I still remember the slumber parties that I attended when I was in junior high. A group of us girls would get together for an evening of pure silliness, usually for someone’s birthday. There were never more than half a dozen honored guests because we had to fit inside the small bedrooms of the era. Being invited was a great honor that required a willingness to conform to the traditions.
There would always be lots of eating, chattering and giggling. In the early part of the evening if the weather cooperated we might pretend to be going for a walk only to find a house to wrap with the purloined toilet paper rolls we had hidden away in our overnight bags. When it became later we usually convened in the living room of the hostess’ home to dance to the latests hit tunes and catch up on the latests schoolyard gossip. There was always a great deal of loud talking and laughing at jokes that only we enjoyed prompting a bit of “shushing” from moms who no doubt were fighting headaches at that point and wondering why they had agreed to entertain a house full of giddy adolescent girls.
Eventually we made our way to the birthday girl’s bedroom where we changed into our jammies and made pallets on the floor with the pillows and blankets that we had brought for the occasion. It was all quite ceremonial including making a pledge not to fall asleep lest there be consequences for being a slumber party slacker.
Someone would invariably keep the spirit of the occasion going by telling a scary story of young girls being attacked by grotesque marauders. By the time the tale was done at least one of the attendees would be crying and insisting that maybe she needed to call her mom and go home. Most of the time we were able to convince the frightened soul that she would be alright and that we wanted her to stay. Then we would whisper more details of horrors that we swore were true as our nervous friend attempted to appear calm with eyes that gave away her true state of being.
I never allowed myself to be the first to fall asleep because doing so was never a good thing. Whichever girl lapsed into dreamland before the rest of us would find herself being sprinkled with water or smeared with toothpaste by the more aggressive members of the party. I was more frightened of being the butt of such torture than I was of the murderous tales that I knew were only the product of someone’s vivid imagination. The harassment for surrendering to sleep was real and I wanted no part of it.
Once the unfortunate sleeper had received her comeuppance the girls would one by one drift off into dreamland until the only sound in the room was rhythmic breathing. We had by that time run of things to say and so we did our best to stay awake in the dark but it never worked. At some point each and everyone of us would fall into a deep slumber that was only broken by the voice of the mom who had prepared breakfast for us before the appointed time of our departure.
There have only been a few times in my life when I have actually stayed awake all night long. Two of them came on days when someone was dying. Those were brutal experiences inside hospitals where I had lost track of time, unaware of whether it was day or night. My body was both numb and in a state of exaggerated energy at one and the same time. I would not have been able to sleep even if I had tried to do so. In fact I remember feeling as though I might never sleep again in those solemn.
In 2019 I traveled to London. I had found what appeared to be a bargain basement price on airfare. I was saving so much money that I paid an extra fee to choose my own seat along the aisle so that I would be free to move about whenever I felt the need. It ended up being an horrific experience.
The seats were so small and so close together that I felt as though I had been bubbled wrapped and packed into a crate. Ironically the passengers who had refused to pay extra for priority seating ended up on rows all to themselves so that they were unconfined like I was. Because my seat would barely recline there was no way of getting comfortable once the lights were dimmed for sleep time. Besides there was a constant flow of people brushing against my seat as they walked up and down the aisle.
The group behind me reminded me of one of those slumber parties of old as they chattered and giggled incessantly. To make matters worse the temperature in the cabin was so cold that I had to retrieve a jacket from my carry on and even then I was shivering. There was no way to get comfortable enough to surrender to sleep so I spent the entire night watching movies and wishing that I was one of the people stretched out over entire rows and snoring under blankets that they had been wise enough to bring. My predicament bordered on torture.
When morning did finally come I felt as though I had been the victim of slumber party pranks. My joints ached and my head seemed to be filled with cotton. I worried that I would have to spend my first day in London recuperating in my hotel room but once I was freed from the cramped conditions of the plane my head cleared and the walking eased my soreness. I knew that I was going to be just fine and I was.
I never was one for all nighters. I preferred to rest even as a child. I’ll leave driving all night to the truckers. I will rethink the way I travel on a plane whenever Covid-19 is tamed and we are allowed to travel again. Sleep is a good thing. Slumber is a true party for me. When the witching hour comes I am a party pooper. I say goodnight and go to sleep.