Last Thursday afternoon Mike called me at work.
"Sicily's been invited to a sleepover."
I was mortified. "What? Who?"
"Her friend Emmarie. The one that came to the Halloween party." I had thrown a little Halloween party for Sicily - well, not me really. Sicily made the invitations and cajoled me into throwing the party for three of her friends. She picked the fabulous lantern art activity. She made the goody bags. I just chaperoned - cannot take a single bit of credit. One of the girls was a new friend from her school. I met the dad for the first time when he picked her up, and I hadn't yet met the mother.
I frantically asked Mike, "When is the sleepover? Does Sicily know about it?" I was thinking maybe we could just make an excuse to the parents and never tell her about the party.
He replied, "Yes, and she's really excited. It's Emmarie's seventh birthday party. There are four other girls going. It's tomorrow night."
My head went into a tailspin. I wasn't ready for Sicily to spend the night at someone's house, other than a family member. Sure, she had been begging for a long time, but I actively avoided the subject. And I thought her first one would be a friend that we had known for a long time, and we knew the parents, like Helen or Phoebe. Or Annika. People I was comfortable with, and trusted that they weren't murderers or child molesters. But at the same time, she is over six and a half. I had to let this happen at some point. But six and a half is still so young, I thought. I didn't remember doing this sleepover thing until I was at least eight or nine.
While I was taking her to her stroke technique class Thursday night, she was complaining about her day. I love telling people that I need to leave early so I can get Sicily to her stroke class. They look so puzzled, and I wonder what they are thinking. Is it a class where one learns how to gracefully survive a brain infarct? Or a lesson in the proper etiquette of soothing one's cat? Sometimes I jump in and just tell them she is learning swim strokes, and sometimes I make them suffer and ask.
I was tired of listening to Sicily complain. So I started whining. "Listen to my day. I had one of the biggest caseloads I've ever had. And I'm tired from traveling. I was working crazy hard and busy this afternoon, and Daddy called and told me you were invited to a sleepover. I was so upset and worried, and wanted to try to hide it from you. I don't know the parents, and I am not sure I want you to sleep in a house with people I don't know. I'm scared, Sicily."
She was clearly shocked. She doesn't hear me complain, often. "Mommy, why are you acting like a child? I'll be fine, I really want to go. I've been wanting to do this for a long time." I said, "OK, but I'm taking you over there. And I'm warning you. I'm going inside to meet the mom. If something seems off to me, or I don't like the look of the place, I'm leaving, and you're coming with me."
"Mom, what would have to happen for you to not let me stay?"
"Well, if there are children hanging from the kitchen ceiling bleeding, or screaming in the back room - not excited, party screams, but I'm being tortured screams, then you definitely cannot spend the night."
I looked in the rear view mirror to gauge her reaction. She was smiling and rolling her eyes. "Mom, you're crazy."
Friday night I raced home to get her - I had to drive her 45 minutes away to a gated community in Roland, AR. Mike and I had looked at a house there many years ago, so at least I knew the area. It was nice - large lots, giant houses. Not that this fact calmed me down - evil people transcend socioeconomic status. We had a long drive, so we discussed manners. I quickly glossed over the basics - "If you don't like something they are offering to eat, say no thank you. Use the word please if you need help." We did some role playing, and she gleefully mimicked her most horrible screams at foods she did not like as an example of what not to do. She was having fun. "What else, mom?"
"Well, the goal of spending the night out is to behave well so you will be asked back again, if you like it and are having fun."
"So what would I have to do that they wouldn't ask me back?"
"Well, I wouldn't blow your nose on their cat. They might not like a snotty cat."
"Mom! How do you know they even have a cat!"
"I don't, that's just an example. I also wouldn't poop on any one's head."
She cackled. "What if I pooped on their head, and then had diarrhea on it?"
"Then you definitely wouldn't be asked back. In fact, I might be required to take you to the doctor."
"Oh, mom. Would they give me a shot?"
"No, but he might make you talk to him or her. About why you pooped on some one's head. It's really not done, in polite society."
I checked the mirror. It was dark and rainy, and her eyes were glowing. She caught me watching her, and looked away and shrugged. She gave me my favorite response, to the information I dole out to her. She looked away, scrunched up her face, and said nonchalantly, "Hmm."
When we arrived there were lots of girls jumping around animatedly, and the mom was busy with make-your-own-pizza fixings and cupcakes, so I didn't keep her long. I just introduced myself and wrote down phone numbers. I could hardly get Sicily to say goodbye to me - she was having so much fun.
After a family dinner, Mike retired early in preparation for a big hunting weekend and I stayed up. I was watching Escape From Alcatraz, and it was so much fun to see a movie set in the place I had visited Monday night. I think Clint Eastwood was thrown into the same solitary cell that I had spent time in, on D Block. At about 11:15 p.m., my cell phone rang. It was Emmarie's mother. "Sorry to wake you - Sicily just wanted to talk to you." She passed the phone before I could reply.
"Mommy, I miss you! I love you! Can I talk to Daddy and John?"
"No Sicily, they are long in bed sleeping. You should try to go to sleep, it's really late. Do you need me to come get you?"
"No, I just wanted to tell you I missed you."
"I'll be there first thing in the morning, I promise."
"No, mom! Not first thing! I'm always the first to leave. Come a little late so I can play, OK?"
I smiled. "OK sweetie. Try to sleep. I love you. Goodnight."
Whew. We survived. I hung out with the mom then next morning, for a half hour or so, and she seemed nice. She was pleased with Sicily, telling me amusing stories from her observations, and I reciprocated by sharing some stories about her daughter when she was at the Halloween party. She assured me that she was the second to last, not the last kid to go to sleep. Oh the trials of motherhood. I don't know what I'm gonna do when Sicily goes off to college.