As friendships go, Alta, Cindi, Kim, and I made a good foursome. Alta and I were best friends and Cindi and Kim were best friends, all in seventh grade. We hung out at school, sat together at church, and went to football games together. We were very much like the four musketeers, minus capes, hats, and swords. Cindi and I were tall, Alta and Kim, a bit shorter. Cindi and Kim had black hair, while Alta and I were on the fair side with light brown. We dressed in typical fashion for mid-sixties junior high girls, wearing skirts and blouses to school each day. We were nice, the kind of student teachers could depend on to behave in class. Even so, we had our moments.
In the spring of that year, Cindi decided to have a sleepover at her house. The four of us were going to camp in her backyard in a tent. Unsupervised. We couldn’t have been more excited.
“Stop in the name of love!” We sang along with the radio as we danced in the grass, then ate chocolate and cookies and enjoyed frozen bottles of Coke that overflowed when we opened them.
As daylight faded, we settled into the tent for girl talk, important issues that affected us all. Which of the Mikes in our class was the cutest? Did Gary really like Vicky? Would Miss Miller return to Martin Junior High next year or had the rowdy boys in our science class scared her off?
We relived the day Rhonda brought her infamous cookies to class.
“I made these cookies just for the boys,” Rhonda announced, “because they’ve been nice to us lately.” Then she immediately whispered a warning to the girl-side of the classroom: “Don’t eat the cookies!”
“How nice of you, Rhonda!” said Miss Miller, obviously pleased to see her students getting along.
Within thirty minutes Mike P. was rushing to the door.
“Where are you going, Mike?” Miss Miller asked.
“I need to get to the bathroom,” he said as he ran into the hallway. Before long, Miss Miller had to discontinue her lesson because all of the boys had followed Mike.
When Rhonda whispered to the girls seated close to her that she had made the cookies with chocolate Ex-Lax, the message quickly spread and all the girls erupted in laughter while Miss Miller stood at the front of the room, clueless.
Alta, Cindi, Kim, and I lay in the tent remembering that day, and laughed until our sides hurt. I was particularly uncomfortable because the Tylenol I had taken to relieve menstrual cramps had worn off.
“I started my first period two days ago,” I finally said as I held my stomach and groaned.
“What brand tampons are you using?” Cindi asked.
“None. I tried, but couldn’t get one in.”
“Ewwwww!” they all said at the same time. “Pads?” somebody asked. I nodded and while I was feeling a bit leprous from the horrified looks on their faces, my friends hustled me into the house. It seems they felt a responsibility to tutor me in the feminine arts.
In the bathroom, with my friends just outside the closed door, I opened the Pursette, a small, insert-with-your-finger tampon that Cindi assured me was the easiest type to use. I tried, but with no success, and thus began the coaching/cheerleading session. Cindi, Alta, and Kim each espoused their idea of how to reach this milestone, from lying on the floor or squatting, to holding a mirror between my knees. One of them even offered to put it in for me. C’mon, really?
After an hour in the bathroom, or possibly only fifteen minutes, and amidst much pain, tears, and blood, I finally got the thing in. Our seventh-grade rite of passage. My friends cheered my success, surely making Cindi’s parents wonder what was going on. We returned to the tent where I lay quietly while my friends talked and giggled in hushed tones. I was hurting and simply wanted to be quiet and rest. We finally fell asleep. At least, it seemed we all did.
Morning rolled around and we began getting dressed.
“Where’s my bra?” Alta asked as she searched through the blankets. Now, this bra was her only one. Because Alta was flat-chested, her mom didn’t allow her to wear a support garment. The embarrassment in the locker room at school had become unbearable so I bought her a training bra, which she washed out every night away from the watchful eyes of her mother. Now, it was missing.
“I’ll be right back,” Cindi said, and ran to the house. A minute later she called us inside and led the way to the freezer where inside, frozen solid, was Alta’s bra.
During the night, someone (Cindi never confessed) had slipped out of the tent with the bra, soaked it in water, and stashed it with the ice trays. Cindi held it up by one cold, hard strap.
“How am I supposed to wear that?” asked Alta, a frown on her face. Sneaking the bra back into her house would be a lot harder when she couldn’t hide it beneath her clothes.
I joined in the laughter at seeing a frozen bra, but my smile faded when I saw how irritated Alta was. This was definitely not a happy ending to our overnight stay.
While we ate pancakes, the bra bounced around in the dryer. We packed our things, then waited. And waited. Even something as small as a training bra dries surprisingly slow when frozen.
Alta finally made it home that morning, fully clad, with a warm and cozy chest, so the adventure didn’t end in disaster after all. I don’t recall, though, ever going to another campout at Cindi’s house.