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Sleepover Part 3

Sleepover Part 3

We scurry about BG’s room, gathering up various pens, pencils, metallic paint pens and scraps of paper.  We WILL deliver that autograph on Monday morning.  We scatter about the room, each of us intensely practicing our Olivia Newton-John autograph.  Every few minutes someone will say “I got it!” and hold up their specimen only to crumple onto the floor in failure after  close inspection.  The problem is that all of us write like third graders because….we are third graders. We must employ someone who doesn’t write like a child. BG’s brother is out because even though he is in fifth grade, his chicken scratch looks worse than ours does, and also we don’t want to interrupt the I’ll-impress-them-with-my-weightlifting session he is doing in his room with the door open just for our benefit.

We know that BG’s mom won’t sign for us because she is a very uptight and serious woman so our only hope is her dad. We sit around and try to figure out how we will get him to sign this autograph without having to fill him in on the whole story. We know he won’t be a willing accomplice if he knows we are plotting against this particular neighbor because they are golf buddies. No one comes up with a good plan, so we continue to practice our fraudulent signatures. Our scheming is interlaced with a series of phone calls from both sides, in which the calling party quickly hangs up after the phone is answered. Two hours into the war, the phone calls mercifully come to a standstill.  Lucky for us because this is the same time that BG’s mom calls us all back into the dining room for more birthday festivities.

We traipse back to our seats with the only light being the glow from the nine candles that are sticking up out of the Rainbow Brite adorned cake.  We sing “Happy Birthday” to Birthday Girl and she blows out the candles, probably spraying her pizza sauce flecked spittle all over the cake, which I am now supposed to excitedly eat. It’s hard eating something that someone has spit on when your mind works the way mine does. But I know that this is all protocol and it would be rude to not partake so I try to scrape off the top layer of icing (using the real excuse that icing makes me sick) and eat the rest while distracting myself with the pile of gifts that have now been placed in the center of the table.

We chatter on, talking faster and overlapping as the sugar hits our system and the plates are taken into the kitchen to clear the way for the gift opening ritual. BG’s dad gets out his huge 35mm camera and positions himself on the opposite side of the room, ready to click every moment of unwrap.  We all watch as BG’s mom picks up each gift, asking who it is from and then repeating what was just said, as if she is speaking a language that is foreign to BG and so must have an interpreter.

BG opens the first card with a look of disappointment as no money comes fluttering down. She pretends to read the card and places it on the table, making eye contact with the giver as she carefully begins to unwrap the affiliated gift.

A Hello Kitty stationery set! Complete with fruit-scented markers and tiny envelopes!

“Thank you so much! I love it!”  says BG, a little too fervently, making me wonder if she really does love it or is trying not to hurt the giver’s feelings.

By the fifth gift, BG has thrown out all gift opening etiquette. She opens the cards just long enough to wait for the cash to fall out (if there is any)  not reading the card at all and then tears into the neatly wrapped presents, barely hiding her disenchantment as she is given things that she didn’t really want.  The dining room floor and table are both covered in colorfully crinkled paper.

The take was huge.  Along with the stationery set, BG’s loot included: Three packages of dessert shaped novelty erasers, a stuffed unicorn, a fake gold bracelet with her named etched on it, a Hello Kitty mini purse, two ET posters, an ice cream cone pillow for her bed, a basket of various gummy candies, three pairs of Jem socks (truly outrageous),  my Rainbow Brite paint by number kit, a monkey puppet with googly eyes, and from her parents, a Michael Jackson doll, complete with sequined glove (which was actually a sequined mitten. I remember this because I also got an MJ doll for my birthday and was very frustrated when I saw that not only was it a mitten, but once taken off,  it was nearly impossible to put back onto his tiny microphone-clutching hand.)

We helped BG take the loot back into her bedroom.  Everyone oohed and aahed and passed the presents around for post-giving examination.  Having long given up our quest for the perfect autograph, we finished watching and singing along to Grease and then head back into the living room where BG’s dad has fallen asleep in his favorite recliner while watching the sports recap on the news. He jumps awake as he hears the group descending upon him like a herd of girly geese. BG asks if we can watch a movie and he says, “yes”, stumbling out of his recliner, wishing us a good night and retiring to his room.

As soon as the coast is clear, BG punches the buttons on the giant remote and suddenly we are watching a horror movie about a Medusa-like villain with live snakes sticking up all over her head.  We unroll our sleeping bags and huddle together, munching on gigantic bowls of chips and pretzels, even though thirty minutes earlier we had finished off two-thirds of a pizza-sauce-spittle-flecked sheetcake. At some point during the evening our numbers have dwindled for a few different reasons:  someone got homesick, someone got mad and was still pouting in the bathroom, and someone threw up (I usually fell into this category if I ended up leaving the party. Pizza sauce did not and still doesn’t sit well with my stomach.) No slumber party is without drama in one or more of these categories. Someone will always be crying or sick or just grumpy.

Soon after the movie began, the weaker girls start drifting off into dreamland as the stronger ones are enraptured by the movie (or in my case, just too scared to fall asleep around this group of girls for fear that they might do something mean to me, as I have often heard rumors that this was their M.O.)  Out of fear that this monster might somehow jump out of the console television and into our lives, no one says a word as our eyes are glued to the screen, periodically jerking our heads around to see what made the noise behind us.

By the end of the movie, I am the only one still alert.  I look at the sleeping bodies that surround me and I am suddenly very awake and very aware of how much my tummy hurts from the acidic pizza sauce I devoured earlier. Great. Not only am I wide awake but I am also in severe pain.  I lay there very still, trying not to move because one of the girls, in her sleep has taken me on as a stuffed animal and has her arm draped over my neck with her face a mere two inches from my own. I can smell her Doritos breath and I suddenly make note that Doritos breath is very similar to the breath you have after you throw up. It’s doubly horrible when it’s being piped directly into your nostrils.

Fully awake and in severe stomach pain, I lay there for the rest of the night, trying to fall asleep but unable to because my mind is now wandering around like a kid unsupervised in the hallways of my mind.  My thoughts drift from focusing on remaining still to avoid an awkward moment for myself (the living teddy bear substitute) and the hugger to mentally willing the hours til morning to fly by so that I can pack up my gear and go home.  Just as I am thinking I might have to initiate a move and wake her, the hugger changes position and I am free. I quickly take advantage of the freedom and get up to go use the bathroom, which I forgot to do earlier because I was trying to seem as if I was really into the movie.

Upon my return I grab a magazine out of the rack and situate myself in the recliner. It is here that I remain until morning.  One by one, starting with BG, the girls begin to stir and sit up.  They look around at each other, doing those slow blinks that you do when you’re not yet fully conscious. No one speaks for several minutes. Finally someone asks me how long I’ve been awake and I tell them I never went to sleep.  No one says it but you can tell they all think I’m some sort of nocturnal weirdo.  BG clicks the tv on and we all just settle back into staring at the Smurfs while we (or those of us who slept) are trying to gather our bearings.

Slowly we all begin to come out of our sleep stupor (although mine would be a lack of sleep stupor).  The back door opens and BG’s dad pops in with a giant box of donuts from the bakery and two gallons of chocolate milk.  We grab our donuts and go back to the Smurfs.  After the sugary goodness of the donuts has had time to hit our system and begin to flow through our veins, we began to talk to each other. Soon everyone is chattering and laughing but no one mentions the night before.

For some reason, at every sleepover I’ve ever been to, there is that morning weirdness.  Everyone remembers everything that happened the night before but there is that underlying knowingness about not talking about it.  No one talks about the sudden departure of the homesick.  No one talks about how we heard her dad going about his business quite loudly in the bathroom.  No one mentions the lengthy conversations about boys.  No one says a word about our phone war with the other sleepover. We flit around these topics the morning after and no one knows why.  We all know that we remember the previous evening but we pretend, for now, not to. Secretly though, we have stored away the entire evening.

Parents begin to filter in to pick up their daughters.  Girls gather their possessions and scramble to the car to wait while her mom has a long drawn-out conversation with BG’s mom. She is nearly asleep by the time her mother gets into the car and zooms home. And each and every girl will spend the afternoon recuperating in front of the tv, drifting in and out of much-needed sleep.

Sleepovers are an essential element of growing up as a girl.  Love them or hate them, you must at some point participate. While the details vary, the vital elements of a sleepover NEVER change:

Someone will always end up in tears.

Someone will always go home sick.

There will always be pizza for supper and donuts for breakfast.

There will always be at least one time when the party is divided into an argument and people take sides, with the Host always being the one to be the mediator.

Boys will always be discussed.

And come Monday morning, the hallways of the school will be filled with exaggerated accounts of the party and how much fun was had (in order to make the other sleepover jealous of what they missed).

But no one will ever mention the non-existent Olivia Newton John concert.

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Sleepover Part 2

Sleepover Part 2

We mull over our ideas of retaliating against the Lewton party and decide that the only way we can win this is to assure them that our party is WAY better than their party. But how to accomplish this? Then, as we watch Olivia Newton-John wistfully croon “Hopelessly Devoted To You” I am struck with a brilliant idea: We will call them back and tell them that we are going to an Olivia Newton-John concert. Nevermind that ONJ would never tour through our tiny town, population 3,026.

Birthday Girl picks up the phone and slowly dials Tricia’s phone number. She knows it by heart because up until three days ago, they were best friends. But then, because Tricia wouldn’t let BG hold her new Cabbage Patch Kid during recess, there was a giant rift in the friendship and Tricia’s invite was revoked. Scrambling at the last minute to show BG that she didn’t need her friendship, Tricia decided to have her OWN sleepover, even though her birthday was four months away. She invited her friends, some of which were also Birthday Girl’s friends, putting them in the awkward position of having to choose sides. Most had sided with BG, either because their moms made them since they had already bought her some Jem (who IS truly outrageous) socks, or because, like me, deep down they were frightened by the power that BG wielded around the third grade hallways. One false step around Birthday Girl and you were wearing the elementary equivalent of the scarlet letter.

Time seems to stop as we all hear the phone ringing on the other end. Finally someone picks up but it’s not Tricia. Tricia is too smart to answer the phone. She makes her dad answer it and yell down the hallway that she has a phone call. She asks him to find out who it is. He asks us. We panic and immediately hang up the phone. Close call.

This is going to be harder than we thought. A hush falls over the room as we sit and weigh our options. Beth keeps watch out the window because Tricia’s bedroom is directly across the cul-de-sac from Birthday Girl’s. She reports back that she can see shadows dancing in front of the half-pulled shade. Are they celebrating a premature victory over us or are they dancing along to Tricia’s Joan Jett album? We surmise it’s a victory dance which raises the stakes on this battle that we must now win.  Defeat is not an option.

We turn off the light in BG’s room and open our shade. We all line the window and watch a few minutes in silence before dialing again. The line crackles a bit as we all huddle around the receiver to try to hear the other side of the conversation. After a few rings, someone picks up. There is movement on the line, some shifting of body weight and a few hushed shushes before someone says,

“Hello?”

“Is Tricia there?” BG says with a steady voice.

A tense moment of semi-silence. Some shuffling around and barely audible whispering before the answer finally comes,

“What do you want?”  We don’t know if this is Tricia herself or one of the many minions she has at her disposal. We don’t care because we know that every girl in that room will be in awe of us when we drop our bombshell.

“We just want you to know that we know you called us. And to let you know that our party is way better than yours. We went to see Olivia Newton-John tonight.” (Doesn’t matter that it’s only eight pm, the time when most concerts START or that we are at least two hours away from any venue that could quite possibly house such a superstar.)

“Prove it.”

This throws a wrench in our otherwise seemingly air-tight plan. How can we prove that we went to a concert that doesn’t exist?

“We got to meet her and got her autograph,” Birthday Girl blurts out in a moment of sheer improvisational genius, hoping that this will be sufficient.

Silence on the line, they are contemplating their defeat.

“Well, my dad’s taking us bowling.”

Click.

We won! Bowling compared to an Olivia Newton-John concert wherein we met her, talked to her and got her autograph (And that DOESN’T EXIST)? We began congratulating each other, all of us talking at once. We immediately put on Olivia Newton-John’s Greatest Hits Volume 2 and begin to dance around to Physical, even though at nine years old, we still thought it was a workout song. Our excitement about winning is dashed by the burgeoning realization that we just made a statement we can’t possibly prove….

Unless…..we can. 

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Sleepover Part 1

Sleepover Part 1

Every time I watch Grease and it comes to the sleepover scene my stomach starts to get queasy, my palms sweat a little and my eyes glaze over as I lose myself in the past for a few minutes. Sleepovers were a pretty big declaration of status but for me they were just another event that I had to go to that caused me a great deal of anxiety. I dreaded them for a minimum of three days before, imagining everything that could go wrong: I could fall asleep and someone might do something mean to me (Third graders didn’t generally need bras so that fear didn’t even come into play until junior high, but they might draw on my face with a permanent marker or stick my hand in warm water, making me pee.) I might get sick from the food and throw up all over the Birthday Girl or worst case scenario, I might have the poops on the night of the party and have to run to the bathroom multiple times with everyone suspecting what I was doing when I went in.

Then the big day would arrive. Sleepovers were always scheduled for Friday nights. This meant that the school day on Friday would be full of secrecy, deceit and some bit of excitement swirling around amongst my classmates. First of all, not everyone was invited so I had to be careful about who I spoke to about the sleepover because with one seemingly innocent conversation I could easily become the pariah of the third grade. One mis-step and the social standings I worked so hard to achieve on the playground would come crumbling down around me. Those first few years of grade school are essential in determining ones social status for the rest of their life. Scratch the tip of your nose a little too long in kindergarten and you will forever be labeled the Nose Picker. Get a little bit of dirt and sweat on your face on the way to the bus stop and you will always be the Dirty Sweaty Kid. Come to school with a giant cow lick and smelling like maple syrup and you will never shake the stigma of being the Kid Who Always Smells Like Maple Syrup. (Why was there always one kid who smelled like maple syrup every day?)

Navigating the school day on Friday was like walking through a social faux-pas minefield. If you spoke to someone about the sleepover and they weren’t invited, they got their feelings hurt and the rest of the girls who were invited were mad at you for the rest of the day because you caused such awkwardness. By the end of the day, your stomach hurt, you felt incredibly alone and you just wanted to go home and have your afternoon snack. But you were stuck going to the party because you had already said you would be there. Now you had three hours to sit and dread the party because you started your day with friends and ended it with enemies that you would be spending the night with.

If you were lucky enough to have survived the school day without committing social suicide, you left school giving all of the other party-goers that knowing goodbye that said “I’m saying goodbye to you as if I won’t see you until Monday but we both know we will be eating pizza and singing Sister Christian in your living room in three hours. See you then!” You walked home, threw your stuff on the floor and headed straight to the table where your mom already had a snack waiting for you to eat while doing your homework. We always did our homework as soon as we got home from school to get it over with. I hated this ritual on Friday but as I sat with my chocolate chip cookies and watched the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday evening I was glad that I wasn’t hunched over the kitchen table fretting over long division.

The next three hours were torture. It was that moment of limbo, wherein I didn’t want to really do anything at home and wear myself out for the party, making me more vulnerable to permanent markers, but I was also bored to death just sitting and waiting to be chauffeured to the party. So what better way to idle away those last hours of freedom than by sitting and worrying about the upcoming festivities and the multiple ways it could go wrong?

Finally my dad would tell me it was time to go and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I would take my Big Red chewing gum sleeping bag (I loved this sleeping bag. It looked like a giant pack of gum), my fastidiously gift-wrapped Rainbow Brite paint by numbers and my little overnight bag containing my sleepwear (shorts and a tee) extra underwear (you can never be too prepared) and my toothbrush and toothpaste, and head to the car.

After a long and gut-wrenching car ride in which I blazed a spectrum of being excited about being popular enough to be invited, to begging not to be left alone at a sort-of stranger’s house, we would arrive. My dad would walk me to the door and be greeted by the chaperoning parent, working out all of the emergency contact number and pick-up time information while I squeezed past the boring adults and joined the already raucous party in session.  The adults would finish their discussion, I would say my goodbyes (never hugging because that labels you as the UnCool Kid Who Still Says Nite-Nite to Their Parents) and head back over to the gaggle of girls in the living room. For a moment, my worries subsided and even though I was still a little nervous, I would begin to relax just a little.

As more girls arrived, we surrounded each new arrival, showering her with attention and praise for the new teddy bear sweatshirt she was wearing, until someone new arrived and the whole process started over. As soon as everyone had arrived, we would turn on MTV and dance around the living room while watching the videos. I didn’t have cable at home so I alternated between dancing like a fool and sitting slack-jawed in front of the tv as Lionel Richie stalked a blind girl who was sculpting his afroed head out of clay, Toni Basil jumped around in a cheerleader uniform or Michael Jackson didn’t stop til he got enough, dancing in front of giant cubes of clear Jell-O.

Suddenly the doorbell would ring and Birthday Girl’s Mom answers it, trading a few crisp twenty-dollar bills for four steaming cardboard boxes of greasy pizza. She carries the boxes to the dining room table as we all fall in line behind her like a parade of baby ducks following Mama Duck into the water for a mid-day swim lesson. The dining table was covered in pastel vinyl, matching paper plates and cups and glittery confetti. A few streamers had been haphazardly taped to the wall to let us all know that we were indeed at a party. And the buffet along the wall was covered in brightly wrapped birthday presents. A few of us at this point would head back into the living room to get our neatly wrapped Rainbow Brite or ET toys and place them the already highly stacked pile.

After inhaling two to three pieces of pizza each we head back to Birthday Girl’s (BG for short) bedroom and sit around talking about the newest elementary school gossip: Who was “going out with” who (where were they going exactly?) Did you know that Jeff kissed Amy on the playground? Jacob told me so. Jeff told him because they’re best friends. BG, always a trendsetter, already has a VCR in her room and pops in her very own copy of Grease. We are all impressed.

The phone rings. BG is super cool because not only does she have a phone in her room, but it’s a plastic Mickey Mouse figurine that stands with an outstretched arm perfectly cradling the phone. Birthday Girl answers it. But there is no one on the line and all she hears is some breathing and a few quiet giggles followed by the distinct sound of someone being shushed. Then click. We all think that this is odd but quickly resume our conversation which has now lapsed into discussing the merits of wearing leg warmers over our jeans.

Mickey rings again.

Same thing; giggles and shushing. Except one of the gigglers mistakenly pops out a few words before she is shushed and our entire party then remembers: Tricia Lewton, who lives across the street is having a sleepover tonight too. MaryAnn Coyle, who has a very distinct voice, was the one who didn’t shush.

We are being prank-called.

 This means war.

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