Last night Kate was invited to a birthday party. She specifically asked us not to attend with her, and since we were invited to another party, and had similar thoughts about shlepping her along with us, we honored her wish. We are bad parents.
The party was at a large American Legion hall, with several entrances. Only one seemed to be lit up, the one at the bar. “Of course it must be somewhere else in the building,” we said as we walked in. “Of course they wouldn’t allow a child’s birthday party to be held in a bar. Not in Indiana. Not even in a private club.” (Locals know the state’s laws on this subject to be utterly batsh*t, with children thought to be so delicate that they must not be exposed to the corrupting sight of a bar filled with its choir of bottles, each one holding a different formula of the devil’s potion.)
Of course we were wrong. The birthday girl’s relatives were pushing the tables together in the back. We passed through a room full of Legion drinkers, including a solitary man with a 40-ounce beer in front of him, a full ashtray and a deep concentration on the basketball game. We made the gift exchange, gave Kate the standard behave-yourself orders and took off. A couple hours later, we made our exit from our own party: “Well, gotta shove off. Need to go pick up our kid at the bar.”
Back at the Legion, karaoke night was in full swing, the usual warblers alternating with the birthday-party kids, who sang “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as their final number before being kicked out at 9 p.m. (Legion rules — no kids after 9).
Please note I had no problem with this. In south St. Louis, where everyone else in my family grew up, this was pretty much the way it was. Kids went to bars with their parents and were served vanilla Cokes and hot dogs. Big hairy deal.
But it was just so strange, going in to kiss my sweet daughter goodnight for the last time, burying my nose in her hair to get one last whiff of her (only mothers understand how much we need to smell our kids) and thinking: This kid stinks like an ashtray.