Ahhh, the sleepover.
A quintessential part of the American childhood.
Just the word “sleepover” probably stirs up fond memories of late-night giggling, poorly painted toe-nails and itchy sleeping bags.
For me, it dredges up the crying jags and calls to come home in the middle of the night.
The panicky realization that I was actually expected to sleep at some point.
The horror of having to pretend to LIKE pizza and ignoring the aching pains that followed due to lactose intolerance.
My top 3 worst sleepover experiences, in no particular order:
SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY
Maybe it was the title of the movie that had the parents confused.
Sleeping, like a “sleepover.”
Maybe I had led a sheltered life, never having seen a movie that was rated R by the tender age of 8.
But, I could not hide my shock and dismay as we huddled onto our friend’s fluffy, pink twin bed and watched Julia Roberts being raped by Patrick Bergin.
The first sex scene I had ever seen and it was a portrait of a violently abusive marriage.
At this age, the mere mention of sex made my throat swell-up with anxiety.
As I’ve mentioned, I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family and just thinking about sex was likely to earn you a ticket straight to the fiery pits of hell. (At least in my prepubescent mind.)
At first, I tried to nonchalantly cover my eyes.
That wasn’t going to work.
There was audio.
Can’t cover your eyes and ears simultaneously.
So, I did what any other slightly hypochondriacal youngster would do.
I pretended to feel sick, rushed out of the room and spent a good portion of the evening engaging in calming banter with my friend’s mother. (No mention was made of their incredibly poor choice of films for the sleepover.)
(By the way, I adore that movie now. I guess it’s kind of like, ‘I can watch it now without wanting to die or praying for forgiveness! I win!’)
THE MANSION UTI
My father was a math teacher at a prep school for rich kids.
We didn’t have much money (understatement) and frequently found ourselves with incredibly wealthy friends.
One of those kids lived in a mansion with an olympic-size swimming pool, complete with high diving board and an ice cream parlor.
They were having a birthday party for her brother and I swear to God, they had the longest, most phenomenal Slip ‘N Slide I had ever seen. It ended in a pool that was way bigger than the above ground one we had in our backyard.
Needless to say, I was already intimidated by the home, the toys, the yard, the pool.
Just looking at my friend sitting with perfect posture while playing at her grand piano was enough to make me feel inferior for JUST BEING.
It was around midnight when I started to realize I was suffering from the world’s most wicked urinary tract infection. Dear God, the pain!
I wasn’t keen on being there, but I wanted to impress my rich pal, so I tried to suck it up, tough it out, biting into the provided pillow to try to keep from screaming.
I finally broke down and called my mom and whispered through tears that my private parts were en fuego.
I’m sure you’re already thinking you can guess how this sleepover went. But, wait!
It was a sleepover at MY house and I was NOT the one who puked.
It was my neighborhood friend.
She ran for the bathroom.
She only made it to the hallway.
It was projectile.
It was shocking.
It was the look on my father’s face while he was sopping it up that I will never forget for as long as I live.
He looked like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
Or Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained.
Or Samuel L. Jackson in any movie for that matter.
These and also the glaring facts that some parents are also perverts, some guns are left unlocked and some alcohol is on the bottom shelf are the reasons why I will never (don’t hold me to it) let my kids sleepover.
And your (vomiting) kids can’t stay either.
It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love.
When I reminisce about the idyllic Christmas mornings of my childhood.
The lying awake for a signal from my parents that it’s acceptable to dig under my bed for that first hidden gift, the teaser of what was to come.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, swishing on socked feet into a living room packed with presents, pouring across the floor like a tidal wave.
My brothers and I clambered around on the Oriental rug, digging through our stockings for the tiny gifts hidden among the cheap chocolate, held afloat by a single orange.
Our bellies still full from the smorgasbord of Teriyaki steak skewers, stuffed mushrooms, sweet and sour meatballs and cheese spread of the celebrations the night before.
In Florida, there are no snow flurries to usher in a white Christmas, but it didn’t stop me from believing I heard the jingle of sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.
It was a huge family affair. My Uncle, Aunt and cousin would come to town from Cincinnati. We’d brave the chilly waters of the Gulf on their behalf and gather sand for luminarias to line our walkway at home.
My grandparents would come down from Massachusetts and our entire holiday herd would go to the St. Pete pier where I would beg my parents to buy me overpriced colored rocks masquerading as gems.
Every year, we would eat at Arigato Japanese steak house, a huge splurge for a family of 5 living mostly off a math teacher’s salary.
Now, nobody comes down from “up north” to take a dip in frigid waters.
The Pier is in disrepair, people kept away with a lock and chain, it’s future uncertain.
Arigato shut down in September. The owner filed for bankruptcy.
Immediately after Thanksgiving I would hold the bottom rung of the ladder (a pointless show of support) for my father as he strung the giant colored lights along our rooftop.
Now they’re considered “retro” and a fire hazard.
Now we put off stringing the Christmas lights along our porch railing because it’s such a pain in the patoot. We’re just too dang busy.
On Christmas Eve, we sat down as a family and read scripture to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We reenacted the nativity scene. I was usually stuck being a sheep by the manger, shrouded in my beloved and battered baby blanket, “Lambie.”
Now, nobody even mentions the “real reason for the season.”
These days, we are so busy redefining “family” that there’s no room to even bother trying to resurrect the Christmas traditions of our childhood.
The massive mountain of presents are now split between 4 homes. Christmas Eve with my in-laws, Christmas morning with my children, another random day with my family and finally a visit with my dad and his wife.
How does Santa pull this off? I don’t know. I just don’t know what to tell my kids.
Holidays should be about lazy mornings in jammies, cracking walnuts, watching football (reluctantly) and afternoons spent with kids crammed onto and underneath sofa beds, watching Rudolph on repeat.
Instead, I will leave work on Christmas Eve to rush home to food that I couldn’t help prepare.
Christmas morning will bring a modest delivery from Old Saint Nick.
The Friday after Christmas, it’s back to work.
Saturday, it’s the next “Christmas” with my family.
I am learning that there is absolutely no way I can recreate the magic of holidays past for my children.
I cannot pull it off.
It makes me sad and angry.
There’s nobody to blame, yet it feels patently unfair.
These days, who’s got the chestnuts? Where’s the open fire?