On long summer nights, you would become a bonfire, and your flames would burn into the night sky bursting with stars. The rural sky holds secrets that city dwellers can scarcely imagine. If you pay attention, bonfire sparks will escape the flames and fly straight into the sky, either burning out or becoming stars right before your eyes. The night sky serves as a visual reminder that you are insignificant, in the grand scheme of things.
This is true, and not true. But it is the truest feeling in high school.
Every summer, friends spanning every high school clique would come to spend the night on the pond and burn the remains of their paperwork from the past school year. Your backyard would fill up with tents and teenage hands holding varying levels of burnt marshmallow smores. There were 57 other kids in your class, most of which you had gone to elementary school with and would come to graduate with also. Living in the same school district your entire life, you grew up with them before the formal cliques of high school emerged. Maybe that’s why you never associated yourself with one specific group because you already had friends within these groups before they were truly formed.
You had sporty friends, yearbook/artsy friends, student government/academic friends, scene friends who learned about concerts and drugs before the rest of us, and older friends that you grew up on the pond with.
But your true friends were the other girls that transcended cliques too. You had your own group, and it was formed – not because you necessarily had any specific hobby in common – but because you genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.
You spent your time on hiking trails and bike paths, wandering around town, or at sleepovers where you alternated between each other’s houses.
The worst thing about growing up is that it’s less socially acceptable to have sleepovers, in a time when you desperately need the insight and comfort they provide. The most invaluable aspect of a sleepover is that you get to see how other people live their lives. When you’re a teenager, your worldview is so minuscule that you think your home life is the same as everyone else’s. Little did you know, families could still eat at the dinner table together instead of eating dinner on the couch while watching TV. Some insights are more eye-opening than others. Some parents sleep in the same room in one bed, and other parents sleep in separate rooms in separate beds. What’s up with that?
As you get older, you develop your own habits, and when you have your own apartment those habits become the household law. Home is where many of us spend the majority of our days, which means we’re entrenched in a world of our own construction – and it might not be the best, or the healthiest, or the happiest that it could be. If we stop having sleepovers – experiencing how other people live – we can become so entrenched in our own bullshit that we think it’s the best and only way to live.
But you didn’t care about any of that in high school. You just wanted more time to hang out with your best friends, and so you were the host and guest of many sleepovers.
You’d watch movies (Netflix wasn’t around yet, so you actually watched full-length movies or TV shows interspersed with commercials). But consuming wasn’t your only pastime; you would also create. Real quality SNL shorts. You would make movies by recording yourselves on PhotoBooth and speeding up your voices in iMovie so you sounded like chipmunks. Chipmunks singing, screaming, laughing, and capturing your friends dad coming into the room to bear witness to the madness. These young girls and their new-fangled technology.
Little did he know. Now we have SnapChat where the algorithms do this for us, and I think that’s a real disservice to rising chipmunk voiced girls everywhere.
But summer nights were for more than chipmunk girls.
When you live in a unique place, more unique than the local subdivision anyway, your backyard becomes the ideal location for bonfires and other summer shenanigans. These backyard bangers are probably not held so closely to the heart of your neighbors or your septic system, which could barely survive the accidental toilet paper flushings of your classmates and definitely holds a grudge.
For you, sleepovers at the pond were a time to share glimpses into your life to many of your long time classmates, and space where you could share your love of the pond with them.
And so the bonfires raged on.