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The Best Blessings of Existence

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"No, no, no, I don't want daisies, daisies are totally passé! I told you, peonies. I want soft and romantic, like Barbie dressed as Scarlett O'Hara."

Honestly, florists. You have to watch them every second.

So like, senior year is just starting, and now Ms. Geist is totally pregnant. She and Mr. Hall are still as adorable as ever, though the honeymoon phase is definitely over and Mr. Hall is back to being a hardass.

So I'm throwing them a baby shower. I'm doing it because I want to support them in their love, and because I want Mr. Hall to write me a bitchin' recommendation letter for college.

I'm having it at our house, of course -- our backyard is like, totally perfect for garden parties. And our theme is garden party -- very classy, very chic. Lots of flowers, lots of tiny food, a string quartet playing in the gazebo, flower wreaths for every guest to wear, live storks wandering around. I've hired an event planner, the best in town, naturally.

Only the planner, Tatyana? She is buggin', for real. She keeps trying to suggest these terrible things that no one in their right minds wants to do, stupid party games that no one wants to play. Guess how much Ms. Geist weighs? Like, I don't think so. That's cruel and unusual punishment. And there's this game where you melt candy bars in a diaper and people have to guess what candy bar it is? Ralph. Just ralph. Who even wants to do that?

This is not that kind of baby shower. Like I said, classy. For party favors, I'm giving out necklaces that have little pacifiers on them -- very trendy, very now. The pacifiers have Swarovski crystals on them. Ms. Geist isn't finding out the baby's sex, so we're going gender neutral with all silver and gold.

The shower is next week, so today, Dionne and I are taking Ms. Geist shopping. Her maternity clothing situation is absolutely tragic.

Ms. Geist has gotten even more concerned about the the state of the world now that she's planning to bring a child into it. She's all about natural fabrics and products made without pesticides or child labor. Taking her to Barney's is kind of a downer.

"Girls, girls," Ms. Geist says, pushing away the totally cute Calvin Klein minidress Dionne was offering her. "This really isn't necessary."

"It really is," Dionne insists. "Just because you're knocked up doesn't mean sacrificing yourself to frumpsville. Your figure is still very good for someone in your condition, and you can play up your assets to hide the fact you're blowing up like a blimp. Ooh, look at these heels!" She picks up a pair of five-inch Lucite Versace heels and waves them at Ms. Geist hopefully.

"Those aren't really... practical for a pregnant woman," Ms. Geist says.

"Oh no," I point out, "see how they're platforms? That makes them more stable."

Ms. Geist just sighs.

We leave the mall with only one dress and a shawl for Ms. Geist. Dionne and I both score big, though.

When I get home from the mall, Josh calls, and we talk for an hour. We don't get to see each other much during the week, because even though he's not that far away, we're both pretty busy. He's totally involved with his senior year -- he's president of his tree people association, he's taking a graduate seminar, and he's applying to law school. He does a really good job pretending to care about the skirt I bought. He's really getting to be such a good boyfriend, with a lot of guidance and help from me.

I do a really good job pretending I cared about how they modified Robert's Rules of Order to better fit their anti-imperalist ethos for their group meetings. I'm such a good girlfriend. I've gotten really good at going "Mhmm" and "Oh really?" at just the right times, and I get all my nails painted while we talk.

Being in love is totally the greatest.

The day of the party dawns bright and clear, perfect weather for a garden party. Tatyana the event planner arrives at eleven, the stork wrangler following her in.

"About the storks," he says, "I need you to sign this waiver." He hands me a clipboard, clearly expecting me to sign without even looking at it, but Daddy taught me better than that.

After a minute he tsks at me, and says, "Look, lady, can't you hurry up? Just sign the thing already."

I fix him with my very best steely glare. "I'm sorry, sir, but I don't sign binding legal documents without thoroughly reading them over first, and I'm frankly uncomfortable with the indemnity clause your company has included here. I'm crossing that out."

He stares at me for a long time. I'm used to people underestimating me, because sometimes people can't believe I can be this beautiful and this smart. Honestly, I kind of like it. I play it up sometimes too; Daddy always says that the best offense is one they never have time to prepare for.

"Whatever," he sighs. "Just sign it so I can unload the birds. I've got four more deliveries to make."

With the birds roaming around the yard, and Jose in charge of making sure they don't eat the centerpieces, I go back to supervising Tatyana. Dionne and Tai arrive not long after, and then Amber shows up, claiming she wants to help, but really she's here to criticize. It's pretty much her only skill in life.

Sometimes I think about taking on Amber as a charity project, but then I remember that no, I can't do everything, some things are beyond even my skill.

The four of us are gathered around the presents table, arranging them for maximum visual impact. Tai actually has a gift for this sort of thing, so she's taking the lead.

(We get Ms. Geist some pretty groovy gifts. She said she didn't want gifts at all, and refused to create a registry, because she says registries are a tool of our culture of conspicuous consumption. So we had to get creative. Dionne gets her a set of burp cloths designed by Bill Blass. Tai wanted to get her a diaper bag, so I guided her toward a sophisticated, elegant one, rather than her initial purchase [KMart! Tai has come so far, but she has a ways to go on her journey.] Ms. Geist wants to use cloth diapers, so I got her a bunch of really nice ones, made out of a really great Italian silk.)

Amber sniffs and asks, "So Tai, I hear you're thinking about going to a state school."

Tai nods. "I want one with a good art program, and San Diego State has that." She doesn't sound embarrassed at all -- we've been working on that. Alcott is a school where most students choose to matriculate at elite, private institutions, but Tai's mom's third divorce really wiped them out last year, so she's having to explore some less traditional options. As part of her ongoing training in poise and elegance, I've been having her practice talking about her future plans without apologizing for herself. She's come so far since we met; I really couldn't be prouder. And I do have to give some snaps to myself for guiding her through this transformation from a little grungy pothead to a beautiful butterfly. I really do have a gift.

"Well," Amber scoffs. "I'd just die if I had to go public. But I guess someone has to, right?"

I carefully steer the conversation away from Tai's plans and back to the event at hand. We start talking baby names (Dionne: Aretha, Diana, Etta -- she's named after a famous singer, and so will any daughter she has; Tai: Taylor, Riley -- anything gender-neutral; Amber: Brody, Jenner, Merlin -- because Amber's Monet-ness extends into her very soul) and decorating nurseries and general parenting styles.

Tai asks if anyone knows what Ms. Geist's maternity leave plans are, how much of the year she'll miss, and Amber says, "I can't believe she's taking off the majority of our senior year. This is a critical time in our lives, and she's being irresponsible to abandon us right now. How did she let this happen?"

Dionne asks, "Is someone gonna tell Amber where babies come from?"

Tai and I don't do a very good job hiding our giggles, and Amber flounces off.

Guests start to arrive not long after that. The string quartet strikes up, the caterers begin moving around with the sandwiches, and the storks, thankfully, mostly stick to wandering the garden paths, and only steal a few sandwiches. (Ms. Geist's mother, who looks like she's a hundred, hits one with her cane, hard. Dionne immediately sidles up to her, an admiring look in her eye.)

Everyone oohs and ahhs over the gifts, and even Ms. Geist seems pretty excited by her haul. She starts to cry in earnest when we reveal her final gift: a sizable donation on behalf of Baby Geist-Hall to the LA County foster system. I got lots of students to chip in, as well as Daddy's firm.

I feel pleased and proud that we made Ms. Geist so happy, and did mankind a solid at the same time. There's nothing that feels quite as good as doing good for the world.

Plus, this is going to look way prestigious on my college applications.