new year’s eve 1985ish

There’s a story in my family that my dad loves to tell about me when I was 6 or 7 years old. It happened on New Year’s Eve when my parents had a huge party. My parents loved to entertain, we had a great house for it. My job at my parents’ parties was two-fold: coat check and bartender. I could make a mean scotch and water at 6 years old. The trick is to measure the scotch with two fingers. I was mixing drinks before I was old enough to reach the scotch on my own. I just used the stool that was in our family room.

So new year’s eve 1984 or ’85 rolls around and my parents are throwing a huge party, a rager really. I had been on bartending duty and then I guess one of my parents, probably my mom, told me to go to bed at some point. My bedroom was right above the living room where the party was going strong at midnight. I wasn’t able to sleep and I was pissed off. Then, I heard it. Music blasting from downstairs. And not just any music, my brand new Tina Turner Private Dancer record. My parents had a record player in our family room but there was a huge speaker in the living room. I was so mad that a) my parents were partying and I couldn’t sleep and 2) they were playing my record without having asked my permission first. This was unforgivable to me and I remember so clearly being mad about it. So I decided I was going to do something about it. I put on my house coat and slippers ( remember house coats?!) and I went downstairs to the entrance of the living room. There were all of these people, completely drunk, partying in the living room. The music was blaring. All of a sudden, my dad notices me just standing there looking at them and says, what’s going on? I put my hands on my little hips and said loudly, “turn that music off and get these people out of my house!” Immediately, my dad started laughing. Then the whole room was laughing. He then told me to go back to bed. I didn’t understand why they weren’t taking me seriously.

That was an early, and very vivid lesson about how my parents would respond to what I needed, especially when they were drinking or drunk. When you’re a kid growing up in a family run by alcoholics, what you want really doesn’t register as important. That new year’s eve was the first lesson in that, my sleep, my things, didn’t matter. My feelings didn’t matter. What I wanted didn’t matter. That’s what I learned that night. That story is a bit of lore in my family, my dad still tells it and laughs. It burns me to hear him tell it, I can feel the anger in my throat every time. But telling these stories here makes them mine and I feel a little less like a raging mad six year old when I do. xo Janet

Published by Janet Gwilliam-Wright

Feminist and queer. Professional teller of truths. Slayer of personal demons.

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