Christmas House Party, 1981
There were kids there, more kids than adults. Not just the kids whose house the party was at, but all the kids of all the guests. Parents would set out 2 rules for their children:
Don’t drink the mix.
If I see you, we’re going home.
The adults would keep to the kitchen, playing cards. Alabama, Willie Nelson, or Dolly Parton would be playing on a stereo in the living room. There would be swearing, loud and superfluous. Women sat on one side of a huge kitchen table, men on the other. Meat trays, heavy with fatty cold cuts would be laid out. Not for the kids. The kids were left with soggy chips out of a green Tupperware bowl, in the rec room. Within an hour, a thick haze of acrid cigarette smoke would settle over the house.
Most adults got louder, a few would get quieter. One or two would pass out altogether. There would be yelling over a disagreed upon point of history, followed by back slapping and wise nodding. Cars would be started sometime after 2 am, because their owners would be leaving “right after this drink”. People would start to trickle out, one family at a time. At least half of those driving away were drunk.
Christmas House Party, 2007
There are no kids. The children of the house have been sent to sleep at their grandparents’ house for the night. The guests’ children are all safely at home with babysitters. Adult contemporary Christmas CDs play softly. Homemade hors d’oeuvre are laid out. Polite, even witty, conversation is made. The rooms are balanced, men and women mixing.
If the smokers are lucky, they are allowed to practice their craft in an attached garage. Otherwise, they are left to the elements on a front porch. By midnight, the crowd is thinned, only die hards are left, and then the conversation gets a little less polite, a lot more interesting. By one o’clock, cabs have been called. The guests go home. They pay their babysitters more for one night than they themselves made in a week at their first jobs.