Having grown up in a big, old house full of people and activity, I seem to have inherited the extreme party-throwing gene from my mother. My brother got it, too. My idea of a quiet evening at home optimally includes extra people eating, drinking or just hanging out with us. (Jon and I have that in common, thank goodness) I like to have folks just drop by, and have a glass of wine or a meal with us, and while I am not at all domestically inclined (terrible cook, not crafty, etc), I do take a lot of pleasure in composing a home that is the kind of place where people feel welcome and want to come hang out. All kinds of people. And I think my kids learn as much from lively debate from smart people around our dining room table or fireplace than they do just about anywhere else.
This summer, we’ve had a lovely run of impromptu house parties in the evenings. We turn on the twinkly lights strung up on our big front porch and VOILA! Instant party. Various neighbors and friends and family and extra children seem to appear, as if we had turned on a neon “OPEN” sign. It’s been fantastic. Low fuss and planning, great fun. These events have lately included guitar or mandolin playing, political debate (health care reform in particular), bowls of fresh figs from our tree, and produce from other people’s yards.
On Friday night, we had just such a spontaneous gathering, and a particularly entertaining one, with our neighbors K and E, A, Dr. Neighbor, T and J (and by the way, y’all need to go check out J’s gorgeous, just-launched handbag collection, which is already getting great press and national showroom placements), and a few others I may be forgetting. Plus, all of the assorted, adorable offspring of visiting adults were also in attendance.. The evening finally ended at 3:30 am. (3:30 am!!!!) when Jon and I hit the sack after the last visitor left for the night (obviously C had gone to sleep many hours earlier, and the big kids are at their Dad’s house this week. Some of our friends’ children had gone to sleep much earlier on our living room couch while watching a movie, allowing their parents to continue socializing on our porch with the childless folks who could stay as long as they liked without worrying about anyone’s bedtime.)
Along with the fantastic many-directional conversation taking place, and the adorable children running around, this particular edition of “Flash Porch Party at Casa HickJu” also included some oddball twists that made the evening perhaps the most memorable of this season. The first came sometime just after midnight. All children were either gone or asleep by this time, so it was just us grown-ups chatting on the veranda. I was trying to convince my next door neighbor that we should fence both our back yards into one single, large backyard, thus creating a mini-urban farm, where we would have chickens and maybe two miniature goats.
I was having absolutely no luck convincing her of the sheer genius of this plan when rather suddenly, two of our newer neighborhood residents – a guy and a girl – appeared at our front doorstep. These folks don’t live on our actual street but nearby, and I’d stopped by their house earlier to welcome them to the neighborhood. I knew their house was a rental, but wasn’t sure who had moved in. It turns out that they are several college/grad school students, and two of them had come to our house to say hello when they saw the people and activity on our porch. The two of them were very polite and friendly, and they and I chatted for a few minutes about what they were studying, and whether they liked their new house. I introduced them to some of their other neighbors and they were quite charming with everyone. After a brief conversation, however, it became clear to me that the girl was actually really drunk, something that hadn’t been apparent at first. She had seemed coherent and just fine when she arrived, but over a very brief span of time, she began slurring her words. She asked to use our bathroom, so I took her inside, but then she didn’t come out of the loo for a looooong time, during which period her housemate – who seemed completely sober – explained to me that he was really worried about her, and that she has a serious drinking problem. He told me that the problem is so bad that she has actually been taken to the ER two times in the past year by concerned friends.
This was Not Good.
My overdeveloped, nurturing mom antennae immediately went up when I heard about this sweet young girl’s drinking “issues,” and I asked her friend why her parents weren’t involved in getting her some help. The housemate explained that the girl’s parents pay absolutely no attention to her, and don’t seem at all concerned or even interested in this issue, even though all of the girl’s friends are terrified that she’s going to die if she keeps drinking, and so they all take turns sort of “babysitting” her at times or events where they believe she might drink. Basically, he described a situation of “designated friends” trying their best to prevent their 22 year old housemate from pulling a Janis Joplin.
At this point, I was very worried that this poor, motherless, sick young woman had maybe passed out in our bathroom, so I just went in there without asking to check on her. She was sitting on the floor, weeping. I asked her when she had last eaten (she was very tiny) and she couldn’t remember, so I fixed her a plate of cheese and crackers (protein!) and a glass of orange juice. She ate like she was really hungry, and then I took her arm and led her out to the porch where everyone else was (they all had no idea what had been going on with this inside, or even that this girl who had showed up less than an hour earlier was that inebriated.). I figured I would see what Jon thought we should do, and then proceed from there. But as soon as we got to the porch, she passed out cold. One minute she was sitting on the porch step, and the next, she was just…out – flat on her back and surrounded by concerned guests at my house.
At this point, I was very, very worried, and so I again asked her housemate about how I could contact her parents. He told me he had no idea. My friend K took her pulse and listened to her breathing and said she seemed fine, just asleep. We debated calling an ambulance, but decided that wasn’t the right course of action. Finally, I announced that we needed to just take her upstairs to our guestbed, and tuck her in. I didn’t want to send her back to her house in that condition, and besides, she couldn’t walk. I didn’t know how to contact her family, and I didn’t want her to get arrested or something, plus I felt that she needed some mothering. My mothering instinct was in overdrive, and I wanted to try to take care of her, and maybe talk to her in the morning about getting some help. I also imagined how I would feel if – God forbid – my own college-age child ended up passed out on a stranger’s porch; I would want a fellow mom to do what we mamas do and just take care of him or her in my absence. Maybe it was the wrong way to handle it, but at the moment it seemed like the best of bad options.(I welcome your thoughts on how you would have handled this one)
So I asked Jon and another male guest to carry her upstairs, which they did, trailed by me and her housemate. I got her all tucked in, and she didn’t wake up. Her housemate seemed very relieved that he wasn’t going to have to drag her back to his house in that condition, and he announced that he was now going to leave, but before he did, he wrote down his phone number for me, and gave me a piece of information to which I probably should have paid more attention, saying, “She never throws up when she gets like this. She just pees on herself.” Then he left, and we all went back downstairs to rejoin the rest of the party. Every 30 minutes or so until I went to bed myself at 3:30 am, I went up to check on her, and she seemed to be comfortably sleeping. I figured I’d talk to her in the morning and see if I could interest her in getting some help.
Almost as soon as I was resettled on the front porch with Jon and our guests after getting inebreiated neighbor settled herself – at maybe about 1:30 am - a mle stranger appeared at our front gate. It wasn’t anyone we recognized, and it was very late, so two of my male guests walked up to meet him there before he could come into our yard, to tell him that he needed to leave. We assumed he was a late night, transient panhandler, but he wasn’t. It turned out he was a lovelorn, very cleancut, preppy fellow who was stranded on our street. He asked if any of us planned to drive to the suburbs, where he lives, but none of us did, so I offered to call him a cab, which I did. For the next 30 minutes, until his ride arrived, this guy, Jamie. sat with all of us on the porch, practically weeping into the drink we gave him, and telling us his tale of woe, which was equal parts hilarious, bizarre and really pathetic.
The reason he was stranded 20 miles from home in a strange neighborhood in the middle of the night was that he had decided to “surprise” a girl with whom he is madly in love – a law student who lives in a house one block away – by appearing at her doorstep uninvited with what he repeatedly described very specifically as, “a $429 Kate Spade bag!” He had bought her the bag on his trip to NYC, from which he had only returned that day. He called her repeatedly all afternoon and evening to ask if he could bring her this extravagant gift, but she never answered, so sometime after midnight, he got the bright idea to have a friend drive him and the bag to her house, and drop him off. He figured that without any means of transportation to get home, and bearing this wonderful Kate Spade bag, she would immediately declare her love for him and invite him to spend the night. It sounded like a sure bet.
Unfortunately, it didn’t play out as he had hoped. When he arrived, he found the object of his affection flagrante delicto with another guy, a fellow law student. Horrified and stunned, he dropped the bag on her porch and took off down the street like a wounded puppy, unsure where exactly he was headed, or how he would get home. And then he saw us, sitting on the porch with the twinkly lights. We looked friendly, so he decided to stop and ask if maybe one of us might be headed in the direction of his apartment across town at some point.
As he told his story, the men all commiserated with his heartbreak, telling him that he could certainly do so much better, and that he should just write off this unappreciative law student and her obviously low morals as unworthy of his affection. But the female contingent – mostly me and my friend J the handbag designer – were more focused on the truly important things.
“Let us go back and get that $429 Kate Spade bag off her porch for you!”
He kept saying that he never wanted to see the bag again, that the very sight of it would cause him too much pain. J and I attempted to assure him that it would cause neither of us ANY pain to go get the abandoned Kate Spade bag, but he was too focused on his thwarted, borderline stalkerish plan ro hear us. And soon enough, his cab arrived, and off he went.
The next morning, I woke up to a text from Jamie, the Kate Spade bag guy, thanking me for our hospitality. This was gratifying, so I next headed upstairs to indulge my fantasy that anything I’d said the night before had had any impact whatsoever on the hispter neighbor girl asleep in our guest bed. I imagined I would awaken her, offer to take her out to IHOP and once there, over pancakes,we would connect in such a meaningful way that I could convince her to go to rehab that very day. I felt quite self satisfied as I walked up our stairs toward our guest bedroom, imagining how the neighbor girl would one day consider me her surrogate mom, perhaps naming her firstborn child after me.
Alas, she was gone. She had apparently made her Walk of Shame before sunrise.
But she didn’t leave my guest bedroom before thoroughly and, ummm….. aromatically drenching all the bedding, including the pillows (still not clear how she pulled THAT off). Apparently,s she wasn’t interested in having me as a surrogate mom, or in any pancakes or rehab I had to offer.. In fact, several days – and numerous launderings of blankets, sheets and pillows later – we haven’t seen hide nor hair of her.
READ MORE OF KATIE’S BABBLE BLOGGING
VISIT KATIE’S PERSONAL BLOG