I think I’m getting old. I’ve reached yet another crossroads in my life. Something happened recently which has given me a deeper understanding of myself and my family. Just as the scorpion has its sting, certain families share certain ineffable qualities. The Kennedy’s, for instance, have a propensity for dying violently in middle age.
I have come to understand that my family is inclined… TO PARTY! Woooo! Whoop whoop yeow!… See what I mean.
The first indication of this should have come early in my life when, as a boy of six, I would drive my Hot Wheels across the smooth service area of the wet bar in the sunken living room of our split-level middle-class trophy home.
The bar was seriously underused, however, as my parents had little time for parties by that time in their lives. It was the 1970s and they had shifted priorities to real estate and wholesales. I never did see the family booze station given its due respect. I can’t ever remember seeing ole Pop pouring Glenfiddich over rocks; nor can I recall Mumsie searching for the freshest olive in the fridgette. So far as I knew, a martini was a magic potion that British spies would quaff so that they may find evil bimbos more attractive (but then that would make me a British spy).
I can only think of one time that my parents returned home from a party. But they weren’t drunk. They were “feeling good”. It was a suppression of information, I suppose, and it certainly worked. I just can’t imagine either of my parents hugging the ivory bowl and bringing back up the Shepherd’s Pie they’d had for dinner.
By the time I was seventeen, the family wet bar had been weened down to the more common “liquor cabinet”. Ah yes, that wonderful depository that every teenager knows so well, at once both sacred and taboo. A collection of aged spirits that adults only ever consider when moving time comes and there’s a few extra boxes in the U-Haul.
As always, the parents were away one weekend so the best friend and I decided to “raid the cabinet” and throw a shindig. Not a Dean Moriarty sort of affair but pretty damn close, man. We lined up more than forty bottles across the kitchen counter; we had the bartender’s recipe guide; we had the ability to concoct well over 100 variations of booze, booze and mix. Dino would have been proud.
By the time the police showed up, many a Coors kingcan had been shotgunned by the revellers. Some neighbors had been accosted by several of my guests (you know how former co-workers from summer camp can be). And a couple of sexually-active teens were getting frisky in the master bedroom.
“What seems to be the problem, officer?” It was neither the first nor the last time the words would leave my mouth.
Years later, after my father’s passing, I came across the old wet bar’s glasses, cocktail-size and adorned with politically-incorrect cartoons of drunks and whores. Artifacts of a bygone era of entertaining where every woman wore a skirt, every man wore a tie and Nat King Cole crooned from the phonograph at 78 RPM. Party games with a carrot on a string were de rigeur. All bottoms were up.
Those glasses were an anthropological diary of social twenty-somethings in the 1950s. And they are what got me thinking about my family this way a few years ago.
Now, it has been confirmed.
On New Year’s Eve, at the turn of the millennium, as the world ushered in a fresh future for its children, my sixteen-year-old niece Laura took advantage of her parents’ absence and threw a house party for some thirty or so friends.
When I first heard of this, I was video-green with envy. Though Laura’s effort did not reach sufficient pitch to be shut down by the police, she had nonetheless one-upped me by concerting multiple strategies of subterfuge to manufacture a well-timed superior affair on what could be the most important party night of her life.
Eventually, my jealousy turned to pride. My niece had entered the dragon’s lair and faced the beast with brazen congeniality. A generational family torch had been passed in the Olympics of playing host. Gold medal, girl, gold medal.
As punishment for her deception, Laura was instructed to call the parents of every one of her guests to apologize for concealing her party’s unsupervised circumstances.
What a little show-off.