The fancy, gold leaf patterned chip bowl was placed on the sparkling clean kitchen counter. Roosted on the edge was its miniature accomplice, reserved exclusively for the bestowment of french onion dip. To its side sat the matching gold leaf patterned rocks, highball, and wine glasses, lined up like the photo shoot for an ad campaign entitled “Ladies Night.”
The wooden, marble centered cheese board boasted wedges of red, wax-coated Gouda and port wine cheeses, surrounded by a mélange of crackers and grapes. The indispensable crème de menthe brownies had been arranged perfectly on the glass platter with the large “R” etched into it. A large silver ice bucket and tongs sat next to many thoughtfully arranged bottles. Some of them were tall and thin, with labels attached and corks in the top. Others were large, with handles and screw tops. Some bottles were green or brown, while others contained liquid that was either clear or a beautiful shade of glowing amber, all of which the women drank as if they had just run a 5K and were trying to quench a seemingly unquenchable thirst.
Old York Manor Pheasant Hills was the name of our neighborhood, even though I never saw a pheasant on any of the hills. Once the women had all walked over, my brother and I were sent off to bed. I loved these parties, and would sneak out of my room and sit in the hallway for hours, listening to their stories, curse words, dirty jokes, gossip and raucous laughter. There was nothing better, and I always drastically increased my vocabulary on those nights.
The women all wore their hair short, curled, and frosted. They wore flared, high-waisted, lightweight pants, with thin, stretchy gold belts clasped shut by little seashells or the like. Short sleeved, pale silk blouses, open toed wedges, gold necklaces, Shalimar, and big glasses were all the rage in 1982.
They all had snap topped leather cigarette cases with little pockets on the front for their lighters. True Blue 100’s and Virginia Slims lay strewn about the coffee table amidst the remnants of appetizers, myriad of drink glasses, and crumpled paper cocktail napkins.
They all sat in the living room around the low marble coffee table, relaxed on the floor, some on the couch, with shoes kicked off and cigarettes clasped between their fingers. Their voices got louder and louder as the night went on, their stories overlapped and interrupted, and laughter exploded more and more frequently. They would comfort each other when someone got weepy to Kenny Rogers’ “Lady.”
In spite of my desire to stay up until the very end, I would eventually crawl into my bed, exhausted. Occasionally I would hear the front door open and close, the volume of the party decreasing a little more each time. Mom and her friend Carol would usually continue after everyone else had left, they would continue to laugh together hysterically for several hours after they should have called it a night.
The next morning as mom slept, I explored the living room as if it were a crime scene. The empty cigarette packages and overflowing ashtrays told me how late they had been up. Remnants of french onion dip crusted the edges of the bowl, and discarded red wax lay next to a lone, soft piece of cheese surrounded by a few broken crackers in a pile of crumbs.
A variety of watered down, almost empty drinks stood like punctuation marks on the table. I picked one up and held the intriguing amber liquid to my nose. It smelled horrible, so I took a sip. It burned going down my throat and left a warm bonfire in the pit of my stomach. It was my first instillation, I was eleven, and her name was Scotch.