I’m just not a party person; I’m like my mother and grandmother in that. That’s why I don’t find many photos of parties in my files.
When we were young children, I think our parents must have gone to some parties at the NCO Club, as least I do remember an occasional babysitter. When my father was a First Sergeant on our first tour in Germany, he would sometimes invite some of the men in his unit to our home, but I think those were more like family dinners than parties.
There must have been several holiday parties at school during my elementary years, but the only one I remember was in my fifth-grade year, when it happened that my teacher was Jewish – although that has nothing to do with the story. This was during the era familiar to many baby-boomers, when overcrowded schools had some children going to school in the morning and others in the afternoon. That happened for me in sixth grade, but in fifth grade I got lucky and was assigned to an all-day class made up of both fifth- and sixth-graders.
This story does not reflect well on my ten-year-old self, but it taught me several lessons. I’ll just tell the story and let you find the lessons in it yourself.One of the features of our holiday party was that we drew names for a Secret Santa gift exchange. Now there was one girl in our class who, while she wasn’t bullied in school, was not well-liked. Brenda was not an unpleasant person, rather self-effacing, but she had greasy hair, unfashionable clothes, and a bad complexion – and sadly, these things meant that no one wanted to be her friend. So I wasn’t pleased when I drew her name in the gift exchange. Rather mean-spiritedly, I chose a bottle of iridescent lavender nail polish, which I thought was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. (It was like this, but not as high-quality.)
Brenda loved it. She was really pleased with her gift and wore it frequently for the rest of the school year. I don’t remember her being in school after that year, and I suspect now that her family was poor and somewhat transient.
And what did I get? There was a small group of sixth-grade boys (they probably went on to play football) who were the Alpha Males of the classroom, and one of them drew my name, as I could tell from their covert glances as I opened my gift. Unwrapping several layers of aluminum foil, I came at last to a handful of shelled peanuts. And what’s more – some of the peanuts were real, but some were rubber.I’ll continue the discussion of Christmas parties in the December 9th “Grab Bag” post.