When I say “we” were ready…I meant of course…Karla Johansen was ready. She was my excellent friend and self-proclaimed leader of our little gang of seven.
She…even in 8th grade…was ready for everything and anything at all times…and all of us just basically said “how high” when she told us to jump.
Her mother was an oddity for this time in history. She worked full time…and was consumed constantly with guilt…even though she was an elementary school teacher and home almost as much as the other moms of our little group…who did not work outside the home.
But this was 1960. Most moms stayed home…whether they wanted to or not.
So…because of her mother’s on-going guilt…Karla had an edge…and she had learned early in her young life how to successfully use that power.
Two years ago, in fact, she had managed somehow to convince her parents to build an in-ground, Olympic-size swimming pool in their backyard, even though they went to their summer cabin every weekend from June thru September. Yeah…they had some money.
Karla loved her gang but not one of them had a summer cabin by the lake like she did. But now they spent every hot sunny day splashing in “Karla’s pool”. No one could ever accuse Karla of not being a great friend. She was a wonder.
Even as my mother was delivering the Halloween bad news to me, I knew Karla was also receiving it from her mom…and responding with anguish, sobs and fake tears. She had practiced how she would react in front of me and she was pretty damn good.
“NO TRICK OR TREATING!!!!!” I could almost hear her screaming and I lived blocks away.
What I couldn’t hear was her poor mom, Liz Johansen (we all loved her, she was such a sweetheart) telling Karla how sorry she was for this terrible disruption in her life.
“Is there anything I can do, Karla? Is there anything you want? Please stop crying dear…there must be something that would make you happy…”
“Well…mom…since you’re asking…maybe a little Halloween party? With orange and black crepe streamers? And maybe you could (here, she told me, she paused for a little sob) make those fantastic brownies that everyone likes? And remember that scavenger hunt we had on my 10th birthday? The kids really loved that…” said Karla.
All of that was…of course…bull shit.
What Karla really wanted was a boy/girl party with food and pop and loud music and dancing and red lights and games like Post Office, Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven…and maybe a little Truth or Dare (if everyone was feeling risky)…and strict orders: to “not come down the basement and embarrass me”.
THAT was the party Karla wanted…and of course…got.
But Karla was a smart 8th grader…so her initial request for a small party was charming and innocent and sure to be granted and…it was.
As she told me later, “Riley. It was a piece of cake. I could have won an Oscar!”