There was this college party at our house once. My parents had a bunch of students over, I think, and it got pretty rowdy. I was a young kid so I can’t piece together all of the memories perfectly. But three really stick out: our home stereo blasting at full volume, lots and lots of colourful icy boozy drinks, and a out-of-control wrestling match on our front lawn.
Our family stereo lived in the basement. Or at least I believe it did back then, though my memory might be seriously faulty. Anyway, that’s where it exists in this story. During this party, the stereo was cranked up to an unrelenting decibel level that filled the entire house. As a kid, I inevitably got curious—could the stereo really be playing music that loud? I’d never heard it that loud before. So I started creeping towards the basement—first to the kitchen, then to the landing, then step-by-step down the stairs. By the kitchen, the music was loud. By the landing it was unbearable. By the time I had started downstairs I was convinced this was the worst idea yet of my young life and that I would now be at least partially deaf for the rest of my life. But I kept going anyways, hands pressed down over both ears, tip-toeing one stair at a time almost as if worried the stereo might hear me. I suppose I was just so mystified that our little ol’ stereo which played quiet CBC radio on Sunday afternoons could pump out volume like this.
After another ten minutes of inching down the stairs I decided that enough was enough and that I would make a dash for it. I jumped down the remaining steps, ran across our basement floor, and pulled up just a few feet short of the stereo system. I was young and I was not strictly supposed to mess around with the stereo, certainly not when there was a party and many guests enjoying the music. So I slowed to a stop just before it, hands still pressed down firmly over my ears, eye-balls now bulging out from awe and disbelief that, yes, indeed, this was our same little old stereo: one of the college kids had not replaced it with a live rock band while I was on the toilet.
My trance was broken when one of these kids stumbled at full speed down the stairs and blundered up to me and the stereo. To my child mind he was obviously unwell: arms moving at odd angles and speeds, eyes near squeezed shut, mouth gaping so that his tongue waved about like a flag, hair far too long. He bumped into me, knocking my hand off my right ear—the shock of the sound nearly clobbered me, yet he still manage to yell above it all, “Waaaaahhhhhhooooo! Rock music, eh? Waaaahhhhhhooooo!” To which my response was to slap my hand back over my ear and sprint past him up the stairs, little elbows pumping vigorously all the way to the top.
I never want to be a college kid, I must have thought.
On to the icy drinks. In the kitchen were all our biggest containers chock-full of ice and made even more full with oddly shaped and coloured drinks the likes of which I’d never seen before as a kid. All of these containers were on display atop our beloved orange Ikea kids table—the big stainless steel bowl used only for Thanksgiving stuffing, all three of my Mom’s mixing bowls, the blue and white Coleman cooler, and the giant spaghetti pot used only on Sundays but now pressed into the sacrilege of being a beer receptacle.
The drinks in all their colour must have made the kids table look entirely welcoming the same way different construction paper and sparkles does to kindergarteners. But this welcome was meant for an entirely different audience. There were brown beer bottles with red labels, green beer bottles with silver labels, beer bottles with no labels at all, and beer cans of dozens of blue-silver-red colour combinations. There were all kinds of fizzy cooler drinks in colours like flamingos and peacocks, and there was enough bottles of pop to provide mix for the almost as numerous bottles of hard liquor.
All of this was just sitting there for the taking. I chose a Sprite.
Then I heard commotion loud enough to conquer the stereo system and coming from somewhere in the direction of the front lawn. I gulped two big swigs of my Sprite, set it back down carefully in the spaghetti pot, and ran out of the kitchen, through the living room and out the front door.
At the center of the lawn and at the center of my little kid universe were two college students, on the ground, wrapped in what I could have though to be a loving embrace except for the fact I was young and lived in Fairview and therefore knew nothing about homosexuality. Instead, it looked like a gladiatorial brawl to the death. Our lawn had a slight rise at its center and there they were, at the top of this grassy knoll, tumbling over and over, trying to achieve God-knows-what. Around them, back near the lawn’s edge for safety’s purpose, stood the rest of the party, drinks in hand, enjoying the still strong evening summer sun as much as the display of wrestling prowess in front of them.
Me, being young and perhaps up to that point sheltered from pure barbarity such as this, wheeled about looking for the help of a block parent to break things up. College kids, though maniacal and dangerous behind the wheel, resemble parents more or less to a 5-year-old. But even if they did notice me, they seemed to have zero urgency to intervene. I cowered back between the hedge and the Ohio buck-eye for safety from the melee, and looked back towards the front door hoping an authority figure would emerge to save the day.
No such figure did emerge, but the wrestling duo had already come close to burning up the bulk of their energy and had tumbled to a stop near the juniper bushes. It was then, when the threat had past, that my father and mother emerged from the front door, surveyed the scene and let out jolly laughs of goodwill and munificence, then descended the steps to dust off the two tumblers and ensure the party continued its merriment. I for one stood agape as the two men, mortal enemies only seconds before bent on each other’s ultimate destruction, high-fived, and walked arm-over-shoulder together to find two beer cans waiting for them at the edge of the driveway.
At this point everything fades black and the scene ends with me knowing that somehow the world, though somewhat larger and louder than I knew it, would be alright. Mostly because my parents were still on the scene, but also because in the long evening sunshine of Fairview summers stories only ever had happy endings.