Shhhh! Please Don’t Tell my Parents!!
For the first time in your life, your parents are away. They leave their home, the home they raised you and taught you right from wrong, in your trusted care while they take a long overdue romantic vacation for just the two of them.
You know where this is going.
The Party. It’s the right of passage for every American Teen. At least it seems that way in the movies. As the weather warms up, think of all those teen movies that ended in a springtime house party bash. Some that come to mind just from my generation include Risky Business, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and later, Mean Girls
When I was growing up on Staten Island, it was rare to find a house that was not an attached townhouse. For those of you in suburbia, this means a house that shares at least one common wall with one neighbor. Or maybe your house was flanked by townhouses on both sides. The walls that separated one home from another were exceedingly thin and provided no sound proofing.
How thin? We could say “God Bless You!” when we heard our neighbors sneeze. When there was a birthday party, a family fight, or when their coo-coo clock went off at all hours of the night, you heard that too.
So, the first time – the only time – I had a party the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I did the right thing. I let my neighbors know that I was going to have a few friends over. Just a few. And, we might get a little loud. And, would they mind if we put some beer bottles in their trash the next day?
My neighbor, Dom, a man in his late 60’s who played Frank Sinatra on his backyard transistor radio all summer and who introduced me to my first grilled Italian pepper, said it wouldn’t be a problem.
I was a good kid. Really I was. Still am. Even though my teen daughter now views me as irresponsible because I caught mono in my sophomore year of college after a weekend of parties. So, when planning my first keg party, no I was not of age, but my friends and I were all right at the cusp. We were all turning 20 that year. That’s why we had the party, it was for a friend, a girl who received all honors in high school and was studying economics at SUNY Binghamton. She was turning 20 that weekend. We did the responsible thing by asking my friends’ of-age boyfriend to buy the beer.
My underage friends and I were responsible for hiring the DJ. He charged $75 for the night and three of us each chipped in $25. We cleared a spot in my basement where he could set up and play. We didn’t want to set up outside because again, I was trying to be considerate of my neighbors.
More importantly, I was trying not to get caught and get in the worst trouble of my short 19-year-old life.
The party was a success! It was a beautiful night and we would have gone swimming in the pool if there weren’t so many damned mosquitos. (Another thing about Staten Island. No matter how small the backyard, everyone managed to have a pool. It may have been an above-ground pool, but it was wet and cold in the hot New York City summer, that is what mattered most). I remember dancing and lots of kids coming, most invited, some, who barely spoke to me in high school but oh look who’s having a party and decided now they wanted to be my friends.
My friends had their boyfriends with them. A friend of mine became a friend with benefits.
Most importantly, no one got too drunk and no one got hurt. And, my considerate party goers didn’t stay or make noise too too late into the night and my college roommate even mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors when it was all over.
Only one household possession was broken as a result of the party. The kitchen clock came crashing down. That was because one of those previously mentioned mosquitos got in and my brother tried to kill it when it landed on the clock.
Now, my parents are very wise. Later, they told me that they had their suspicions that I had a party whether or not they found a letter on computer print-out paper (the kind that came in a stack with holes on the sides to feed it into the printer. Remember, this was the late 80’s). The letter was written by my brother, an impressionable teenager at the time who had just written a letter to his friend that “my sister had a wild crazy party at our house and there was beer and everything!”
Yes, that was a very dark week in the Cooper household. My parents felt betrayed by me and my good girl friends that never got in any trouble in high school. There were tears of guilt and apology later that week in my parents’ living room among all the guilty. But I’m 43 now and I’m not grounded anymore and I still love my brother.
So, why do I bring this up now?
Now, after 20 years of being away, it is my parents who are the retired empty nesters living on the other side of the wall from a family with three teenagers. Last weekend, the parents of these teenagers went away for a vacation. Last weekend, it was my parents who were the couple who could not get to sleep because of a teen house party that went deep into the night.
The next night, my parents pulled into their driveway after spending the evening with friends and were greeted by all three of the kids next-door. With a big plate of home-baked, shamrock-shaped cookies.
“We baked these for you. We are SO sorry that we made so much noise and kept you up all night,” mom told me over the phone, and we laughed as she described how this girl pleaded for forgiveness.
Sure, they were sorry about the noise. But they were more worried about getting potentially ratted out to their parents. That was the main reason for the cookies.
At this, my mom took the cookies and laughed. “No problem. Been there. Done that.”
So, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone. And keep the music down after 1 a.m., will ya?”