We lived on a cul-de-sac where each house was on a sizable three plus acre lot surrounded by trees. Our house was set back quite a bit from the road connected by a driveway that could easily fit over a dozen cars. We had a family room with a pool table and a large screen TV, a spacious deck in the back of the house, and an actual roller rink in our basement that doubled as a dance/party floor, complete with colored fluorescent lights and a jukebox that played everything from Buddy Holly to Michael Jackson. It was the ideal place to throw parties.
While my brother and I generally just had a few friends over, it was my sister and parents who threw the parties in our family. My sister started organizing elaborate parties in high school. She would have creative themes such as “Deb’s ‘Do It Again’ New Year’s Bash” that recreated the coming of the new year the weekend after the actual holiday since most kids were stuck spending the holiday with family. Debbie and her friends would chip in and buy several kegs for the event (in the early ‘80s, the drinking age was 18) and didn’t charge admission. This presented an opportunity for me. I would get a folding table and a cash box from my mom’s office, and set up shop at the top of our driveway with a sign that read, “Admission: $5.” It was the perfect business: all of the income with none of the expenses.
My parents’ parties were like my sister’s, except there was a lot more drinking involved and the police showed up more often. The guests at our family parties were not unlike the characters one might find on an adult sitcom. Starring…
The Scamanici’s. The Scamanici’s were as normal as my parents’ friends got. There was Mr. and Mrs. Scamanici and their three children with ages roughly matching my age and the ages of my siblings. But like all “normal” people, they had their little quirks. We called them the “kissing Scamanici’s” because they wouldn’t settle for a “hello,” a wave, a handshake, or even a hug; they required kisses upon each aloha (the hellos and goodbyes). Kids generally don’t like to be kissed by old people who are not their parents, so my preferred strategy in dealing with them was to get the kissing over with for the arrival (i.e., greet them at the door) and hide upon their departure.
Magooch. Imagine a large man in height and girth, mid-thirties, cheeks like a chipmunk, in a perpetual state of drunkenness. This was Magooch. Although English speaking, he spoke the kind of English that comprised word fragments and spit translatable by only those who knew him best. Magooch’s claim to fame was the “Magooch Shuffle.” What originated as a stumble when moving from the bar to the bathroom, the Magooch Shuffle was erroneously interpreted by others as a deliberate dance move. This “dance move” was favored by my parents’ fishing buddies because it seemed to come naturally to all of them.
The Don. Don was like the Godfather of Rivercliff Yacht Club. Calling Rivercliff a “yacht club” is like calling Motel 6 a “resort.” It was actually just a membership-based bar for fisherman to which my parents belonged. Don was an older gentleman who earned the respect of the other members because of his fishing wisdom. When Don talked about fishing, people listened. My mother had an admiration for Don that made my father furiously jealous, yet my dad had too much respect for Don to hold him responsible. It was a strange three-way relationship that often came up in my parents’ arguing rituals.
The Purse Snatchers. The “purse snatchers,” as they were affectionately known even to their faces, were four inner-city kids who hung around the fishing docks. They idolized my father and his fishing abilities, so my dad kept them around for esteem-building purposes. Despite their long rap sheets, they were good kids raised in a bad environment who enjoyed the break from their harsh reality to come to our parties and indulge in the free booze with high-class people like Magooch.
The Aunts and Uncles. Then there were the aunts and uncles who, like my parents, were highly fond of the drink. My uncles’ drinking was strongly correlated with inappropriate comments generally directed to their nieces whereas my aunts’ drinking was strongly correlated to how loud they got. See the charts below.
Here you can see that the level of inappropriateness (on a scale from 0–10) for uncles starts at a 5 and at one drink since I don’t think I ever saw one of my aunts or uncles without at least one drink in their system. It goes up consistently until five drinks, at which time speech slurs to the point where inappropriate comments become indistinguishable from gibberish.
Here you can see that while there is a moderate correlation between drinking and volume (loudness) for my uncles, the correlation is much stronger with aunts. Aunts begin the night being overpowered by their husbands until four drinks. Then at five drinks, the aunts overpower the uncles in volume at which point the uncles want to go home.
The Unknowns. There were also relatives (so I was told) who showed up at our parties and showered me with affection—and I had no idea who the hell they were. They would all seem shocked about me getting so big and go on and on about how the last time they saw me I was smaller like Benjamin Button syndrome was the norm and I was some kind of freak. These were generally older relatives such as grandparent’s siblings, cousins twice-removed, or some other genealogical enigma that requires a whiteboard to understand. The tough part was pretending that I was happy to see to them, or in some cases heart-broken that they died. My grandmother’s sister once called my house:
“Oh Boie, this is Aunt Stephanie. I have some terrible, terrible news. I am really sorry to have to tell you this: Henry just passed away.”
“Oh. That’s… terrible.” I replied trying my best to sound more somber than confused. Henry, it turns out, was my mother’s mother’s sister’s husband. I was confused by that, but I was more confused because I had no idea who Aunt Stephanie was.
All in all, the parties at the Bennett’s presented me with an opportunity to grow. I learned
Get the book, Some Really Personal, Yet Entertaining Stories From My Life That You Will Enjoy and May Even Find Inspiring by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:
What is a “normal childhood?” Does it include almost being murdered by your sister with an ax? Speeding around town in the back of a station wagon because your mom is chasing an “alien spaceship”? Being busted by the police for intent to light a pond on fire? Tackling your mom to the ground and wrestling a knife out of her hand because she was trying to kill your dad? While my stories may be unique, readers will be able to relate to the broader themes are part of a normal childhood such as sibling rivalry, eccentric parents, doing stupid things, and frequently preventing one’s parents from literally murdering each other.
Although some of the subject matter is not something one would generally laugh at, you have my permission to laugh. Social rules don’t apply here; my rules do. It works for me, and who knows, after reading the stories from my past, you might be inspired to see your own screwed up past in a more humorous light.
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