Monday, March 2, 2015

The Party House

Mine was consistently one in high school, particularly after it was just my mom and me for my final two years. I never threw a big bash, but friends could definitely come over and get wasted. More often than not, however, we went out to bigger parties, the cast parties after each show held at huge homes with parents utterly nonchalant about a bunch of high school kids getting hammered and then eventually driving away in that same hammered state.

Way back then, in the fine state of Virginia, you could buy beer and the absolutely-horrid-in-hindsight Malt Duck at 18. Go over to D.C. or Maryland, and you could also buy wine. Take the one-hour drive on backroads to West Virginia, and you could get hard liquor. In fact, my mom eventually started buying rum for me, saving me the trek. Of course, I didn't turn 18 until just before heading off to college, so I relied on my older friends to buy.

My freshman year of high school, there was an incident with six drunk kids getting into a car wreck. All lived with no long-lasting injuries. A year or two after I graduated, a guy about my age was walking along the street, wasted, when he was plowed into and killed.

None of that had any effect on me or other high school -- and then college -- kids. There's no reason I am alive today. I should have killed myself and my carload of friends at any given time. But we all lived. Matured. Had kids of our own. Raised them through Nancy Reagan's "Just Say 'No'" campaign and through the annual Red Ribbon Week festivities and Safe and Sober Graduation Night parties.

In November 2005, there was a drunk driving accident late at night that killed two of the four teens in the car. This happened not very far from where I live. Five years later, some kids from the high school skipped school at about 11 a.m. and the driver, drunk, had a wreck and one of the boys was killed.

I'm not sure when the Social Host ordinance was passed in our city, but it's been in place for a few years, and now the adults at a party where underage drinking is happening get cited. Subscribing to the crime alerts for the town, we now get notices when someone is busted.

For several years, neighbors of a party house have complained about what's been happening at the house. Kids partying while parents turn a blind eye. Maybe sometimes the parents are home. Maybe not.

In relaying the news to the kids yesterday that someone they know, newly 18, just got cited the other day, the older ones asked if I was glad they didn't drink. Certainly I'm glad they don't drink and drive or smoke dope and drive. And I sure as shit wouldn't let them host a party at my house. And I wouldn't want them to ever get into a car with an impaired friend driving. And, yeah, all that.

But I worry what college and beyond holds for them. Because I saw firsthand how many people went crazy with freedom when they first got to college. And we all read about the college freshmen who overdo it and die.

I am glad my kids don't party. But I do wish they'd at least feel the effects of alcohol in the safety of their home before they go on their way.

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