Social Butterfly

I remember it as clearly as yesterday. The visual part is a little fuzzy, but the words are still there, fifty plus years later. I was in the basement where my mom was doing yet another load of laundry.

“There’s a slumber party Saturday night at Lisa’s. Can I go?”

My mom put down the towel she was folding and said, “Another party?”

“Yes, her 13th birthday.”

I thought about the new sleeping bag I’d bought with the money I’d earned babysitting the two little kids across the street. It would be my first time to use it.

“And a bowling party Friday night?” she said.

“Yes, that’s Nancy Nadler’s 13th birthday party.”

“Well, aren’t you just Little Miss Social Butterfly!”

The words stung in my ears. 

Was she thinking about the gifts I’d have to bring? Or how I wouldn’t be around to help with my younger siblings? None of those thoughts were in my head, only that Lisa and Nancy had included me. They weren’t close friends. They were new friends, the kind that lived in the big houses out near the freeway, on Douglas Avenue.

Those houses had living rooms and family rooms, kitchens and dining rooms. All we had was a front room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, an upstairs half story with slanted walls, and one bathroom. Plus, the stinky basement.

I waited there, frozen in front of her, waiting for an answer.

“Don’t you want to babysit this weekend to earn some money?” she asked.

Babysit and miss two parties with girls who were more popular than I was?

“No,” I said.

Then my mom let out a long sigh of exasperation to show her disapproval.

“I suppose so,” she said.

I turned and ran up the steps to the kitchen, blinking away the tears. Why wasn’t Mom happy for me to get invited? Why had she called me a name with such contempt in her voice?

I steered clear of Mom for the rest of the afternoon, doing my homework in my shared bedroom instead of at the kitchen table. At supper I did my table-setting job without complaining. At least I didn’t have to wash dishes or dry them that night. My sisters each got one of those jobs.

The next night I’d be at a bowling party.  Saturday I’d be at the slumber party.  I’d miss a wash and a dry night. Sunday I’d be back to setting the table. My younger brothers didn’t have to help.

Dad would drive me there. Mom would pick me up later. It never occurred to me how my new social life was an extra burden on my parents.  I was second born of five kids. Our tiny house was a busy place.

I knew when my 13th birthday rolled around that summer, I wouldn’t be having a slumber party. There was no where to have it. Joan, three doors up, had lots of parties, but we had to sleep in the garage, so hers were in the summertime, even though her birthday was in February.

We didn’t have a garage. Our cars sat out in the weather — winter, spring, summer and fall. The driveway was half concrete and half gravel. I’d wiped out on my bike on those rocks near the street. Our block didn’t have sidewalks like the new houses out by I-35.

But I wasn’t thinking about any of that, only that my mom was mad at me for getting invited in 7th grade.

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