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A second-hand invite and unexpected friends in West Rome

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Severo Avila

Severo Avila is Features Editor at the Rome News-Tribune.

I’d like to recount a little story for y’all about unexpected friendships.

This happened on New Year’s Eve right here in Rome.

My friends and I were supposed to have dinner and then go over to one of their houses to have a laid-back New Year’s Eve celebration. We were probably going to get out some guitars and play some music and cut up until midnight, then watch the festivities on TV.

Well the plans didn’t quite work out that way.

To begin with, we had planned to go to Bella Roma for dinner but for some reason they were closed. So we ended up going to Olive Garden for our New Year’s Eve dinner.

After dinner we went back to my friend’s house and were about to settle down for whatever subdued fun awaited us when lo and behold Brittany hollers from the living room....

“Y’all wanna go to a bonfire in West Rome?”

Her mom had texted her and said that she was over at HER friend’s house in West Rome and they had a bonfire going and that we should come over.

Now first of all if you recall it was about 18 degrees on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t about to go stand outside some stranger’s house in West Rome.

Secondly, as I just mentioned, I had NO idea who these people were. They didn’t know me from Adam’s housecat. Y’all know I’m not the most popular person over in West Rome. What if these people had no idea I was being invited to their house and then I pull up and they hate me and kick me off their property? In my head, that was a very real possibility.

Well the rest of the crew were up for it. And even though I protested, it was four against one so I had to bundle up (thick jacket, a toboggan and gloves) to go stand out in the freezing cold somewhere over in West Rome on New Year’s Eve.

So we head down Shorter Avenue and then onto Burnett Ferry. Now many moons ago I used to live on Burnett Ferry. I used to live right across the road from that big Baptist Church on the right. Fellowship, I think.

But we were nowhere near where I used to live. I wasn’t driving so I’m not quite sure how we got there but after a few twists and turns we end up on a little street called Glenda Drive. Now I have NEVER in my life been out to Glenda Drive so I’m sittin’ in the back of the car and nothing looks familiar to me and it’s the middle of the night and freezing cold so I just knew it was going to be a terrible time.

We get to the house and sure enough I can see the bonfire and people sitting around it.

Walking up to the bonfire, I was very uncomfortable with my second-hand invite and not knowing if these folks even knew people were coming to crash their get-together.

Brittany’s mom (who had told us to come over) introduced me to everyone and IMMEDIATELY everyone went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

They offered me food and drinks and as we stood around cuttin’ up, it began to feel like I had been friends with these people all my life.

Since it was New Year’s Eve and all, there seemed to be plenty of adult beverages present. I had brought some moonshine with me, which I gladly shared with my new friends, most of whom were happy to take a sip from the mason jar. And after a couple hours we forgot about how cold it was — in part because of the blazing fire they kept throwing wood on.

We were at Karen and Jeff’s house. Their friends Wayne and Ronda Evans were there as well as two of Karen's sons, Grant and Blake who, by the way, were a hoot. Those boys know how to have fun. One is in the Marines and the other one is in the Army. I’d never met them before but you would have thought I grew up with those boys the way they made me feel like I was part of the family.

As the night wore on and we got a little rowdier and laughed a lot louder, I couldn’t believe that I had almost refused to come out here.

I suppose it’s because I thought they were strangers and I usually have to be careful around new people who might not understand my sarcastic and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor.

But these folks made me feel right at home and I think in an alternate universe me and the husband Jeff are brothers somehow. We have the same sense of humor. Every time I’d make a joke about something inappropriate, he’d give it right back just as good.

And as the night wore on and the coolers ran low, we were having so much fun around that bonfire that we missed the countdown to the New Year. We only realized it was midnight when a whole bunch of fireworks started going off around us. But it didn’t matter. Nobody wanted to move from around that fire anyway.

After a while my crew decided it was time to head home. I said my goodbyes to these people I had just met a few hours earlier but who now seemed like life-long friends (I’m sure the moonshine had something to do with that).

We left that little house on Glenda Drive and drove back down Burnett Ferry Road and back onto Shorter Avenue all in agreement that it had been a great New Year’s Eve. That last-minute text invite had been a Godsend.

I suppose the moral of the story is that if I had stayed in my comfort zone and not gone over to that bonfire in West Rome, I would never have met these crazy, funny, wonderful folks. I hope I get another invite to Glenda Drive soon. There’s still some moonshine left to go around.

Severo Avila is features editor for the Rome News-Tribune