Friday, September 22, 2006

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!

38 comments:

kim said...

How wonderful it was back when we were young and growing up ... I wish my kids could experience just half the things the way we did.
I remember my mom cooking and listening to Nat King Cole and Nancy Sinatra on the radio. "These boots were made for walkin...."
Pre MTV or cable ....and all these electronic gadgets ... ahhh those were the days :)

Kevin Charnas said...

Oh Pend...what a different time. You've brought back so many memories for myself through this post...
*big sigh*

Celebrating differences and open, non-exclusive people - I'll toast to that anytime!

AND 3 CHEERS FOR THE CALENDAR GIRLS!!! HIP-HIP HOORAY! HIP-HIP HOORAY! HIP-HIP HOORAY!

the end...DA-DA-DA-DDuuummmm....

Miss Keeks said...

What a fantastic childhood! I wish every kid could grow up like that. I think it would really help our perspectives of the world.

Mia said...

Beautiful. I loved reading this. It was fun thinking back on innocence. Thank You!!!

crazymumma said...

I started singing it the minute I saw the title to your post....and ain't it great taht you throw the same sort of parties now, for both the little ones and the big ones! Ummmmm....on that note, when is the next one.....?

Oh, The Joys said...

I love when you write...I feel like I was there, like I was in your crowd.

In truth, I grew up in a really ethnically diverse place, a "planned" community in Maryland until I was headed into 8th grade. The town in Maryland was organized to ensure that people of all socio-economic backgrounds were mixed together, so my friends were of many different backgrounds, classes, etc. I loved it and it was extraordinarily influential in shaping my complete fascination with culture and difference. I think it is what makes life so extraordinarily interesting.

In 8th grade, I moved to a LILY WHITE suburb of Chicago and was really crushed by the monotony of the place.

Mrs. T said...

I loved this- it brought back memories of my own slumber parties , where we all took turns singing the songs from Grease and acting out Barry Manilow's "CopaCabana".
It's funny, because I was just thinking about the surprisingly ethnicly diverse community I lived in- believe it or not. I walked home from school with a Syrian boy, we had neighbors behind us who were from Bangladesh and when I was in elementary school there was a Hungarian family that had escaped the "iron curtain"- which totally fascinated me. I think those experiences were what led me to want to teach ESL and help new immigrants to this country.

Jodi said...

"What a fantastic childhood! I wish every kid could grow up like that. I think it would really help our perspectives of the world."

My sentiments EXACTLY. Thnking about long-time-ago-friends is the best. Isn't it funny how music can magically transform you to a place and time in an instant?

Mommy off the Record said...

Beautiful post. How lucky you are to have had such a diverse group of childhood friends. I loved hearing about every one of them. But, um, you were missing one thing -- an Italian friend. Too bad I didn't know you growing up. I would have loved to be one of your Calendar Girls!

Catch said...

this is lovely Pendullum...I enjoyed it so much....for a while it took me back too...to the days of when we made home made chef boy r dee pizzas from a box....I loved the smell of the yeast. The 45's, and playing the same song over and over...lol. Staying overnight with different girlfriends and eating dinner with their families. And we were ornery girls, we even tried smoking! LoL. And of course we called boys on the phone. One of my favorite songs by Neil Sedaka was ' Happy Birthday sweet 16'...it takes me right back to my 16th bday party. I played it over and over. Thanks for your post...it brought back some very pleasant memories for me. And you know how I love to read your posts!! You are the best!

Emma Kaufmann said...

Bay City Rollers, wow, that was before even my time and I never knew they crossed over to the US! I loved records so much and still can't bear the horrible smallness and shininess of CDs. Why won't someone bring back 45s, cute scratches and all?

cameo said...

WHAT A BRILLIANTLY HORRIBLE VIDEO. I LOVE IT! THE COSTUMES - THE MOVEMENT - THE OBJECTIFICATION OF THE WOMEN. REALLY. I LOVE IT IN A REALLY WRONG WAY. THANKS FOR THE SMILES.

chelle said...

That is a beautiful story of growing up! Things seemed to have changed and there is more segregation and seperation than before. Sad.

JLee said...

What a wonderful melting pot of friends! I grew up in a very white small town, but after growing up, one of my sisters married someone from Pakistan, another an African American/Cajun, another a very white guy with blonde hair and blue eyes! lol

Mrs. Chicky said...

I'd like a time machine so I can go back and be a part of that group of friends of your's. It sounds like a wonderful way to grow up.

Waya said...

You had such a rich experience in growing up. I too grew up in the city and experienced all different friends from all walks of life, and also the prejudices.

It's a coincidence I just wrote a post about my son's first name calling remark by his friend at school. It's sad that our town is not as diverse as I'd hope. But the school system is one of the better ones, that's the reason why we moved to the "'burbs".

Ruth Dynamite said...

How rich you are. I loved reading these vivid memories of yours - truly beautiful. (My friends and I used to croon "Oh Mandy" and all things Barry Manilow. Ahem.)

pinknest said...

beautiful! oh how i miss slumber parties. and pretending that we were asleep. :)

Wendy said...

That sounds wonderful, and now I'm thinking about all the fun I had at slumber parties as a girl.

Oh, The Joys said...

Girl, that bonnet is so long gone or I would TOTALLY indulge you because clearly I have no shame.

Mimi said...

What a wonderfully diverse group of friends you grew up with! That is so speacial and I am so glad you remember it so fondly! I am kind of jealous!:)

I grew up to MTV. But then they actually played videos. Now it makes me so mad I never turn it on. I loved to watch The Monkees though!

Maritza said...

Another great story. How about a "Calendar's Girl" slumber party reunion?

BV said...

Have I told you lately that I love you. You just capture me. Totally.

carrie said...

That was a beautiful picture of your charmed childhood!!! How lucky you were to have such a wide spectrum in which to play out that time "too old for dolls and too young for boys" of your girlhood.

I remember that time too, except it was "Oh Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind - hey Mickey" blaring from the stereo! My friends and I had a whole choreographed number to that one, yeah and "Like a Virgin" too!

Thank you for taking me back . . . and for all the textures of your childhood.

Carrie

Christina_the_wench said...

Wow. Things were so different then. My true girlfriends 25+ years later still remember me kissing a poster of Donny Osmond. I grew up pretty undiversified, 99% of my town of 5,000 were of German descent, with no other races or cultures around. I am SO thankful I moved away to college and then for a career. I can safely say, my daughters experience so much more than me in that aspect. They are very lucky.

Lawyer Mama said...

What a wonderful post. I'm feeling all nostalgic for my childhood now too...

sunshine scribe said...

Oh my god. My mom had a Neil Sedaka tape that she'd play over and over in the car and I too remember fondly being a calendar girl.

Kristin said...

I remember singing along, with our hairbrush microphones, to all the songs from Grease...

One of my best friends was Egyptian and their house was a wonderland of sofas you couldn't sit on and gold trim... and her mother was the best cook...

Panda said...

Can I be one of your Calendar Girls too? It sounds like such a wonderful time of your life. It makes me all sad and misty that I never had a group of friends like that. You're very lucky.

Rock the Cradle said...

I want to read more...and more and more about this! What wonderful memories. I only wish adults were as open to the world as you were as a child.

Thanks for the wonderful trip to the past.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Great post! Such wonderful memories.

You were extraordinarily lucky, and I envy you. I didn't grow up in a diverse world but as soon as I could walk, I went looking for people who looked or acted different from my family, and have always felt most comfortable with ethnicities other than my own.

You should write a longer piece about your childhood friends. The world needs more such stories.

Nikki said...

What a wonderfully rich childhood!!

you suck - I spent my days in the woods up to my neck in ticks and up to my ankles in swamp and snakes.

Can we trade childhoods?

Pattie said...

Wow..I can relate. That tender time during pre-adolescence...
And of course listening to the likes of the Osmonds...Bay City Rollers...*LOL*
Good times...innocent times.
It sounds like you grew up in a culturally rich environment. Good for you. :)

Rhonda said...

I think I would have loved being one of the girls in your pack. What an amazing childhood and what wonderful memories.

Domestic Chicky said...

What a great memory. I feel like I experienced it with you now. It sure stirred some long forgotten memories of growing up in the 70's. The music always gets me... Seeing this video made me immediately think of my best friend's mom, and the bottle of Jean Nate on the counter by the bath. I always had to stop and smell that stuff.

Lisa said...

Wow. This is a great post. You were so lucky to have so many friends from different backgrounds. Everyone I grew up with was just like me -- white, catholic with two parents and siblings. Sounds like you've got some wonderful memories.

annulla said...

A great memory. The country is a nice place to visit, but I always feel a little bit sorry for kids who don't grow up in the city.

sweetney said...

oh man, i haven't thought of neil sedaka in YEARS, despite growing up listening to him. my first concert was seeing him at 5 years old, in fact.

meeeeemories...