I spent a three-day weekend at my father’s in Birmingham, Alabama, which turned out fairly nice. I’m still healing, however, from an accident that occurred the first night we were there.

My boyfriend and I arrived on Friday while my father and step-mother were in the midst of preparing for their annual Christmas party. We chatted and helped them a bit, my boyfriend meeting my father for the first time. He made a good impression, which did not surprise me since such a task is not a difficult for him. The four children, who I’d been looking forward to seeing, were staying at their father’s that weekend, so Phil and I had the upstairs to ourselves. Caren is my Dad’s 3rd wife- she has a good sense of humor and makes my father happy, which is one thousand times better than the previous woman/thing he'd been married to. He and Caren have been together for 5 years now.

Caren's kids are 9, 13, 15 and 19. I might mention that their father was in a horrible accident at a plant he worked at years ago. He was crushed by a machine, which took both of his arms and a leg. The settlement was huge and he’s a millionaire and he keeps the kids and their mother set up well- he’s a good man and it is truly awful what he’s suffered.

Once people arrived for the party, we did our best to make polite conversation considering we knew virtually no one. We took our fair share of the spiked punch and occasionally went upstairs to play Nintendo. As the evening was winding down, Phil and I had made one last trip upstairs for the game, and were about to head back down to the party. I began down the stairs before Phil left the room, but slippery heels on a slick wooden staircase do not mix. I slipped and preceded to fall all the way down the stairs. The music of Jimmy Buffet seranaded my descent; chatter had ceased in the massive home. I sat at the bottom, wincing in pain as people ran to see the damage. I limped to a chair with the aid of my boyfriend and tried to laugh instead of cry. Nothing broken, nothing sprained, just a terrific sharp pain- which grew stronger as the shock receded- up and down my right side and leg.

Father retrieved some heavy-duty motrin and a heat pack, and Phil and I lay upstairs watching TV as the swelling began. Luckily I was still able to walk, a bit. Caren came up to chat with us. The party was a success- although her goofy older brother, while she wasn’t looking, managed to switch around all the paintings in the house, placed random objects under and in their bed, and moved the donkey and the cow in the nativity scene to naughty positions with each other.

The next day the swelling had decreased, and the four of us went to see “Vanilla Sky.” (Decent- not Cameron Crowe’s best, but it was worth one viewing.) We wandered by a relative’s home decor store. In the store window a stitched pillow read: “Raising children is like being pecked to death by a duck.” That night the kids dropped by to have dinner with us. We gave them Blockbuster certificates and I received a pair of Berkenstocks and a set of martini plates and napkins from Pottery Barn, which were wonderful gifts. We had a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant, the kids rather amusing in their loud, excited behavior.

The next day we headed out after a quick brunch, and Phil and I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon together on the silent Georgia Tech campus. He leaves this morning for Mobile. I miss him already.