I genuinely didn’t mean to throw a party. As with most things I do, it started with good intentions.
I used to be a member of a youth club. They used to hold national events. This one involved a disco. As I was talking to someone I dimly recognised, she mentioned that she didn’t have anywhere else to stay that night. “That’s OK”, I told her, forever wanting to be helpful, “you can stay at mine.”
“Great,” she said, “can Rachel* stay too?” “Sure!” I said. I was sure my parents would be fine with me bringing two friends** home to stay.
At some point after that, something went wrong. I can only guess that the girls got chatting to other people about where they were staying, mentioned that they were staying at mine, and it’d probably be fine if they stayed too. And that those people had similar conversations with other people. And so it spread, like a cold through a crowded tube train, until everyone was staying at mine and I had no idea.
I’d noticed that there were a lot of people from the youth group on the train home, but that didn’t worry me. Lots of my friends lived near me, so it made sense that we’d all be going home together , then we’d all go our separate ways at the station. But, as I started walking home, I realised that no-one was splitting off. That 30 or so teenagers appeared to be following me. And that I barely knew most of them.
There didn’t seem to be much I could do about it, so my brain switched into my default denial mode.
“It’ll probably be fine”, I thought.
It wasn’t fine.
Actually, it was OK for the first hour or so. But more people kept turning up. And they weren’t ready to settle down for a cosy night’s sleep. There were people everywhere, chatting turning to shrieking, making out in dark corners, going through the fridge.
“You’re surprisingly calm”, I remember one boy telling me. I wasn’t. I was numb.
I remember the rest of the night in a series of flashbacks. Panicking that my parents’ lovely house would decidedly less lovely by the end of it***. Repeatedly telling the rowdiest people to shush, to no end. Eventually rounding up the loudest of them and taking them out for a walk to try and calm them down. Returning to see a police car outside (someone hadn’t told their parents they were staying out). Making a large pot of pasta at 3am to feed my ravenous guests. Knowing that this was not going to end well for me. Realising that no-one else around me would care about that.
It was a long night.
People started drifting away in the morning. My parents finally ventured downstairs, but my dad didn’t speak to me for the best part of a week.
It feels like there should be a moral to this story, but there isn’t, not really. Life went on. Dad started talking to me again. I continued to make unwise decisions, I failed to stand up to people.
But, perhaps it’s not yet time to learn something from the story. Maybe next year, maybe in five years, maybe in ten years, one of my children will do something well-intentioned that spectacularly backfires. Something that keeps me awake all night. That gets the police banging on the door in the middle of the night. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll remember teenage me, panicked and out of control, and desperately wishing she hadn’t started any of this. And, hopefully, I’ll be kind.
*I can’t remember what the first girl’s name was, I certainly can’t remember what the second girl’s name was. Let’s call her Rachel. Everyone was called Rachel back then.
**I was always quick to assume everyone I met was my friend back then. I am somewhat older and just a touch more cynical now. But only a touch.
***Astoundingly, there didn’t seem to be any damage, just mess. My mother found some chewing gum stuck inside the curtains a few weeks later, but that was about it.