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Sleepovers: A Blast from the Past

by on May 27, 2015 6:15 AM

I have fond memories of sleepovers at my friend David's house.

The big treats were chocolate shakes and Jiffy Pop.

The big adventure was climbing down the side of David's house using a heavy rope looped around the leg of the bunk beds in his second-story bedroom.

Once I became a parent, though, I went over to the dark side. As far as I could tell, nothing good happened after midnight where children were concerned.

When the kids were little they got no sleep and were unapproachably grouchy the next day.

When the kids were big I had to worry about their sneaking out of the house and doing something dangerous or illegal.

Usually things went like this: I would allow a sleepover, then something would happen that would cause me to regret my decision. I would enforce the no-sleepover policy for a while, then cave when my kids claimed that they were going to be the only ones who weren't allowed to participate. Then I would regret caving, etc.

There was no begging or caving last weekend. My daughter asked if she could have a sleepover and I readily assented. I even served the guests gin and tonic. That is because the guests were 28 years old.

It was a mini-reunion of the State High class of 2005. My daughter came from New York. Her friends came from Pittsburgh, Virginia and Ontario.

What do kids who grew up in State College do when they come back to town? Eat ice cream, mostly. There was a walk to the Creamery for cones and a drive to Meyer Dairy for hot fudge sundaes.

One breakfast was at the Waffle Shop. The other was bagels brought home from Irving's.

There was a downtown and campus walk to see what had changed and what had stayed the same, a rousing game of bocce on the courts on Westerly Parkway and visits to their old houses to express dismay that the new owners had had the gall to add on or alter the exterior color scheme.

Everything was supposed to stay exactly the same, but what seemed the least changed, oddly, was the "girls" themselves, who looked pretty much as I remembered them as 8- and 18-year-olds, and who giggled just as much as they did back then.

Old as they are, though, they didn't stay up much past midnight.

Also, the topics were different. Whether to bring children into a world that might be on the verge of environmental collapse was not discussed at those earlier all-night funfests. As the resident old-timer, I tried to offer some historical perspective.

Looking back over the past 100 years, almost every generation could find a reason not to have children. Nineteen-teens? World War I. Twenties and thirties? The Great Depression. Forties? World War II. Sixties? The Bomb. Seventies? Pollution and over-population. Eighties? Kids are too expensive and burdensome. Two thousands? Terrorism. Twenty-teens? Global warming.

Pretty much the only unabashedly optimistic times have been the post-war '50s and the post-Cold War '90s. Not coincidentally, these were (roughly) the Baby Boom years and the Baby Boom Echo years.

But there's a difference between worrying about a difficult future and worrying that there won't be a future at all. True, the nuclear arms race gave rise to apocalyptic visions, but we could at least hope that even the most reckless American and Soviet leaders of the era would resist the urge to destroy the world.

With global warming we have a situation where inaction is the problem rather than reckless action. It may be the case that all we have to do to bring on the apocalypse is go right on living the way we have been living.

As dire as that sounds, though, I have a feeling these young women are going to have babies anyway. They have too much love to give. I saw it in the love they have for each other after all those years of friendship.

There are many lovely times in the lives of parents. For some of us, nothing can top the wonder of gazing at a newborn. For some, it's when these otherworldly beings begin to join us in the social world – when they start to smile, laugh and talk. Some like the school years, when their kids begin to exhibit their talents and their passions.

Currently, I'm a fan of kids in their late 20s, when they're no longer kids at all. As our children try to figure out where and how to live, they seem to develop a new appreciation for the fact that we've already done it (though we're still doing it). Thus a rich new bond develops.

Heck, now that they're past the age when they might sneak out of the house by lowering themselves out of a second-story window on a rope, they can have all the sleepovers they want.

 

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A collection of Russell Frank's columns, titled “Among the Woo People: A Survival Guide for Living in a College Town," is available from the Penn State University Press. His columns for StateCollege.com won first place for commentary in the 2019 Society of Professional Journalists Keystone Chapter Best in Journalism contest. The winning columns: The Women’s March: Notes from New York, It’s Time to Change the Script and Mixed Messages at Bellefonte High. Frank is a member of the journalism faculty at Penn State. Before launching his academic career, he worked as a reporter, editor and columnist at newspapers in California and Pennsylvania. He is, by academic training, a folklorist (Ph.D., UPenn), which means, when you strip away the academic jargon, that he loves a good story. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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