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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Teen Boy-Girl Party

     First many long strips of orange crepe paper were attached to the Recreation Room’s ceiling until they formed a temporary wall of sorts between the recreation part of the room and my father’s radio room. No, he wasn’t a disk jockey or anything cool like that; he was the Director of the Military-Affiliated Radio System (MARS) for the State as well as an amateur ham radio operator. The area at one end of the large room was known as his Ham Shack. Dad had agreed that I could have a Halloween Party for six couples in that room as long as none of us messed with his stuff. Well, duh, how likely was that anyway? From the point of view of the party decorator, it was ugliness to the max. Like who would want to sit in his swivel chair on rollers and turn any of his dials or knobs when there were boys, food, and music? Okay, well, maybe the guys could be curious; he may have a point. I promised to hide it from my party guests, hence, the orange wall.

     Once all the strips were affixed and dangling, we twisted them and secured each one to the floor. Next, the traditional Halloween decorations were attached to the crepe wall; and, in fact, it really did look just like the other decorated walls in the room. So cool! Most teenagers I knew did not do drugs or alcohol and none of my guests did, so Dad’s Shack was well-protected from any potential curiosity-seekers. When the basement room began to dim, I automatically turned on one of the table lamps. That lit a light in my decorating brain cells, too… cover the lampshades and change the ambient light color. Talk about fantabulous! The incredible orange glow was the only light in the room and I loved the effect.

     Finally, furniture was moved, including my portable stereo and stack of long play vinyl records on the stand. (By way of explanation should there be any readers under 25, the large round black disks had a small hole in the middle which slipped over a thin rod to keep it on the turntable while it went around and around. There was a small needle attached to the end of an arm suspended over the disk. When in use, the arm was lowered so that the needle rested in the groove that had been cut into the disks. Yes, that meant that records were “cut” not “burned” as in today’s CD’s. The needle followed the groove until it reached the center of the disk and, then, automatically retracted, unless it was stuck. In which case, you would get to hear the annoying last word of any song over and over until someone lifted the arm off the disk. So, if you wanted music for a party of two hours, you needed a stack of such records to keep the tunes flowing.  Okay, everyone’s up-to-speed on the ancient method of producing background music for teen parties.) 

     The advantage of the portable model I had was that it had a long extension so a few records could be stacked to drop one at a time when the arm retracted. The more permanent models had a small middle rod so only one record could be placed on the turntable at a time. The sound was better in the permanent model but the convenience of the portable made it better for parties, really. Or, so I thought. What did I know about it, this was my very first teenage boy-girl party. It wouldn’t have mattered, though, as this one portable was the only stereo I owned, the traditional 13th birthday present in our family. I had been building my collection of records for two-and-a-half years and figured it would be enough. If things went well and my parents ever said I could have another party, though, I might need to borrow some next time.

     Okay, time to get the food ready. We had all kinds of soda pop in a cooler with ice from the service station’s bagged ice freezer. I put out plates and bowls of a variety of snacky kinds of things. Probably napkins with a Halloween theme, too, though my memory is a tiny bit weak on this point; it just seems like something my mother would want me to have for the guests. At last, it was party time and I was ready, whew!

     One-by-one the young couples arrived. One pair stayed only a short time; they were in some kind of conflict when they arrived anyway, so we didn’t really mind their early exit. We had a terrific time just talking and commenting on the songs and new records we would like to have. The snacks went over well and nobody spilled their drinks, which was a real plus, in my opinion. Yes, there was handholding, like all the time unless one arm or other was wrapped around one’s date, but that’s it. “No funny business” about which my parents had warned us.

    To my parents’ credit, they never came down the stairs to check on us. Probably they could hear the music and laughter and figured nothing much could be going on in the midst of all that noise. Meanwhile, we, the revelers, enjoyed the food, music and friends, figuring my parents could drop in anytime and no one wanted to get caught doing anything best hidden from the adults. As the older generation would say, “It was just good, clean fun.”

     When the time to wrap things up came, my friends and date left. (Hmm, I just now realized he never stayed to help me clean up either, as a matter of fact. Well, guess if it took me more than fifty years to realize that, I probably hadn’t expected him to stay!) Clean-up, now here was the flip-side to any party, ugh. Nevertheless, the party had been a success and I was so happy, as well as exhausted. Not sure I wanted another party any time real soon but, at least, it was an option since everyone had managed to have a good time and not trash the place.

     When I hear of the parties kids have now, I feel sorry for them, really. The pressure around drugs, alcohol and sex seem to be everywhere for the adolescents, even in the church sometimes. Where is the good, clean fun for this generation?

     “Awe, Sojourner, get with it. It’s the 21st century and all that stuff is as out-of-date as your vinyl records!” Is it? Let’s check with the Apostle Paul, then, and see if our society today is so advanced that we don’t need to go there ever again, in God’s opinion.

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