Last night I went to a party with my parents. I rode in the back seat of my dad’s car — just like when I was little. The difference now is that my two brothers weren’t with me, and, well, I’m an adult. My husband took the kids out of town for the weekend, one of my brothers lives out of state and the other was on vacation, and since my parents (who don’t live far from me) were also attending my cousin’s 40th birthday celebration, we decided to ride together. It’s been a very long time since I rode to a party with my parents and it brought back a lot of memories. Nowadays, when my husband and I go out, we find a babysitter…and most wedding receptions are “adult only”, but back in the day, kids were welcome to attend the (Haitian) parties, so I was in the house! As a child, the whole family would leave the house all dressed up. My ribbons would be in perfect bows which matched my dress perfectly and the back of my hair would be straightened and out (unbraided). My brothers and dad all sported fresh haircuts and wore their suit and ties, and my mom would be all made up, in a beautiful dress and smelling pretty. We’d pile into the car and take the drive to the party. We lived in New Jersey, so sometimes if the party was in Long Island or Queens the ride would be long and full of exciting things to see (and of course bridge and tunnel traffic). We’d look at all the city scenes, we’d people watch, even look at other people in their cars and wonder where they were going. My dad, who is regularly a — shall i say — “performance driver” would turn up the notch on his aggression meter and start driving like a “New Yorker”. My brothers and I would all be in the back of the car half fearful (of getting in a car accident) and half amazed (that we didn’t get in a car accident).
Finally we’d arrive at the party. We’d get out the car, straighten out our clothes, then enter, looking like a very spiffy family. Our parents would say their hellos, then make us saluer (greet) all their friends. After that was done, THEN…we (kids) would go play!! We knew it would be a good night and that we’d get to stay up late, so our energy levels were high. We would run around, and chase other kids, I’d twirl my dress with other girls at the party and watch as our skirts bellowed, we’d hide under tables, in crevices of the venue — and it would be such fun. If we ever got out of hand we would get reprimanded by any adult (didn’t matter if they knew us or not). Every once in a while, our play would be interrupted to greet a latecomer friend of our parents, or to dance with someone. I was always embarrassed to dance with grown ups (even my dad), claiming I don’t really like this kompa song, but they’d drag me out to the dance floor and I’d do some version of a dance until finally the song was over and I could continue to run around with the other kids (half of whom i didn’t know — but that didn’t matter). Then it was “halftime” — time to eat. You HAD to eat because this is where dinner would be served tonight, but I certainly didn’t mind (even though it DID interrupt our play). Parties always served the very best of Haitian cuisine: pâtés, accras, du riz collé, du riz ak djon-djon (with shrimp!), bannan pezé ak pikliz, soup joumou, lambi, griot, cabrite…I could go on, but you get the point. Then you also got to wash everything down with Kola Lacaye! Yuuuummmmyyyy!!! Every once in a while – if you were lucky – you even got to taste of some grape concord wine!! And only when you were done eating could you go back to playing with the other kids…until it was time to eat cake. The cake was always a touch dry, with lots of icing (that was a little hard), and had those hard, decorative silver sugar balls on them — but they were beautiful (sometimes they were even decorated with colored fountains!)– so it was worth at least tasting…even though they all seemed to taste the same to me.
At the end of the night, our parents would call us to get ready to go. And without fail, they’d start talking to friends for what seemed like a half hour while we waited…then we’d sneak off and play again. This “call-wait-play” cycle would continue until it was really time to go. By then, my brothers’ ties were crooked, their shirts were outside their pants, my hair ribbons were no longer tied in bows — they just hung down, and the back of my hair was poofy. But we had so much fun. We’d pile into the car, and was glad it was a long ride home because I would cozily look out at the NYC lights until I dozed off to sleep. After last night’s party with my parents, I remembered those times. I almost fell asleep on the ride home, but I didn’t have my brother’s arm to sleep on…and this time, I think I left just as “spiffy” as I had arrived.