Neil Sedaka - Calendar Girl
A Girl's Slumber Party.
I am about eleven years old. I am too old for dolls and too young for boys. It is an awkward time to be a girl. That is, unless you have your absolute best friends around and then all fits into place.
This song brings me right back to my bedroom on the third floor in my house in the city. This brings me back to me standing beside my record player and playing this 45 that I just inherited from an old uncle of mine. I would play it over and over and all my girlfriends would take turns dancing, singing and miming out the song. Each time the song played, the campiness of our dancing and our singing would put any Dean Martin Roast to shame. We would squeal and laugh and fall onto my bed and play it again. We would all be wearing our comfortable pj's. We would have our sleeping bags and best junk food littered on the floor. We were young. We had each other.And we had years of friendship under our flannel belts.
I grew up in an age before MTV really got its groove. If you even want to call it a groove now. I grew up LOVING musicals.I could sing the entire score to Fiddler on the Roof and force my friends to play various characters. I grew up listening to Bing Crosby. My parents did not listen to any of this. It was just me, an odd quirky girl. A girl that could persuade her friends to listen to all types of music. I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra mixed in with the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, twinged with Elvis'69 comeback special. I grew up listening to the Jackson 5 and the Osmonds. I grew up to The Beatles and the Monkees. I grew up listening to The Bay City Rollers, Bobby Darren and Eartha Kitt. I grew up listening to Peter,Paul and Mary laced with a bit of Genesis and a whole lot of disco. The time I am bringing you to is before I began to contemplate that Paul McCartney may be dead and talk for hours on the phone of the evidence that sergeant Pepper's produced. I am talking about a period before I found the Sex Pistols and The Ramones. I am talking about a time when I could belt out the words to Cocaine by Eric Clapton and not think what the song was about. And heck, I would sing Rod Stewart's Tonight's the Night at the top of my lungs, much to my prudent, Roman Catholic, father's chagrin. I had not idea it was about THAT!
I grew up in a city. I grew up in a time when you could not order Indian food for delivery. Or there was maybe one Japanese restaurant in the city. Thai was not even heard about in my social circle for a meal. Chinese food was laddened in glow in the dark syrup and a great MSG glow. Pizza was the food of choice for delivery. It was filled with waxy type cheese and pepperoni and always seem to arrive a wee bit soggy.
But at the same time I grew up in a time of new immigrants. My best friends were German, Greek, Japanese and Pakistani and Ukrainian. How's that for a mix?
I would remember each friend and our wee traditions. With my girlfriend Naseem, I would attempt to learn Arabic, I would be part of the daily prayers. I even had my own prayer matt when visiting.I could pray to whatever God I chose. But would have to respect that they were praying too. After, we would finish our prayers we would quickly go back to our Nancy Drews, or our Archie comics laced with a bit of the Trixie Beldon. We would always have Indian music in the background and the smell of delicious curries would permeate the house. The house was filled with exotic women in saris of all different colours. Most of the men wore white and always barefoot in sandals no matter what the weather.
At my German girlfriend's house we would go into the backyard where my girlfriend's father would be building his own airplane for the family to fly to the cottage in.He was always tinkering with his inventions and when we would bore of him, we would then go downstairs where would would make pottery as my girlfriend's mother had a kiln and clay for us to weld our creations.At the end of the day, we would listen to her father play the piano, Beethoven of course... and sometimes he would add a bit of Mozart to his repetoire. We would sit in the living room as her father would give us a recital. And you know, we gobbled it up.We loved to hear him play. We would always insist that he end it with dadadadummmm... from Beethovan's fifth symphony... He would never fail to explain that it was a symphony and we would just look at him and say... Just play the DaDA DaDummmmmm part then...
At my Greek girlfriends house we would enjoy the yoghurt cheese and talk about our love for the Bay City Rollers. We would listen to disco music and try out our best disco moves. For the important Greek Orthodox holidays we were forced to dress in our finest and go to church with Maria. We were forced into all the pageantry as Maria's uncle was one of the highest priests in church.And it was magical with all the gold and we would sit in the pews of honor with Maria's entire extended family. One of my girlfriends caused quite the stir one year as she crossed her legs in church... Apparently that is a BIG NONO!!! And when the service was over, we would all file back to Maria's family's house where Greek music would play and only loud dialogue was spoken.
At my girlfriend Kimiko's house we would be enthralled with the pageantry of being Japanese. Her Grandparents lived upstairs and her parents lived downstairs. Her Grandfather would take enormous pride in his garden. There were exotic flowers and bushes that were cut into the most exquisite shapes. It was easy to think of yourself as a regal princess in his garden in the city. Even when we played Charlie's Angels and we were fighting off vile villains, the garden was where Charlie lived.And we Angels were just visiting with Bosley.
Kimiko's grandmother wore kimonoes of the most beautiful silks. Her hands were always manicured and lotions were always used. Her hair was always in a bun and it was never out of place. She was a most gracious woman and would be calm even when all us girls would descend upon her. The rice steamer was never off.I remember large banquets upstairs with endless arrays of cantaloupe and melon that were the sweetest I have ever tasted. And the orange that were always cut and on display were always bursting with juice. Everything looked beautiful. They never had small dinner parties. There was never less than 40 family members gathered around their table eating and talking in Japanese with us girls running in to grab some sushi from the table and run into our makeshift fort downstairs.
I remember gathering all of our snacks together. I was the offical 'wrapper eater' as I did not care for the Japanese candy but loved eating the rice wrappers from the candies.
The Ukrainian household was a great deal like my own.(But my house was also ensconced with the Irish traditions as well) Where we would eat borscht and Vareneky and Holobtchi and could eat spoonfuls of sour cream. Where there would be songs from the old country. Where there would be thick accents and pinches on the cheek to say that we were all too thin. The conversations were always around the table. There would be a circle of woman making vareneky(Peorogis if you are Polish). The tea towels would be laid out while the women gossiped and had tea while attending to the task at hand. There would be thousands of little dumplings all laidout and the house was always humid with the boiling of soup to accompany the evening meal.
Through all the ethnic diversity we grew up together. We knew all of our traditions We incorporate them all. Christmas Eve was very important for my German girlfriend, so we would all descend on her family for the lighting of the candles.We knew about Ramadan. We all attempted to fast. We knew about bad Japanese movies. We watched countless ones where with bad Japanese accents we would fill in the missing dialogue. We learned about how the Japanese were interned during World War II. We learnt about the Nazis, we learnt about the resistance in Germany , we learned Greek songs and attempted to learn Ukrainian.
And now, in my city I can order Sushi. I can order Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Greek Indian or anything else I chose.
But my life is not peppered and seasoned with the truly ethnic experience I grew up with. All of my gal pals have married and have taken very different paths. They all live in the suburbs and I am the only one that has opted for the city life. My Greek girlfriend married a Hindu boy, my German girlriend married an American, my Japanese girlfriend married a Spaniard, my Ukrainian girlfriend married a Dominican , and my Pakistani girlfriend had an arranged marriage at the age of 16 that had all of us in a tears.
But for a brief moment... Through this song. They are back at my house. We are upstairs and we are full of promise. We are giggling and being told to quiet down which causes us to laugh harder. We are too old for dolls and too young for boys... And we are all Calendar Girls!