“Are they ready, Daddy? Are they all here—even Auntie Tana?”
“Well, you would best know the answer to that, MG. You said we couldn’t do the story without puppy Gus,” Kurt answered. He stood close to his 9-year-old daughter, just behind the blanket curtain drawn across the end of the big front parlor in their old brownstone in Brooklyn Heights.
She gazed balefully at him, her hands tight on the clipboard, then huffed out a breath strong enough to lift the dark curls off her forehead, muttering, “You had one job…” then turned away to find her “assistant director and props person”—her best friend and classmate Court.
Kurt bit his lips to hide his grin at her very Rachel-ness, then pushed a corner of the blanket aside to see if he could find Santana—and most importantly, her little dog. The parlor was full of friends and neighbors, who were either sitting on the motley collection of benches, kitchen stools, and dining room chairs that had been haphazardly dragged in to create the audience or were standing in the back of the room, where Stacy, a dancer from the Wicked revival and a damn fine bartender, was showing off her mixology skills. His eyes scanned the room, spotting Rachel in the big red armchair, her hands resting on the swell of her very pregnant belly, and Mercedes laughing with Tina in the seats behind Blaine. His husband sat in the front row of chairs, bouncing a baby girl with a pretty mouth and big dark eyes on his knee. He caught his eye, mouthing “Santana” over the noise in the room. Blaine stood quickly, handing the baby off to her mother, and hastened through the crowd standing by the Christmas tree, stopping just a moment to laugh at something Sam Evans said before disappearing into the kitchen.
The room buzzed with the happy sound of most of their friends in the same place; Kurt, relieved that Blaine was navigating the crowd, turned from his survey of the main room to the chaos of the backstage area, with its mix of manger scene, snow palace and, for some reason not quite clear to him, the Hundred-Acre Wood. The entertainment had been thrown together even more quickly than the party was—and THAT had gotten off the ground in a moment.
Well, maybe not a moment exactly, but it seemed so. It had started at their Thanksgiving dinner back in Ohio. Rachel’s obstetrician practice had forbidden her to fly at the last minute, her blood pressure a bit worrisome. That left Leroy Berry out in the cold, not wanting to go to Hiram and his very new husband Mark’s apartment in Chicago if Rachel’s family wasn’t to join them. It was a no brainer then for Carole and Burt to include Leroy in the Hummel family dinner plans. The addition of their guest made for a pleasant evening, a nice balance of gathering around the piano while Leroy shared the keyboard with Blaine and the rest of them sang show tunes and the kids’ version of Over the River and Through the Woods, and gathering around the TV to yell at college football with Burt. At halftime they sat together to Facetime Rachel, Jesse, and little Stephen.
Ever-impulsive, Rachel announced that they’d be having Hannukah in New York, and invited her dad. Blaine chimed in, “Would that be the weekend of the 13th and 14th? Because that’s Mercedes’ New York concert—Sunday night, I think? And Sam and the girls were gonna come visit.”
“Are you sure you’d be up to having a party? If the doctors say you shouldn’t travel…,” Leroy began, and Kurt surprised himself by jumping in with an offer to host a small gathering at their house.
And then, when Blaine was talking to Sam on Skype, finalizing plans for the family to stay at the townhouse Sunday night rather than their midtown hotel, Sam said, “And what about Santana? She’s traveling with us next week because there’s like this press thing ‘Cedes and her are doing Saturday morning. She’s got the dog with her, so staying with Rachel’s probably out. I guess if we got Mercy to bunk in with your twins and the baby…”
And so Santana (and Gus the dog) were invited to join them on Sunday; she happily accepted, but balked at Sam’s plans for her accommodations. “Thanks for the invite, but I’m gonna be in NYC, and I’ve been working way too hard. I never get tired of luxury hotels. And neither does this spoiled pooch. We'll be happier lounging around and skyping Britt from a King Size bed than squeezing into your kids' bunk beds. But we’ll be at the party.”
Then Tina called.
As Blaine’s expression went from joy at hearing from her to defensive to confused, Kurt took pity on his husband and said, loud enough for Tina to hear over the phone, “Is that Tina? Can she come to the party? We’re having it on Sunday, figuring that would work better for Andrew and her. Can they come in time to light the Hannukiyah? Rachel will be telling everyone in town that she just happened to have an 'award-winning' cantor to lead the family in Haneirot Halalu at her party.”
Tina’s laugh was loud and delighted, and Blaine gave a relieved thumbs up. And just like that, their little family gathering became an Event.
Not that he’d have it any other way, he thought now as he looked out over the crowd, his eyebrow raising at the sight of Leroy looking very cozy leaning on the bar next to their choreographer Winn. Looked like coming to New York for the holiday was a good move for Rachel’s dad. Mercy Evans’ angel wings brushed against him as she danced around unrestrained, and he looked down to see Mary Grace, her serious face scanning the crowd from the other end of the blanket curtain, her brown eyes round with stress. He leaned down to whisper to the little girl to find her place, willing Blaine to return with Santana. That caught Mercedes’ attention, and she stood with baby Hope on her hip and, winking to Kurt, called out, “Friends, friends. If this was a Broadway theatre, the lights would be dimming. Time to take your seats.”
As the crowd moved to comply with her request, Blaine and Santana appeared from the dining room. Santana pushed forward, her prize shih tzu tucked under her arm.
“Tana! HURRY!” Mary Grace squealed. “We have to get Gus in his COSTUME!”
“Cool your jets, Miss Bossy. He was insisting on a treat before performing—and ice cubes in his water bowl. He’s a bit of a diva, you know,” Santana growled as she ducked past Kurt.
Mary Grace rolled her eyes. “So he can join the club. Nearly everyone HERE is a diva. And that includes most of the audience.”
Santana snorted her agreement as she crouched down to help dress the dog in the cotton ball coat the girls had made to transform him into a sheep. She eyed the chaotic backstage and Mary Grace’s clipboard, then turned to Kurt. “And you’ll watch him?”
Kurt looked away from the curtain. “I’m the animal wrangler. Official title,” he intoned, pointing to the badge on his blazer pocket and taking the leash she offered.
“What other animals…?”
“Stevie is our Hannukah Donkey,” Mary Grace said seriously, indicating the 5-year-old boy playing dreidel with Kurt’s 4-year-old twins, a pair of grey ears from an old Eeyore costume dragging on the floor where he crouched.
“Good to know.” She stood and squeezed Kurt’s arm, murmuring, “Good luck, Daddy,” and pushed past the curtain. In the audience, Mercedes snagged a passing Blaine and handed off her youngest daughter. “This little star will make her entrance on cue easier if she’s in the front row,” she giggled, and moved back to her seat, getting Tina to budge over and make room for Santana.
Mary Grace’s voice rose above the buzz in the room. “Places. Places. That means put away the dreidel, you guys. And give Daddy the gelt. Mary and Joseph weren’t eating chocolate on the way to Bethlehem.”
Kurt wondered whether he should remind his little dynamo that the audience could hear her. But the long, knowing look she gave him when Rachel called out, “Stephen! No candy on stage!” let him know she had everything well in hand.
There was a chuckle on the other side of the blanket and Blaine stood to face the crowd. “Looks like everything’s just about ready to be underway here at our first ever Anderson-St. James-Berry-Hummel HannuChrismakuh Extravaganza. To get us started, I think maybe a duet might be in order? What do you say, Stage Manager?”
“Papa, you’re supposed to be the AUDIENCE today!” MG called out, then poked her head around the curtain, right under his arm.
“Just one little duet?”
She frowned at the expectant crowd, then turned to the baby in his arms. “What do you think, Hope?”
Kurt settled down into his daughter’s director’s chair, the shih tzu—and a pile of chocolate coins—in his lap, and gave a wry little laugh. When he was young and dreaming of life in New York, it certainly didn’t look like this; where were the gleaming high rise and the fabulous guests? Well, he supposed some of his guests were fabulous; there were Tony winners and Grammy nominees scattered around the living room, after all. But instead of a life of cocktails in the sky, it appeared he had just moved the sense of family from his dad’s cape cod in Lima Ohio to this Brooklyn brownstone. And he was more than okay with that.
On the other side of the curtain, Blaine and Mary Grace sang their opening number:
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,/Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…”
Rachel actually squealed in delight. And Tina laughed loudly in her seat next to Mercedes, raising her camera to film and crowing, “Oh, I am SO sending this to Artie!”