B is for Birthday Surprise: I turn 18! Second of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years — adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
During my senior year in 1968, many of my classmates were turning 18 – which was then the legal drinking age in New York State. So as a rite of passage, each person’s eighteenth birthday was the first time to go out to a bar or restaurant and have a beer with friends.
Thank goodness that at my Catholic confirmation ceremony, I’d refused to take the “the pledge” not to drink until 21, so I was good to go – and as my eighteenth birthday approached, I started calling friends to go with me. Yet one by one, they all said they were busy.
A quiet first brew
I was disappointed, but finally my friend Terry agreed to go along. She drove me over to nearby Vestal to a nice bar and restaurant, and I had my first beer – totally unaware that I was in for a Birthday Surprise when I returned home.
For while I quietly sipped my first brew, my friends and extended classmate network had conspired to throw me a surprise birthday party – and they somehow succeeded at keeping it a complete secret!
Even my parents and sibs were in on it – since it was held in our basement rec room – and I still can’t believe none of them blabbed either. Turns out Terry’s job was to keep me busy and away from the house!
Back from the bar, and ho-hum about my lackluster first beer, I headed downstairs with Terry and “SURPRISE!” A huge mob from school to celebrate my birthday – and what a motley crew, too. Some of my longtime girlfriends were there, but so were a lively bunch of newer-to-me folks.
A birthday surprise!
I chaired the Senior Class Float Committee for Homecoming (more on that in Letter H). That experience introduced me to some wild and crazy partiers – a far cry from my more subdued Avocado and academic classmates – and they turned out for my eighteenth birthday festivities.
By the time I arrived, they had already figured out how to sneak beer down to the basement — unbeknownst to my folks — to supplement the soda and snacks. In a clearly well-practiced operation, a couple of guys went straight out to the back yard to pass beer through an opened basement window.
A younger guy from the class below me, who I had a crush on (we’ll call him Junior) was there, too, and by the end of the night we’d kissed for the first time. Altogether a cool and memorable event – somewhat like a senior year sendoff — and a definite tribute to socializing outside one’s usual crowd.
Life beyond schoolwork
I had begun high school on the college-bound track with serious, competitive honor students. But working on the float, I’d fallen in with a whole new (and fun!) bunch who knew there was more to life than just hitting the books.
“I’ll never forget your surprise party or the wild times at Rick’s [where we built the float],” wrote my classmate Beth in my yearbook.
As someone who often scored “Unsatisfactory” in deportment during my elementary years, I appreciated the sentiment – and I was grateful they were there to help me celebrate my eighteenth birthday!
Up next C is for Coffeehouse Fridays. Please stop back!
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