arms and —
He smiled broadly at me, a brown paper bag extended toward me.
I remember trying to stall him, desperately wanting to keep him close to me. But it was late on a Monday and he had engineering classes that started at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Party Girl was illegally parked, and as I watched him stroll back to his car, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I wanted someone in my suite to comment on him. I was already devising what I might write to him over instant message. I wondered how I could con him into seeing me again soon. As he was climbing into his Jeep, he paused, leaning his forearms on the top of the door, and looked up at me. He stood there for a half second, then smiled and did a funny little wave salute before disappearing inside the car, the bass kicking back in, the engine revving.
I always wondered at that hesitation, a half-pause that left me electric with possibilities. Was he going to say something romantic? Or practical? Or saucy? Was he debating an invitation to his place?
But that’s Mr. Magpie, through and through — then and now. Always a hint of the unknown and unexpected. Like Party Girl, herself a kind of rogue sporty-but-not presence parked for a few minutes one Monday night outside of my dorm, his foil and ferry.
I actually sat down to share some party decor/supply ideas (I’ve received a few questions along these lines recently) and the foregoing just tumbled out. And so I’m sitting here in a deep haze of nostalgia, half-inclined to jump on the 1 train to surprise him at lunch. But I’ll leave some party supply ideas for ya nonetheless. Below, some of my favorite accoutrements for throwing a party at home…
SILVER CONDIMENT CADDY (I LIKE TO USE THIS TO PUT OUT A TRIO OF SNACKS BY THE BAR — NUTS, CHIPS, HOMEMADE CHEX MIX)
APPETIZER PLATES FOR FINGER FOOD (INEXPENSIVE AND NON-PRECIOUS BUT SHOW FOOD WELL — THE PERFECT SIZE, TOO)
PROBABLY OUR MOST-USED PIECE OF SERVEWARE — AND IT’S $13! BUY MULTIPLES!
PRETTY CAKE STAND (ON SALE!!!)
Speaking of parties, some dresses I’d love to wear to a festive occasion: