Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Once upon a time, 50 years ago, a married couple invited their friends to a cocktail party. Such parties were fancy affairs back in the day. Men wore suits and ties. Women came in cocktail dresses. My new stepmother labored for two or three days before the party on dozens of fancy canapes. On the day of the party itself she probably steamed, peeled, and deveined several pounds of shrimp. She made sure the martini and Manhatten glasses were spotless and that plenty of olives, tiny onions, toothpicks and ice were on hand. Meanwhile, Dad brought home multiple bottles of gin, scotch, and vermouth to bolster the supply already stashed in liquor cabinet.
My best friend, Kay, was allowed to stay overnight to keep me company while the party went on downstairs. We offered to take Sunny, our rambunctious boxer, to the park. "That's fine," said Mom. "Just keep her on her leash because she'll get into the swamp if she has a chance."
It was springtime, the season of skunk cabbage. The swamp water was always stinky, even without fresh skunk cabbage. Sunny usually got to run loose in the park. She didn't like being on a leash. Kay and I, smallish 12-year-olds, could hardly manage her. So when we were out of sight of the swamp, we snapped off the leash. That dog could outrun a horse. With a wild look in her eye, she immediately galloped toward the swamp for a joyous romp. By the time we caught up with her, she was soaking wet, but happy. Somehow we grabbed hold of her collar and put her back on the leash.
Back home, my parents were dressing for the party. We sneaked the wet, smelly dog up the stairs, past their bedroom door and into my room. We couldn't hose her off outside or bathe her in the basement because then Mom would know. So we tried sponging her down and towelling her off. After we'd done our best, she was still faintly redolent of swamp water. We sprayed her liberally with my cheap "Clover Blossom" cologne and sent her out to meet the world. Anyway, Kay and I wanted to get downstairs before the guests arrived to help ourselves to some party food, especially the shrimp.
My dad met up with Sunny on the stairs. "Dot, " he yelled, "This dog smells funny."