Dinner Parties at Warsaw

“They were wild,” my husband said.

“Out of control,” his brother said.

All these people, trekking to Warsaw, a plantation out in the middle of nowhere. Artists, singers, professors, students, hippies, creative types for their parents’ parties. They drank, they said. They did drugs. They skinny dipped in the pond. They left their children – Francis and William – alone in the middle of the night.

“I remember waking up in the middle of a field, screaming,” William said. “Somebody threw me over his shoulder and took me to my mom.”

“We were always waking up,” Francis said. “And no one was around.”

“The neighbor put out a cigarette on me,” William said. “I screamed and screamed. He felt so bad. He didn’t even know what he was doing.”

And I don’t know why he’s telling me this story. I don’t know why either one of them is telling me this story. We are drinking, after dinner. William is here, for a week, to work on the sale of Warsaw.

I’ve heard this story before, but now it sounds different. I feel differently about Warsaw stories now.

Before, I used to hang on every word and think, That’s how it will be for me. That’s what will happen when we move there. Magical things. Wild things. Crazy things. Horrible things.

But now we’re not going to live there.

They are telling these stories and the meaning has changed for me. I’m trying to understand the point. Is this a story about child abuse? Or just their childhood?

Their shared history. A cautionary tale or just a story, a way for us to get closer.

I don’t know how to feel about Warsaw anymore. After everything, all the turmoil, I don’t feel anything. It’s a switch, that you have to turn off, sooner or later. Or you’ll go mad. Caring about something that you’ll never have.

“We played baseball in the field,” William said, earlier. “Everybody played – all our parents’ friends. The games were epic. We were so competitive. Everyone wanted to win.”

“We would argue, over everything, every bad call.”

There was nothing else to do out there, they said.

It was so dark at Warsaw at night, there was no one around for miles. And miles and miles. Because that was before. Before Chase sold off 100 acres to pay for the divorce settlement. Before the beginning of the end, I guess.

It was the height. Warsaw’s heyday. For their parents anyway. My mother-in-law, Annette, was in her late twenties. Chase was in his forties.

“They partied all the time,” William said. “All. The. Time.”

They drank. They danced. They danced so much Annette broke an ankle. Or she was drunk. Perhaps.

Were they bad parents? Negligent? Is that what they’re trying to say?

Or are they giving me an explanation, a reason, for why they are selling Warsaw.

The site of all their sorrows. But when they tell it, it sounds like joy.

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