On a Friday night in early December of last year, my wife was invited to a wine-tasting party. It was to be at a house on the other side of our subdivision, which wasn’t far from our house at just under one mile. These parties are usually reserved for adults, but my wife was told that she could bring our son along to play in the downstairs game room. There would be other kids attending the event, so my wife agreed to take him along as long as I went too.
I know this party meant a lot to my wife, so I agreed to accompany her and our son with the intent of watching him play alongside the other kids in the game room. Our boy was three at the time and to this day acts shy around strangers, so I knew my presence there would help him become acclimated to the unfamiliar surroundings.
We arrived in one car and went inside the house. All of the women attending the party were sitting around on the main floor and the children were downstairs running around with only one adult watching over them. I carried our son down the basement stairs since he was too afraid to move freely in this unfamiliar environment. I weaved through various toys and kids in search of an open area where we could observe the chaos, and I located a open spot toward the back of the game room.
On the wall closest to us was a bookshelf that contained books (duh) and pieces of sports memorabilia. I scanned the lower shelves to see if there was anything fragile in hopes that I could move items that might be subject to destruction via three year-old. The only breakable item was a commemorative plate honoring Roberto Clemente, arguably the greatest Hispanic baseball player and greatest player for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The plate was seated on top of a small pedestal, which held the plate in place.
Before I could take a few steps to move the plate up a few shelves, a boy came over to our son and handed him a small football. The boy was about the age of five, and he wanted our son to play with him. Our son was surprisingly receptive; he accepted the ball from the boy and seemed eager to play with him and the other kids. He didn’t cling to me like he did when we first arrived, so it looked like my night was going to be easier than I thought.
As the boy moved back to receive the ball, our son slowly turned his body and brought his arm back to throw the ball. It was a very nice throw; there are six and seven year-old kids that don’t have the graceful mechanics of our little boy. He threw a perfect spiral…right between Roberto’s eyes.
The plate immediately came crashing down to the tile floor, shattering into a few dozen pieces. At the same exact moment, a collective groan was let out by everyone in the room, alerting our son to the fact that the broken plate was a terrible outcome as a result of his throw. I didn’t yell at him because I knew he didn’t mean to do it. The gesture from the boy to allow our son to play with him was very nice.
Our son began to cry uncontrollably. He buried his head into my shirt and it muffled the sounds of his unrelenting wail. I tried to remind him that I wasn’t mad at him for breaking the plate but he continued to sob and hide his face in embarrassment from all of the strangers in the room. The situation bothered me so much that I actually had tears in my eyes. I knew our son would have wanted to stay home and build puzzles with me and run around the house. When he started to calm down, he made a declarative statement that I knew I couldn’t deny him:
“I want to go home.”
My wife was drinking wine so she wasn’t going to be fit to drive at that particular moment, so I knew taking a quick trip in the car wasn’t a good idea. I also knew my wife wasn’t going to walk the 0.8 miles home, weaving through the dark streets of our subdivision. Hell, she has problems finding her way in the daylight around our neighborhood. I had to walk home and carry our son even if there was a slight chance we would be locked out of the house. We didn’t take extra house keys in case the garage doors malfunctioned, but I told my wife to keep the house keys with the car keys so she could let herself in the house if she couldn’t open up the garage. Now that she needed some time to “dry out” before driving, there was a chance she would come home very late. Everyone upstairs knew what happened since they all heard the loud crash of the plate smashing against the floor, so when I told my wife we were leaving she didn’t even fight me on it.
It was nice for a December night. No wind, no snow or ice on the ground and not much car traffic in the neighborhood. Our son was scared because it was dark, but he was pleasantly distracted by several houses that had very nice (and very bright) Christmas light displays. We arrived back at the house and I was so happy that our garage door opener’s keypad worked in the correct manner. We made our way upstairs to put on our pajamas and then headed over to the dining room table where we built some superhero puzzles together.
THE ULTIMATE PARTY FOUL
A person is usually guilty of their first “Ultimate Party Foul” between the ages of 16 and 25 since it usually happens while alcoholic beverages are consumed. To determine if someone is charged with such a “crime”, three questions must be asked:
- Did a guest break an expensive item during their time at the party?
- Did the guest responsible for the damage provide money or services for replacing/repairing the broken item?
- Has the guest responsible for the damage been in contact with the party hosts since the incident occurred?
If you answer “yes” to question 1 and “no” to questions 2 and 3, then the UPF has taken place. I apologized for the damage and the guy who owned the plate we broke told me it wasn’t that expensive. He was probably saying that to be nice, but I was glad our son wanted to go. He was capable of breaking more stuff in the game room and we were already giving them money upstairs via the wine party. We never returned to the house, we never provided money to replace the plate and we have not spoken to the man or woman who lived there since that night last December. Thanks to our son, my wife and I vicariously committed our first UPF.
God-willing I hope to hear our son talking to his friends in the 2030s about their party adventures during the time they spent in college. When friends bring up our son’s first real “party foul”, I’ll tell them this “old man story” to let them know there was a time many years ago that our son “went big”, and then he went home.