Natalie & My Twelfth Birthday

For my 12th birthday, my mother threw a big party for me. We chose a 1950s sock hop theme, and she invited homeschooled girls we knew as well as a few girls from the Sunday School I was going to at the time. The home video my father filmed at the party is probably the most embarrassing footage from my childhood since I spent the whole time nervously giggling in an unmistakably desperate tween way. I remember having a hard time sleeping both the night before and after because I was anxious that the girls wouldn’t or didn’t have a good enough time.

I’m the kid freaking out second from the right.

My mother bought one of those expensive American Girl party sets from the catalogue. It came with themed decorations, favors, and materials for games and activities. I think I remember a CD of 50s hits like “Jailhouse Rock” to play during the party, but my mother might have put that together herself. We had a room in our house set up with stations to inflate pink balloons and teach the girls how to twist them into poodle shapes. You could make your own pipe cleaner corsage to tie on your arm, too. In the goodie bags, there were cat-eye glasses and little yo-yos shaped like hamburgers. There was a big cake and centerpieces that looked like records. I wore a blue bowling shirt with a pink collar and saddle shoes to look pretend old-timey. My mother knew how to throw a party, and this was the most elaborate one I ever had. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I remember being surprised that so many girls came and thinking “is this what it’s like to be popular?”

There was only one who I actually hung out with. Her name was Natalie (in the Rainforest Cafe shirt), and I knew her from both the homeschool group AND church. Natalie’s mom was sweet and seemed more chill about our weird family than most, so Natalie and I had sleepovers and play dates sometimes. I thought of her as my best friend, even though we didn’t see each other much. If you were ever a homeschooled kid in the 90s and early 2000s like me, you might have been in a similar situation with play dates. I didn’t have an email address or a phone of my own, and it wasn’t like I ran into other children at school; therefore plans with friends needed to be set up via parents. There was drama between my mother and the other homeschooling parents pretty often so that could have been what fell through. Or, when I turned 14, I did immediately start working a part time job at the library, taking tae kwon do classes three or four times a week, and doing other volunteer work to strengthen my upcoming college applications…so it could have been my lack of availability as well. I think Natalie ended up a kindergarten teacher or first grade teacher or something like that. I’ll bet she’s good at it. She was always nice.

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