I was very fortunate as a little girl to have parents who doted on me. At Christmas, “Santa” brought 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 fantastic! I was 3 years old.
My parents were very sociable people and although I was an only child (a little precocious with it) they wanted me to have a circle of friends and so 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 fabulous!
My birthday is in late June (mark your calendars *kidding*) so summer activities and treats were always a part of things. We had a small rectangular plastic pool – the kind you put together, rather like a tent – with metal poles and plastic triangular corner seats. We filled it up with the garden hose and then, it was, as Fred Flintstone once said, “Everybody into the pewel”. Imagine 11 little girls running around in little frilly bathing suits. Some were sporting those rubber-flowered caps, and shrieking at the tops of their lungs whenever they would dip their tiny toes in the frigid water. It took a while for it to warm up and then all the party-kids would jump in and start splashing around. Then Mommy would come out with her special popsicles made from kool-aid and jell-o, so when you licked them, they would never lose their juiciness. Heaven!
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I bet you all remember the first pajama party you ever had or attended. Well, mine was spectacular on many counts. I was 11 years old and I had 7 friends to spend the night. I got my first sleeping bag for the occasion and it was more of a roughing-it-in-the-bush sort (thanks to my British Army sergeant father) as opposed to a hip, official merchandise number – or even a girly colour, like pink or lavender with a flower-power interior or something. Actually it was a “Woods” royal blue with navy red and grey stripes inside and I remember my dad stitched (with his army-issue “housewife” sewing kit) old, men’s briefs’ waistbands (white with a stripe) in three places at the foot of the bag to replace the “inferior” laces that came with it for tying it securely. (Oh, the humiliation!) Still, an ugly bag could not spoil my anticipation of having all my friends to sleep overnight.
As usual, Mom had some goodies up her sleeve. Not only did we have a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken with the orange potato salad and the sweet, green shredded coleslaw, we also had a big cake, but that was all eclipsed when mom called up her soda-jerk skills to make floats with grape pop and vanilla ice cream. They were the best! We all got in our baby-dolls and settled in front of the old black and white t.v. (it was early 70s and we didn’t get colour until a few years later), but it did not matter because we watched one of the funniest old black and white movies anyway– Arsenic and Old Lace. I don’t think most of my friends were exposed to classic films (I was brought up on them) and some probably hadn’t heard of Cary Grant, but nobody complained. We were all captivated by the creepy Boris Karloff, the ditzy old ladies with the bodies piling up in the basement and the pratfalls and elastic facial expressions of Grant. We laughed and laughed (okay, some of that might have been all the sugar). The other thing was, I had just got a new kitten. She was a little silver tabby called “Misty” and she got passed around like a box of crackerjack from one little girl’s hands to the next. Everybody wanted to love him up.
When it came time for sleeping, we lay out our bags on the dining room floor (there was no furniture yet – my folks were gradually filling up the bungalow). We were all giddy with excitement at sleeping together in the same room and the chatter was noisy and incessant. It was only when the lights went out that I realized how hard and uncomfortable the floor was and I could not stop thinking about how my nice bed with the soft mattress and all my stuffed toys, was just down the hall.
As the noisiness gradually faded (after a few yells from my parents) and the girls nodded off one by one, I slowly and silently 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–I had made up my mind.
On another occasion, I was to stay at my girlfriend Jane T’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 Jane’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, Jane K next door, when we put up the pup tent (you guessed it – army issue) in my backyard, got our sleeping bags in the tent, crawled in, nattered on about nothing for ages and then she fell asleep. Good thing my parents didn’t lock the back 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.
Not much has changed. I would still rather sleep in my own bed than anywhere else on earth and as far as sleeping bags or camping, don’t even go there!
Here’s a cool video I found of Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flintstone, in a spot on “The Beverly Hillbillies”. I have never seen the man behind the voice before. It’s kind of weird to know who it is after all these years.