It was all set, I was told. Chris had invited me over for the night.
Which was fine, because Chris was a cool dude, a buddy with a sort of bowl-cut who lived just down the hill, and, after that, just up the hill. We loved to play hockey together, so much that once I got holy hell after we played so late into such darkness that my father, who didn’t know where I was, was ready to send out the cops.
Now Chris, I was told, had invited me for the night. So I went with my little bag of overnight gear and knocked on his door and was let in by an older girl who said she didn’t know anything about it, so I should just sit and wait because Chris and his mother were out.
So I sat and waited and looked around and whistled and imagined what we might do on this chummy sleepover – it’s not like they came along every night — and the girl looked at me while I waited some more and while the clock ticked and while I waited some more.
Finally Chris and his mother came home and saw me sitting there in their side-room off the kitchen with my little bag filled with my toothbrush and PJs and fresh underwear and asked me what it was all about. And then, with great thanks for their kind invitation, I told them.
This is when Chris’s mother changed into some other being and proceeded to give Chris holy hell times two. “Chris Sylverstry! Have you been fooling around with that phone again!?” If her iron frying pan had been close at hand, she would have levelled it onto his head, because, apparently, she didn’t know a thing about this sleepover invitation.
The thing is that Chris didn’t either, even though it took him some time of earnest talking to convince his mother of this disturbing fact. So I walked home and slept in my own bed that night, only to find out the next day that some other Chris – a Chris who lived just a few houses down from me, but a Chris who I never played hockey with into the dark – wondered why I hadn’t shown up for the sleepover the night before.
This is one more reason why parents should have at least a working knowledge of just who their children spend their time with.
Luckily for me, here at the Ugandan university where we live, it’s not as confusing. Our children are blessed with a built-in network of similar-aged children. Besides ours, there are three other families, Americans, living on this campus of green rolling hills.
It’s easy and natural for any of them to walk along a dirt road or green path that runs through the banana trees to reach a friend at one house or another. Not including a couple of African children who are also good friends, Liz, Jon and Hannah actually have 11 other such kids to hang with.
The best fortune is that none of these children have the same first name. So when Liz got invited to Zoe’s house for a sleepover the other night, we knew exactly where she would go.
That night, Jon set up a little tent in his bedroom so that he could also have that sleepover feeling, in his case with George, the stuffed monkey who has travelled back and forth over the Atlantic with him several times now. Which, actually, is my own preferred option for any sort of friend sleeping over at our place.
Just as long as nobody else moves onto campus with a son named George.