Birthday Surprise: I turn 18! — #AtoZChallenge 2023

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.

My first draft beer at age 18 was a quiet experience, until I got home and discovered a rowdier Birthday Surprise! Photo: Pixabay

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!

Kicking back with my friend Terry (left) after my Eighteenth Birthday Party (1968). Terry’s job was to take me out for a beer when I turned 18, while everyone else gathered at my house for my surprise party. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

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.

That’s me (left) with a classmate at my Eighteenth Birthday Surprise party (1968). I was a bit counter-culture at that point, and some classmates joked about me taking up pipe smoking. Looks like someone bought me one for my birthday! Photo by Norman J. Charboneau

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!

© 2023 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

12 thoughts on “Birthday Surprise: I turn 18! — #AtoZChallenge 2023”

  1. omg, the clothes and hairdos take me right back! I remember making a dress like yours in the 3rd photo in 7th grade Home Ec class. I was six years behind you but had neighbors in high school and wanted their hairdos. So much fun.

  2. What a fun time and such a surprise! Love the clothes styles 😉 Like you I didn’t take the pledge, surprising since I was usually compliant, but a pipe!! OMG!

    1. Thanks, Pauleen. You’re the first person outside my home town who has even heard of the pledge. Glad you didn’t take it either!

  3. I’m surprised your parents didn’t notice guys in the backyard passing beer through the window! I can’t even remember my 18th birthday! I know there was no party.

  4. What a fun memory to have! I felt sad when I thought that your friends had abandoned you but so happy when it turned out that they were plotting such a great experience for you! How was your second glass of beer?

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