I was very fortunate as a little girl to have parents who doted on me. At Christmas, “Santa” brought (almost*) everything I could wish for and on my birthday, I was pretty spoiled too. One of my earliest memories is of a big square cake with LifeSavers all over the top. It was a fantastic cake for a four year old.
My parents were very sociable people and probably because I was an only child, they wanted me to have a large circle of friends. When birthday time rolled around there was no hesitation about inviting some pals, having a big fancy cake, playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and sending everybody off with a bag of loot.
The older I got, the more elaborate the parties became. We’re not talking pony rides or clowns or anything like that (unless you count my dad’s general goofiness,) but the numbers increased, my dresses got fancier, there were more gifts and the cakes were even more fabulous!
My birthday is in late June, so summer activities and treats were always a part of things. We had a small bright green and yellow, rectangular plastic pool. It was the kind you put together rather like a tent, with metal poles and red plastic triangular corner seats. We filled it up with the garden hose and then, it was, “Everybody into the pool!”. Imagine a dozen little girls running around in little frilly bathing suits, some sporting tight rubber beflowered caps, and all shrieking at the tops of their lungs when they would dipped their little white toes in the frigid water. It took a while for the hose-water to warm up and then all the party-kids would jump in and start splashing about. Then my mom would appear with her special popsicles made from kool-aid and jell-o, so when you licked them, they would never lose their juiciness. Heaven!
In the 1970s, it became popular for kids (girls, particularly) to host and attend slumber or “pajama parties” and have guests sleep overnight, . For me, this had its good points, and its bad ones too, I enjoyed the “party” element, but the sleepover part was always troublesome.
I hosted my first sleepover when I was turned 8 years old. Everyone brought, groovy coloured sleeping bags and mine was a military blue with striped flannel inside. My father, who was ex-British Army, had sewn on elasticized straps at the bottom to secure the bag when it was rolled up. Ever the utilitarianist, he had used straps made from the waistbands of his old underpants. Sheer humiliation!
When it came time to go to sleep, we lay out our bags on the carpeted floor of an empty dining room because my folks were still in the process of furnishing our new suburban bungalow. We were all giddy with excitement at sleeping together in the same room and the chatter was noisy and incessant. After a few yells from my parents, the noisiness gradually faded and the girls nodded off one by one. Only then, did it dawn on me how hard and uncomfortable the floor was. I could not stop thinking about how my nice bed with the soft mattress and all my stuffed toys, was just down the hall.
Slowly and silently I unzipped my bag, grabbed my pillow and my teddy bear and sneaked down to my bedroom at the back of the house. I don’t think that move did much for my reputation. Everybody else woke up the next morning in a heap on the floor with cricks in their necks and sleep in their eyes. I emerged, bright eyed, bushy-tailed and ravenous for pancakes! As I recall, it didn’t take long for somebody to rat me out in class, I was a sissy from that day onward.
Turns out, not only could I not sleep on the dining room floor, but on a number of occasions I bailed out in sleepover situations. When my parents went to a dinner party at my friend Donna’s house, I was all set to stay over, until I heard Mommy and Daddy preparing to leave at the end of the night. I could not let them go without me! I raced down the stairs with my little travel case all packed and said, in a small voice, “I want to go home to my own bed.” My parents were mortified, but they knew better than to argue with me when I had made up my mind.
On another occasion, I was to stay at my girlfriend Janey’s house, just up the road. We had a nice dinner, watched some t.v. , and played a fun game, but when it came time to go to bed, I lost my nerve and Janey’s mom had to call my dad to come and pick me up and take me home. I was never invited to stay over again.
I bailed on my best friend, (another Jane) next door. When my dad put up the army- issue pup tent in my backyard, we got our sleeping bags in, crawled inside, nattered on about nothing for ages and then she fell asleep. Good thing my parents didn’t lock the back kitchen door because there I was, pillow under one arm and teddy clutched in the other, waiting to be let in like a lost dog in the rain.
Thankfully, there was a cut-off point for these events; once you hit high school age, it was uncool to have pajama parties.
Nowadays, I find sleep is very fragile as you get older and I still much prefer to sleep in my own bed than anywhere else on earth. As far as sleeping bags or camping are concerned, don’t even go there!
*See sidebar for “The Easy-bake Oven Mystery”.
Kat Mortensen ©2009