Photo: Notable vegans. Looks fun.
I'm back in my hometown for Mother's Day--Gig Harbor--and remembering my childhood here, which was fair to middlin'. I give it a lower rating because, as I get older, my memory of it is less a painful journey through the past and more of a blinding, euphoric recall; I don't trust myself. I'm forgetting the awful parts (me+adolescence=the beginning of the end) as I get farther away from it, and remembering only the good stuff. I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing; inaccurate, yes, but not bad. I'm happy to forget the knee-deep-in-shit experiences, because there are always more around the corner. And if this is how I react to the enormous failure that was my twenties, then I say BRING IT ON to my thirties; I'm as prepared as I'll ever be.
One thing I remember from being a kid is staying overnight at people's houses. Like any good social climber, I only wanted to stay with people who had a better house than mine, otherwise it was like staying at The Sorrento and switching to The Travelodge. I remember packing my bag with all the hopefulness of a blushing bride; would their home hold secret treasures that my home did not? Would they have junk food and HBO and a pool and a closet full of clothes that would fit me? You couldn't just ask outright, because they would see right through you. I had to see the sweaters tied around their necks, and breathe in the lemon scent of "Cleaned By a Maid" for myself; I had to be warned by a parent about falling off the private dock, or encouraged to visit the on-site stables, to believe it was actually true. I envied them, as any 10-year old would, but without any malice; I never thought they were more fortunate than me. They just had more stuff, like a boat or Doritos or an au pair (all the stuff I craved at the time). Going on a 'play date' was like an informational interview; if the day progressed well--doing fun things, playing with meaningless stuff, making up stories, frolicking on the beach--then we moved into the dinner phase of the relationship. If dinner was acceptable--not too many veggies, no family arguments, no alcoholic binges (and major points for ordering out)--then we'd call my parents and beg them to bring me a change of clothes, pleading to stay overnight. More often than not, I found too many flaws in the families of my friends, judging my classmates on how their house smelled (mine smelled of lavender, I was spoiled), what their snack situation was like (my parents weren't fans of junk food), and if their parents were more embarrassing than mine. If the parents drank too much, had no television, or had that '8 P.M. bedtime' look about them, I faked out the friend and talked about my cruel and unusual parents; they would never let me stay over, not on a ...*cough*... Friday night. I always felt bad for deceiving them, but there was no way in Hell I could last an entire night with a desperately unstable, anti-MTV, super-religious, mom-thinks-she's-just-one-of-the-girls family without slaughtering them. I knew a family like this, and I avoided the girl after spending the night once--despite her friendly personality--because she had too many siblings, so the house was always a stinky chaotic mess, and her parents never remembered to feed us. I would also remember them, later on with a girlfriend, as 'the family who didn't have a guest room, or a trundle bed, or even a bunkbed for Chrissake, and then at breakfast turned out to be goddamn fucking vegans'. There were also the friends who were fun to hang out with, but had one batshit crazy parent; a dad who was a little too friendly, a mom who was a little too bitter. It was like Friendship Roulette, wondering if your friend's mom had been taking her medication regularly, or if this was a "good day" for another friend's manic depressive father. Sometimes it would pay off, and then other times--BANG!! Before I had my license, my parents would drop me off at the girl's house--and if I didn't know what to expect from the friend's family, waving at my dad as he drove away could sometimes feel like leaving home forever. It felt like an irreparable decision I had made hastily, and I always had a moment of regret. It usually turned out fine--excellent snacks in brand-name packaging, unlimited R-rated movies, no bedtime, a cute older brother home with cute older friends, a really comfortable couch, ordering Round Table Pizza, painting our toenails--but I was always wary. Going home was always the second best thing about spending the night at a friend's house. My favorite part was planning it over the phone with the flavor-of-the-month friend--imagining our unlimited options for fun and friendship, and hoping for the best.
Luckily, all of my sleepovers are at my house now, and they're with my favorite friend, even if he does snore. Lightly.