When I was in grade school, sleepovers were king; a gathering of best friends for an evening of eating, giggling, and staying up all night – it was a sure-fire memory maker. I can faintly recall the excitement; packing my clothes, possibly a swimsuit and towel, sleeping bag and pillow, and probably a birthday gift (all sleepover essentials) and arriving at my friend’s house. I could hardly contain myself, it was that magical.
I have a few specific memories of various sleepovers I attended; one girl’s mom made us homemade pizza with little balls of hamburger on top (so good!), one girl’s dad had quite a collection of bar swizzle sticks sporting the giant bust of a woman (that was eye-opening), and then there were my pool parties where we swam, ate, and laughed the day and night away.
My core grade school friends, whom I met in 4th grade when I moved to town, were Jackie, Sheila, Susie, Debbie, Coco, and Sandy (hopefully I didn’t forget anyone), and this was the crew who went to most of the sleepovers. The parties I hosted usually centered around my birthday, which happened to be at the beginning of August – the perfect time for a pool party/camper sleepover.
It was a special day and night with my friends, but it was more than just getting presents for me; there was something about us all being together – playing in the pool, talking about boys, and whispering incessantly through the night as we lay in the bunks of the pop-up camper hoping desperately to not be the one who fell asleep first. These girls were my best friends, and as innocent as we may have been, we all seemed to understand the concept of living in the moment. It was an easy time, care-free and effortless. Little did we know that once we entered middle school the world as we knew it would change, forcing us to grow-up faster than we ever could have anticipated.
As my 54th birthday approaches, I look out at my pool where over the years I’ve watched my own children host their pool parties, and recall the days when being a 5th or 6th grader who was free from the worries only age can bring, was a great thing. Once I entered the regional middle school in 7th grade, some of my relationships from grade school disintegrated a bit as I made new friends, but, as good as those new friendships were, some still lasting today, I will never be able to duplicate the true wonder and magic those grade school relationships provided. Those girls accepted me, the new kid in town, and I will always be grateful.
My parents still own the pop-up camper we used for sleepovers; the old Nimrod, now a dusty, worn-out relic, dying a slow death to this day in their tobacco barn. From my point of view, that camper was a gift in itself – giving not only me and my family the space to create so many happy memories, but also making provisions for me and my friends to create memories. It gave us a cool, safe place to duck away from the world; we could hide away in our own cocoon away from the confines of a home. We would listen to the night sounds through the screens of the zip-down canvas windows while we played games like truth or dare, talked, and just celebrated being us.
So, with a nod to all of you, my old classmates, my greatest girlfriends forever, wherever you may be, I hope you recall the fun times we had; it was more than awesome, it was a time that transcends all time and I wouldn’t trade one memory of it. Thank you for your friendship – the purest I’ll ever know!