I was a smart, quiet girl in high school. I took advanced English, math, and history classes for college credit (I almost flamed out in calculus, but that’s a different story); I was on the school newspaper, yearbook, and literary magazine. I dabbled in high school theater. I hung around with a fantastic group of friends who were similar to me — smart, literate, creative.
I seldom drank, I didn’t do any drugs, and, also, I didn’t date a lot. I mean, I guess I had one or two boyfriends, and I never lacked for a date to a dance. I crushed on a lot of boys, but I wasn’t super interested in dating seriously. It wasn’t something I focused on in high school.
Starting when I was 16, I had summer and after-school jobs, more for the spending money than anything else. I had a good driving record (mostly), and enjoyed the trust of my parents.
Until New Year’s Eve 1988, that is.
That is the year my two best friends and I thought I should throw a party at my parents’ house.
To this day, I do not know what implanted such an idea in my brain. I can’t say that it wasn’t my idea; it very well could have been. (I’m sure N knows all the details of the formation of such a plan.) I do know that M, N, and I thought it was a grand idea, and we came up with a fool-proof plan. Or so we thought.
At the time, I worked at a video store — anyone remember those? In the late ’80s, home video rental (of VHS tapes) was quite popular, and Home Video Exchange in Erie had captured the market (before Blockbuster came along). When I worked, I was usually the closer, counting up the money in the cash register and making sure everything was ready for the morning person. I usually worked at the store near my house, but HVE had two other locations where I could be scheduled.
As part of the Party Plan, I told my parents — who were heading to a nearby ski resort for New Year’s Eve with my brother and sister — that I couldn’t go with them, that I had to work. (I didn’t ski, anyway.) They figured it was no big deal; they were only going to be away overnight. I would spend the night at M’s house with her family. N made arrangements, too, that she would be staying overnight there.
I couldn’t tell you what we told M’s parents we were doing. Maybe staying overnight at N’s house.
Then, M’s older brother and a couple of his friends were recruited to buy the alcohol. I don’t remember what all we got, but the beer of choice was Genesee and Genesee Cream Ale. Yeah, we were klassy.
And then we had a party.
This party, I can tell you, was ill-conceived from the start. I suppose nearly any high school party is.
First off, my mother had recently redecorated our modest home. We had new, lightly colored rugs in several upstairs rooms.
Second, we thought it was a good idea to tell people they couldn’t smoke in the house. However, we also told them that it would be dandy to smoke in the enclosed car garage.
Lastly, you know, we had a bunch of light-weight teenagers drinking unsupervised. On New Year’s Eve.
Disaster — mostly of the puking-on-the-new-rugs variety — ensued.
No one died, thank goodness, and no fires were started. Several of the new rugs were baptized with vomit. Frankly, I couldn’t tell you the whole timeline of events because I spent most of the evening passed out in my sister’s room. (Alone, I assure you.)
I still can’t drink gin, nearly 22 years later. This debaucherous night may also be the reason I am a vegetarian; I have vague memories of regurgitating a McDonald’s Big Mac quite forcefully in the upstairs bathroom. (For the record, none of the puke on the new rugs was mine.)
At one point, N managed to rouse me for midnight — yes, I got drunk, puked, and passed out before the ball dropped, thank you very much — and shortly thereafter we kicked everyone out and started Operation Clean Up.
We did a great job cleaning up. Probably a little too good a job actually. But, no puke stains!
We made a number of mistakes, though. Starting with the “smoke in the garage” idea. The garage stunk. Smelled like a beer-covered ashtray. Unfortunately, none of us noticed at 2 in the morning. We were focused on gathering up empty beer cans and liquor bottles, and scrubbing the rugs. We also, as part of cleaning, left the ceiling fans in the family room on in an attempt to air out the house. Between the smell of the garage and the fans on full blast when my parents came home, we were busted.
There was also the fact that someone ratted us out to M’s parents. They got an anonymous phone call at 3 a.m. We found them waiting up for us when we tried to sneak in the house at 6 that morning. (Remember, this was the days before cell phones.) I thought M’s father was going to flay us. He was LIVID. After yelling at us for lying, he threatened to tell our parents himself if we didn’t come clean (N and I, that is).
We came clean. I actually did have to work on New Year’s Day, and went into the video store with my first ever hangover. I called home when I knew my parents would be there.
My dad answered. “Dad,” I croaked. “I have something to tell you.”
He did not sound surprised to hear this bit of information. My dad recalled later pulling into the garage and getting out of the car. He said he took one whiff, and looked over at my mother. “I hope she doesn’t think she got away with it,” he remembers telling her.
I was grounded for a month. No social events, no friends over, no nothing. School, work, home. That was my life for a month. To this day, I can’t believe M, N, and I were even allowed to talk to each other on the phone. I guess our parents didn’t want to completely forbid us from interacting with each other.
The worst part wasn’t the grounding. It was the collective weight of our parents’ disappointment. It was that we lost the trust that we all had taken for granted. I almost wish my parents had yelled and thrown things at me.
On my 18th birthday, my parents relented and let M, N, and I go to a movie together. We embraced at the mall like long-lost siblings, and we all vowed to never, ever do something as stupid as throwing a party (or drinking gin in excess) ever again. (I can’t speak to the throw-a-party part, but I am still gin-free. I can barely stand the smell.)
I also received this short but solemn lecture from my Dad: “You are 18 now. A grown up. Which means next time, you can go to jail.”
What was the worst thing you got caught doing in high school? How long were you grounded?