#scintilla13: swampwater


I’m a cofounder of The Scintilla Project, along with my friends Onyi and Dominique, two whip-smart and artfully snarky women with beautiful hair. This is my response to one of the Day 1 prompts, “Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally able to do so.“ We believe that your stories make you who you are and we’re asking you to share yours. Interested? Sign up at scintillaproject.com and follow us at @ScintillaHQ.

I feel like babysitting by teens is not the institution that it used to be. The eighties were a glory decade for the teen babysitter. I used to go with my friend Michelle a lot if she got a babysitting job that went late into the night. She was a pro at it and in high demand by parents, because everyone knew she had pulled a lot of childcare duty with her siblings, who were triplets. Kids liked having her as a babysitter because she let them eat whatever they wanted and stay up late. This is really all I know about relating to children.

We went a few times to a particular house that was in a kind of isolated area. It was surrounded by trees and darkness and not very near the main road, the kind of place where it was completely understandable that Michelle would want company late at night. There were two boys in Michelle’s care that night, two blond energetic dynamos who were thrilled to be on their own with the babysitter. Here is what little boys like to do when their parents aren’t home.

  1. run around and bash themselves into hard objects (bedframes, hallway corners, toys, each other)
  2. eat everything in the house, even things their parents have told you RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM that they aren’t allowed to have
  3. threaten you with the trouble you’re going to be in if you don’t do what they say
  4. ask for money
  5. lie(see 2, 3)
  6. show you everything they own, one thing at a time, so that you can approve of it (my father-in-law still does this so it is possibly something they never outgrow)
  7. intend to stay up very late but fall asleep cutely with tousled hair around 9 or 10 pm

By the time these two were tucked into their beds (more like fallen asleep on top of their covers with their feet on their pillows after crashing from junk food), Michelle and I were on our own. Target one, and there is only ever one target: the parents’ liquor cabinet.

Yes. I know. I even asked Michelle if I should tell you about this, because OMG THE CHILDREN WHAT IF THERE WAS AN EMERGENCY. This is maybe why babysitting by teens is not the institution that it used to be. I just recently rewatched the episode of “Freaks & Geeks” when Lindsay got baked before babysitting and she had to take Upright Millie of the Mathlete Brigade to handle childcare duties. Maybe I was supposed to be the sober one. And also, let me tell you that an eighties’ parents’ liquor cabinet was a thing of beauty. You would not find the prim array of typographically interesting artisanal gins and a token high-end vodka on a glass cart. There was no fucking craftbrew in the fridge. This was a time when the Fuzzy Navel held sway and, to my naïve eyes, an array of Blue Curaçao and brightly labeled artificially colored schnapps was the onramp to Legitimate Adult Drinking. To hell with the wine served at my grandmother’s house (and an occasional sneaky sip of Bailey’s). To hell with the Seagram’s 7 my mother favored. This liquor cabinet had enough bottles to be the booze equivalent of the Wonka Chocolate Factory.

My memory of the night is understandably blurred, but here’s what I remember: We poured a glug from each of a few bottles into a glass, topping it off with some variety of pop. I recalled hearing someone else at school mentioning that parents marked liquor labels with lines showing how much had been used, but these labels were pristine—we had carte blanche. I was thrilled that such a thing as root beer schnapps even existed. You had root beer. You had alcohol. Someone had taken them and smashed them together in a Reese’s cup-style Better Together that I promptly destroyed by mixing it with who knows what. We poured second glasses and laughed hysterically while we tried to watch the antics on the somewhat-still-scrambled Spice channel courtesy of the parents’ satellite dish. Surely penises did not really look like that, nothing like the penises I saw when I changed diapers. It was basically a kielbasa with a mushroom on the end. Nor could sex be such a droning, repetitive, embarrassing-looking enterprise. Why would people do everything they could to have more sex when it looked about as interesting as a Joanie Greggains workout? So much flapping and slapping and arbitrary position changes and lip gloss and bad synthesizer music.

(That is probably, hopefully, maybe the last time you will see the word “penises” in this blog. I mean, some things do not need to be discussed in the plural.)

I don’t know how we managed not to wake up the little boys with our noise and laughter. Surely we did not want to drunkenly explain to them what we were watching or the kids would actually get us in trouble. In the end, we ate enough cheese curls to absorb our Fancy Adult Mixed Drinks and did not throw up. We cleaned up everything and when the parents came home, we truly believed that we did not reveal our altered states in the least. The father drove us home and we sat in the backseat, tired and giggling and probably reeking of alcohol. How we did not get in trouble is a mystery to this day. The last thing I remember is the car pulling into Michelle’s driveway, me opening the door, and collapsing into her driveway, and hearing my laughter echo in the night.

You guys, hopefully Michelle will come by later on today and clear up the stuff I haven’t remembered properly… specifically the degree of scrambling on the Spice channel. This is important fact verification. In the meantime, I have mentioned her a couple of other times on the blog and you can read those here.