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Sixteen Candles
Reminiscing About a Teenage Party Gone Awry

Blast San Francisco Bureau

Several years ago I opened our local paper and spotted a story about a woman I knew of who was seriously injured during a house fire. The paper said she had been in her bed sleeping when the blaze started. I think a cigarette had caught fire in her bedroom. Local firemen were proclaimed heroes after they dragged her from a window to safety. She was brought to the hospital in serious condition. Her house was nearly destroyed.

She was a woman I had wondered about but not known very well in high school. She would buy beer for her son occasionally and let us drink it in her basement. In that way, she wasn't like other suburban moms and she left me with a mystery I ponder to this day.

Years back, it was her excitable son Mike's doing that a crazy party at my house occurred, though I must admit to share in the guilt. It was most unfortunate that I had told several friends, Mike included, that my parents were departing for the weekend, a big deal since it was something they never did back then. I was supposed to be staying with my friend Heidi that weekend. My sister, Kristen, was away at ice hockey camp.

Mike spread the word that Big Der's parents were going out of town and she was having an ETRAP on Saturday night. I did little to stop him, (Mike, stop telling people! I lamely whined). Since I was wasn't very popular, I thought not many kids would show up.

Of course this was before I realized that popularity had absolutely no relationship to party attendance. On a dull night in suburbia, it matters little if you are dork, dweeb or moron - a party is a party. And there was no way to stop the grapevine party buzz unless I canceled, which would be the supremely lame cop out and would serve only to cripple my already unpopular school-wide status.

"I was starting to think that I might be the first person in Westboro High history to throw a weekend party that no one attended. How humiliating."
In those days, a group of us pronounced everything considered clandestine backwards, particularly when parents were lurking or during nightly telephone conversations. We called parties ``etraps,'' vodka was ``Uncle Akdov,'' taking a sip was a run to the bathroom and beer was ``let's find a buyer and pick up some reebs.''

Sinep? (Did you touch his SINEP? giggle, giggle).

Der (I have red hair) was my nickname - sometimes Big Der for variation. I accumulated many nicknames during my high school tenure, including Beaver II, which an older student would scream from a balcony every time he saw me, leaving me to flush with shame. I wondered if he would show up at the party.

Resigned to the idea of the big bash, I went ahead and asked my friend Linda's 24-year-old boyfriend to buy beer. Heidi and I worked on the plan for Saturday. Her mom was typically out with her boyfriend, Sling, on Saturday so we thought everything would work out fine. On Friday morning I bid my parents goodbye. My mom said Helen, from across the street, would feed our cat. She gave me a big hug.

At around 7 p.m. Saturday, Heidi dropped me off at my empty house. I cleaned up a little bit, moving plants, magazines, books and chairs from harm's way.

The house felt eerie and cold without my family in there. Unfortunately I couldn't turn the heat on because my father wouldn't ever allow it. We heated the house with wood stoves and I had rarely touched a thermostat.

I made something to eat, shivered and sat around with the cat.

By 9 p.m., no one had arrived.

I was starting to think that I might be the first person in Westboro High history to throw a weekend party that no one attended. How humiliating.

But then I heard a car door slam.

"A wall of people lined up for the bathroom. The house was packed. It stank of smoke and booze. It was strange seeing sophomores I barely knew sitting on my mom's ugly yellow couch."
Peter Oikle and some others streamed through the front door. Heidi and her boyfriend Billy, whom she was never supposed to see per order of her mother, followed with a case or two of beer.

Then the cars started pouring down Fisher Street. Drivers parked on the edges of front lawns up and down my street. The silence in my parent's home quickly shifted to a dull roar.

Cans were cracked open and stacked on the kitchen table by a group of burping boys, cigarettes were lit despite pleas for no smoking in the house. Jimmy Clunie, my perennial high school crush, whipped the table cloth and protective pads off my mother's prized glossy maple dining room table and fired up a quarters game.

Partygoers wandered the street in drunken stupor and a group of freshmen I didn't know frolicked in my back yard. Billy (known as Lib) stuffed my cat into the microwave. Before he turned the oven on, I managed to rescue poor Spud, an ugly gray feline with a skin condition, and stuffed him in a back room, where I found some random couple making out. A wall of people lined up for the bathroom. The house was packed. It stank of smoke and booze. It was strange seeing sophomores I barely knew sitting on my mom's ugly yellow couch.

At some point, the mayhem made me panic. My house had been taken over by people I didn't even like.

Drunk and in the midst of an anxiety attack, I pulled hands away from my mom's potato chip stash and checked to see no one was using her wine glasses for shots of tequila. I was not having a good time. I wanted everyone to leave.

Then the cops came.

My sister, the more troubled of the two of us, had had dealings with the Westboro police, but I had never even seen a cop up close before. I assumed neighbors concerned for my parents welfare had called 911. I supposed they were also angry that drunken teens were parking on their lawns and pissing on their finely-coiffed shrubs.

When the fat, clammy-faced cliche of an officer, whose name I can't recall, opened the front door and swaggered in with another officer behind him, I was huddling against the wall at the top of the stairs waiting my fate.

``Everyone out,'' the cop shouted. ``Anyone here over the age of 21?''

My friend Linda, fearing her older boyfriend would be nabbed for buying us beer, took off to warn him. The cops started walking up the stairs toward me. I felt like Joan of Arc, ready to accept my fate - except I would probably burn in my parents' wood stove.

``Do you know who lives here?'' the officer asked me.

``Um, well, I live here officer,'' I said.

"This started out as a small birthday party for Stacey Dapolite and it just got out of control and there was nothing I could do to stop it," I whimpered, sniffling. "Could you please make everyone just go?"
Then the miracle occurred. I started to cry.

``This started out as a small birthday party for Stacey Dapolite and it just got out of control and there was nothing I could do to stop it,'' I whimpered, sniffling. ``Could you please make everyone just go?''

The cop, for some reason, did not haul me down to the station. Instead, he turned around and ushered more people out the front door. In a flash, the house emptied, engines started, tires screeched and I was nearly alone. Heidi said she would be back to pick me up, but I told her I would just stay in the house and clean up.

Though nothing had been destroyed I knew I would be in big trouble when my parents found out. My dad had a volatile temper. I lived in fear.

Since running away was not an option and I had some months to kill before college, I decided I would repeat my story of the surprise birthday party gone awry to my parents when they discovered what I had done.

Strangely, when my parents did return, several days passed and nothing happened. The cat was living. The house was still standing. I hadn't been arrested. Not a peep from any neighbor or cop.

Until that phone call.

For some inexplicable reason, Mike's mom decided to call my mother and come clean on what she knew.

``I just thought that you would want to know,'' said the woman who bought us beer and let us drink it in her basement. ``I don't want to be a tattle-tale or anything, but I know that I would want someone to tell me if Mike had a party when I was out of town.''

Although mom never admitted it at the time, I think she knew that Mike's mom was a couple sandwiches short of a picnic. But what are you supposed to say after getting a random phone call from a woman you've never met informing you that your daughter betrayed your trust?

Because of me, my parents decided to stay home indefinitely. They didn't take another weekend trip for at least a year, at which time my sister decided to throw a party, despite warnings and many references to my big mistake.

What occurred at her party, which I did not attend because I was away at college, was most unfortunate. A hoodlum, who has never been found out, slashed the car seats of my mom's Toyota.

Upon hearing this, I thanked God nothing like this had ever happened at my party. For minimal pain, the bash brought me brief fame and notoriety at Westboro High (``Hey, cool ETRAP Big Der'') and even the cat lived to see another day.

But I never did get to ask Mike's mom why she squealed on me. As years went by, I heard little about her, though I ran into Mike once and later saw the story in the paper. I still haven't called Mike to ask how she's doing. It just all seems a little strange.