sleeping beauties

a history in sleeping bags

the first sleepover, 2001

I am seven years old. It is my neighbor’s birthday and we are going to sleep over at her house. Better yet, we are going to sleep in her backyard. In a TENT. I am seven years old and I have never been camping. I am scared of her dog and I don’t know all of her friends, but I will sleep OUTSIDE in a TENT, away from home. (My house is diagonally across the street. I can see it from where we will sleep that night. But still. It totally counts.)

the first sleepover after, 2005

It’s been a few years since I slept over at anyone’s house, since before I was diagnosed with diabetes. My parents are nervous about letting me go. They worry about what could happen to me. They send me to the sleepover with a long list of instructions for if something goes wrong.

I don’t care what could happen to me. I am excited that my parents are letting me go. We watch movies and eat snacks and have a great time. I feel free.

I wake in the middle of the night, shaking, sweating, blood sugar plummeting. I lie there in the dark, willing my blood sugar to pull itself together. It doesn’t. (If only it were that easy.) I crawl out of my sleeping bag and stumble to my friend’s parents’ room for help. They consult the list, give me juice, and call my parents in what seems to be the middle of the night (though it was probably only midnight). I am embarrassed to be causing so much trouble and worry. I feel bad: for waking up my friends, for bothering my friend’s parents, for waking up my own parents, for myself.

I don’t sleep over at anyone’s house for a while after that.

sleepover at my house (a rare occurrence), 2007

We watch Titanic. This is the latest I have ever been awake. My best friend tells me a secret—the name of the boy she really, really likes. It is the first time we have shared something so personal with each other. I am so excited about being trusted with this knowledge that I write about it in my diary, but I scribble over the boy’s name—a preventative measure in case anyone reads it. I glow with pride at being entrusted with such an important secret.

another sleepover, 2008

This is the first time I have ever been to K’s house. We’ve known each other for years but were never friends until we ended up at the same high school, on the same field hockey team. Tonight the freshman hockey girls are sleeping over. We’re going to bond.

She has two very energetic dogs, and they terrify me. I am afraid they will bite me in my sleep. But I like these girls and having friends and I am determined to stick it out.

We play games and gossip and watch Titanic (trust me, it’s an excellent sleepover movie). Sometime after (spoiler alert) the ship hits the iceberg, we make blueberry muffins and eat them hot, straight from the oven. Late, we fall asleep.

I wake in the morning to dogs barking and lie paralyzed, praying they don’t come near me, but still unspeakably glad to be where I am.

I leave feeling like I’ve found people I will be friends with forever.

the last sleepover before everything changes, 2012

It’s 4 a.m. Loopy and silly, we traipse out onto the street and sit in a clumsy circle of five. K pulls out a bottle half-full of watermelon vodka and passes around pastel Dixie cups. We each take one and she sloshes the watery contents into them. We raise our glasses and toast—to each other, to our friendship, to the end of something wonderful and to a hopefully glorious new beginning. We down the contents, laughing and gasping. We manage to eke out enough vodka for us each to have a turn toasting our friendship. My heart is perilously close to bursting.

Before the moment overwhelms us, we jump up and chase after each other through K’s neighborhood, giggling and stumbling in the empty, quiet streets. Barefoot and tipsy on drowsiness and vodka dregs, we feel free. I think, this must be what that quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower meant—because in that moment, I swear we are infinite. Finally, we link arms and walk back to K’s house, calmer and mostly sober. Exhausted but determined not to sleep, we lie in the (quiet, suburban) street and wait for the sun to rise. It does, eventually: not triumphantly, as we had hoped, but slowly, without us noticing, beneath a cloudy sky. Still, the sky eventually gets lighter, as it does every morning—but on this particular morning it feels a little bit like our own special miracle. I’m so tired but I don’t want to go to sleep, because when we do this night will be over and everything will change.

We stop talking and stare at the sky, still gray and cloudy but getting lighter every minute. This sunrise—this night—isn’t what I thought it would be, but it’s what I need right now, a buffer against the uncertainty ahead.

We finally go inside and fall asleep around 7 a.m. I awake a couple hours later to K’s dogs licking my face—after four years of friendship, the dogs and I have (mostly) made our peace. I know that I have come a long way from that first sleepover four years ago.

new year’s eve eve, 2014

The gang is back—for one night, at least. This is the first time we’ve all been together since New Years Eve 2013, and the last time we will all be together until winter break 2015. We drink wine (some of us legally, now) and watch Love Actually and fall back into our same comfortable, nostalgic routine. I remember being 18, tipsy and roaming the summer streets and feeling like everything I knew was ending. But now at 21, tipsy and settled quietly on K’s couch, her dog’s head in my lap, I know that most things change, have changed, will change but there are some things—some people—I can always rely on.

the next sleepover, ???