Last year our family started a new tradition, a New Year's Eve party. The extended family gathers for a children's gift exchange, a Dirty Santa, a huge dinner, and just general debauchery and merriment.
Until this began, Tony and I were fairly anti-New Year's Eve. It was, in our opinion, amateur night...thousands of people crammed into bars, drinking appletinis, and woo'ing and then barfing. We usually watch the ball drop in our pajamas, in our bed with a bottle of champagne.
However, there is one New Year's Eve that was memorable, a ball drop that will go down in infamy.
New Year's Eve 1999. Y2K hysteria was running rampant, but we were not concerned. We were 22. We were much more concerned with tapping into our inner rock stars than we were about a global blackout. We were ready to party!
We had been invited to a spectacular party, a gala, if you will. It was being thrown by a prominent surgeon that had only a few years before returned to her small Appalachian home town to start a free medical clinic. It was at a beautiful old country club on top of a mountain. There were rumors of fireworks. Tony's parents had graduated high school with the good doctor and had remained friends through the years. Tony and their daughter had gone to high school together and we all became friends at WVU.
I admired the doctor, but like everyone else, was slightly afraid of her. She was very giving and loving, but she had extremely high expectations - especially of her two children.
It was a formal event and getting dressed up lent to the level of excitement. I had borrowed a vintage Oscar De La Renta outfit from my gran. I was warned to be extremely careful with it...no spills or stains. I walked with some De La Renta swagger that night.
It was somewhat of an incredible feat, a testament of our overwhelming desire to rock on and ring in, that any of the Lewis clan made it to the party. It started out as a really, um, shitty day for us.
The septic tank had backed up. Considering that Mary hosted her family of 382 for Christmas this is not really that shocking. There is only so much, ok, you get it, even a septic tank can take.
The guys dutifully donned their waders and fixed the problem, but a portion of the basement was covered in, as Red would have narrated, a shit smelling foulness I can't even imagine. However, when Lenny, being the worrier that he is, decided that we were all going to catch a host of diseases ranging from typhoid fever to dysentary to syphilis they decided to call in the professionals. Now, getting a Roto Rooter representative in a major metropolitan area on New Year's Eve would be a difficult task, but getting one in a town that didn't yet have a Wal-Mart would take a New Year's Eve miracle.
Therefore, we had to take what we could get. What we got was a very recently released state pen inmate with a wet vac. To his credit, Lil' Harry of Big Harry and Sons arrived quickly. This deserved major props considering Lil' Harry had been in a fight the night before and had a huge stitched gash on his arm. When he arrived it was immediately clear that he was higher than the International Space Station.
He hooked up his wet vac and went to slopping around in the muck and mess. It took approximately seven minutes for him to bust open his spanking new stitches. He starts hollering up the steps, Oh Lordy, I need some help. Lordy, Lordy I'm bleedin' all over the place.
You can say one thing about Lil Harry, he was not a liar. He was, indeed, bleedin' all over the place. He was crumbled on the steps, a trail of blood splattering the remnants of the poo water. He asked for a rag and a glass of water, and then said he thought he may be sick. Really, at this point what was a little vomit going to matter? It was the final ingredient in the traditional New Year's Eve dinner of yuck stew.
Our new pal was able to keep the contents of his liquid breakfast down, but he was deemed unable to drive. Therefore, someone had to drive the high as a redwood, ex-convict with an open wound to the emergency room. Brent, Lynn's new boyfriend whom was spending his first holiday season at Casa de Lewis, was elected. After all, he had just purchased his dream truck. What better way to showcase it than to drive a blood and shit covered parolee to the hospital?
However, after covering the interior of the cab with old towels, Brent dutifully loaded him up and drove him to the local hospital. We think that he even slowed to a rolling stop before pushing Lil' Harry out at the ER door. The guys were able to get the rest of the mess cleaned up and we still had time to primp for the big bash.
There was an electric vibe in the air when we arrived at the party. We were lookin' like wealth and about to call the paparazzi on ourself(ves).
From the onset, the party was a blast, a full tilt boogie. We danced, we drank, we gossiped, we danced and drank some more. Tony's mom was our designated driver because she is one of those rare, almost mythical creatures that can have a good time without drinking. She will actually dance, in a public setting, without so much as a wine spritzer. The woman is amazing.
Around 11:00pm I noticed that I hadn't seen Tony in a while, and then we realized that we had not seen Lenny either. We figure that they have slipped off to share a secret cigar.
However, after they were gone much longer than it would take to smoke even the largest stogie to the nub, we begin to worry. A small search party of slightly intoxicated men sets out into the woods surrounding the home to find them. After the search party yelled increasing vile insults for a few minutes Tony and Lenny emerged from the tree line. They walked back to the party arm and arm - a heartwarming visual.
Tony's face revealed more PTSD than warm and fuzzy father-son chat. I asked him what was wrong. He told me that Lenny had asked him to go for a walk because he needed to get some air. Drinking a fifth of Absolut in under two hours and dancing like Mick Jagger will make one a bit warm. It will also make one chatty and just wrong.
Tony recounted that his dad, after vomiting, told him that he was sorry that he had failed him as a father and had sternly instructed him to not turn out like him - a no good drunk. Tony's dad rarely has more than two beers and he is the very definition of a hard working family man. Unfortunately, vodka opened the bizarro world vortex, where he was a dead-beat dad with a huge drinking problem.
By the time they returned, it was time for the fireworks, the rumors were true. We all took our warm and fuzzy buzzes outside and oohed and awwed at the explosions in the clear winter sky. We counted down to midnight, kissed, hugged. The world did not implode and we were all ready to go back in to the warmth of the club and party some more. Lenny made it through the fireworks and then napped in the car.
I also needed to find our friend, the surgeon's daughter, to wish her a happy new year. We had spent all evening together, having an absolute blast, but I realized I hadn't seen her since before the fireworks. I just figured she was hanging with her family. I was wrong.
As soon as I entered the great room, even before I could start burning rubber on the dance floor again, I was grabbed by the arm by someone that I only knew in passing, someone I knew through my missing friend. Her name was Samantha and she and her pixie haircut were about the cutest thing ever. You just wanted to scoop her up and put her in your pocket.
She told me that I needed to come with her right now. Right. Now. She then told Tony to go into one of the bathrooms, steal an entire roll of paper towels and bring them outside - quickly. Quickly. There was an urgency bordering on primal fear in her eyes.
Lynn, Brent and I quickly followed Samantha outside, she had still not said a word about what was going on. She didn't really need to, her face showed that it was dire. At the top of a knoll, she stopped and pointed. We peered into the darkness and saw two high heeled feet sticking out from the side of a car - Wicked Witch style.
We ran down and there we found our friend, our host's daughter, lying on the gravel in her fancy party dress. Samantha told us that she had followed her outside after she had said she thought she may be sick. She said that our friend had decided to lie down - on the gravel.
Tony returned with the paper towels and smartly an empty waste basket he had also swiped and hidden under his coat. We all bent down and peered at her - not completely sure if she was alive. She was - kinda
Tony sat her up, and I quickly explained to her that it was not even an option to continue lying on the ground outside a party hosted by her mother. A New Year's Eve party where the proceeds were going to the free health clinic she had started. I asked her when she had managed to get so completely off her tree. Samantha offered that she kept mumbling something about diet pills and only eating a small salad all day before she took her little gravel nap.
Tony got behind her and propped her up into a sitting position. She looked like a bobble head or an infant with no control of her head. She said, gonna, gonna, gonna be sick. Her head was still wobbling and we threw the bucket in her lap and told her to go ahead, it would make her feel better, and then we could get back in the party - lickety split. The ole puke and rally. No one had to be wiser.
She groaned, passed gas and right when we were expecting a trashcan full of lettuce and chardonnay, we heard her say, uh oh. I got the nerve to ask her what, exactly, uh oh meant, hoping against hope it wasn't what we thought, what we smelled.
It was the only time in my life that I would have been thrilled to clean up puke, hell, I would have welcomed her puking directly on Mr. De La Renta. No such luck. Our friend, the host's daughter, the host whom expected nothing less than perfection from her family, had, there really is no delicate way to put this, shit herself - a lot.
We were frantic as to what to do. Our friend's younger brother appeared outside, undoubtedly, to smoke a joint. He was a well known pot head and the only one that didn't seem to give a rat's ass about his mom's expectations, and she seemed to adore him for it. He strolled over to see what the commotion was about and when he saw that it was his sister his stoner smirk quickly disappeared. He quickly and correctly summarized the situation, ahh shit, mom is gonna kill her.
We hatched a half-assed drunken plan where we were going to clean her up and take her back into the party like it was all Weekend at Bernie's up in there. Tony snuck in the back and filled the waste basket with water and hand soap and found his mother, told her we would explain later, everyone was safe, but to not, under any circumstances, let the doctor outside.
Her brother found a truck, lowered the tailgate. We bent her rag doll self over it, and Samantha and I pulled her hose, underwear and crushed velvet skirt, a present from her mother for the party, off. It was dark, it was cold and we were pretty hammered. Furthermore, we were doing this left than 50 feet from the ball room. This was a foolproof plan.
Our friends formed a semi-circle around us. We set out wiping her up with brown industrial paper towels. I did this only because I truly felt that it was a life and death matter. I was truly afraid for her life. Truly. We were in the fox hole. There was no turning back.
Although Mary tried to stifle people's concerns about where all of the college kids were by offering up jokes about illicit drugs and group sex people started to look for us and word started to spread.
Our friend's ass was still shining as bright as the almost-full moon when someone yelled, Doc's comin'! Samantha and I locked eyes in shame and fear. Bone chilling, instantly sobering fear. We were done. It was over. Samantha quickly grabbed the poop skirt and put it on our friend - over her head.
Our friend's parents pulled around in their pristine black Mercedes. However, it was not her mother who got out of the car. It was her father. Her father whom barely spoke and seemed to always take a back seat to his wife. He simply said, get in the car - now. I think that the reason he did not speak very often was because his voice could freeze people's hearts.
We helped her down to the car and as we were putting her in, she said her only coherent sentence since the year before, please ride with us, they are going to kill me. We looked up at her father and he just nodded. We were unsure if this nod was to confirm that we should ride with them or that if they did, indeed, plan to kill her. We slid in the back seat and our friend slumped across us.
The smell was unbearable so we rolled down the windows. I was sure that hypothermia was going to set in before we got to their house. How we wished to be with Tony's parents. However, we did not know that Tony's parents' car was also playing a game of freeze out. Lenny had awoken to the new millennium in his wife's car with a massive hangover. He was certain that crisp mountain air whipping at his head at 65mph would help. Oh, of course.
He rolled the passenger side window down, stuck his head out and then started yelling through chattering teeth, that he was f-f-f-f-f-reeezing, that his head was gonna freeze off. Lynn, cold and beginning to sober up, said, well, why the hell don't you pull your head in the car and roll up the damn window? Mary said that he looked as if he may cry, but simply rolled up the window and promptly started snoring.
Back in the doctor's car, our friend had mumbled something about needing to go to the hospital. Her mother laughed, well, scoffed, and said, You most certainly will not be going to MY hospital. I will treat you at home - if need be. If need be? Perhaps she actually hadn't noticed that her daughter had shit herself. Otherwise, need be. Need fucking be.
We arrived home and her brother and his girlfriend were sitting on the couch. He was instructed to her walk her home and come straight back. He, for once, just did as he was told. The doctor determined that our friend needed to be put in a bath. I was thinking that she, like me, needed nothing less than a Silkwood shower, but just agreed that the bath was a good idea.
I went with them to the bathroom. Our friend was barely conscious so I undressed her as her mother ran the bath water. I helped her get in and when I felt the water I gasped. I am sure our friend would have gasped had she had the cognitive ability to do so. I was terrified of the doctor at this point, but summoned the courage to say, Ma'am, I know that you are a doctor, but this water is very cold. Don't you think that she could go into shock or something? She did not answer me, but she did turn on some hot water.
When we got her out of the bath and into some pajamas, I was dismissed. I was told we could leave now. I nervously looked back at my friend, curled in her bed, fairly certain that this would be the last time I would ever see her. I tromped down the steps, not caring that these steps had never been tromped down before, and grabbed Tony. He may have been even more thankful than me to get to leave as he had been trapped downstairs with Stone Cold Poppa Bear. I told him that at least he was given a beer.
Fortunately, Tony had already called his mom and she was waiting on us outside. We sped home, absolutely eager to strip out of our clothes. However, in my still slightly drunken, giddy to be away from the doctor's house state, I decided to stop off in the kitchen to have a beer. Tony's younger sister had had friends over. They had also been drinking. And, as I sat on the kitchen counter in my vintage Oscar De La Renta one of her drunk friends came over, and said, no offense homey, but you stink.
I guess I had completely forgotten that I was covered in shit. Unimaginable trauma and a boat load of vodka and champagne is the only way one forgets that even for a moment. Yep, I was covered in a shit smelling foulness I can't even imagine.
I took the Silkwood shower, I lathered, rinsed and repeated. I feel into bed.
The next day, the first day of the new century, we all had slight hangovers. Our friend had possibly the worst hangover in the history of hangovers. She was forced to answer all phone calls from concerned/nosy friends that day. Then the following day, she was at least given one day to recover, she had to write apology cards to all guests. I am dumbstruck by this.
I would have simply changed my name and moved. I may have even gone Caged Bird mute. I would have not said goodbye to anyone, I would not have withdrawn from school, I would have just left. I would have changed my name to Blair Warner Polniaczek and moved to a remote corner of Alaska that Todd Palin couldn't find on the fanciest of snow mobiles. I would not even be able to find a grid.
Our friend was strong. Her mother taught her how to be strong.
The good doctor passed away in 2005. She was loved and slightly feared by all. She brought so much passion and hope to the small Appalachian community that she loved so much. She expected a lot from those around her, but it was never more than she expected of herself.
I know the doctor believed in science, but she also had a strong faith and belief in God. I have no doubt that she has taken over a good portion of her celestial home. She is offering up organizational tips, giving harp and flying lessons. However, she is also reminding everyone to not judge others.
After all, shit happens.
Happy New Year!
|Tony, me, Lynn and Brent - early in the evening!