Monday, October 7, 2019

Going to Bed with the Boy Next Door

Rock Island, November 1968.

 A Thursday, two days after my eighth birthday.  Mom isn't feeling well, so she's in bed already.  Dad made macaroni and cheese for dinner.  My brother and I are in our pajamas, watching The Flying Nun and reading books.

Suddenly Mom calls Dad into the bedroom.  He returns a few moments later.  "Boys, get your coats and shoes on.  You're going on a sleepover."

Cool!  They said I could start going on sleepovers when I turned eight, but I didn't think it would be so soon after. But why does Kenny get to go?   He's only six!   

"Who with?"  I ask.

"Mike from next door."

Mike?  But we aren't friends -- he's a year younger than me, in the second grade.  We only played together once last summer, when he talked me into running through a sprinkler with my clothes on, and got me in trouble.  

But -- a sleepover, like the big kids have!  "I'll go pack some clothes and toys."

"No, there's no time.  I'll bring you some clothes tomorrow.  Just put your coats and shoes on right over your pajamas.  And you can pick out one toy apiece to bring.  But hurry up."

Kenny and I run down the stairs to our basement room to get our shoes on, and then look for toys to bring.  My teddy bear (named Ted E. Bear) seems like an obvious choice, but I don't want to act like a little baby in front of Mike, so I choose a Tarzan action figure instead.

When we climb up the stairs again, Mike's Dad, Mr. Maartin, is standing in the living room.  "Ready to go, cowpokes?" he asks with a broad smile.

I smile back.  Mr. Maartin is tall and broad shouldered, with thick arms and a little tattoo of an anchor on his wrist.  He's way old, of course, almost 30, but sometimes old guys are nice to look at, too.  I wonder if I'll get a glimpse of his shame tonight, like with Cousin Joe last summer.

Dad helps us put our coats on over our pajamas, hands me a plastic bag with our toothbrushes and toothpaste in it, and gives us each a hug.

Mom comes out to say goodbye.  She has her coat on, and she is carrying a suitcase.

"Where is Mom going?" I ask.

Nobody answers.  Mr. Maartin takes our hands and leads us down the steps and across the fresh November snow to his house.  I see Mom and Dad walking across our back yard to the garage.

"Don't worry about a thing," he says as he opens the screen door.  "Your Mom will be fine.  This is all perfectly normal, the cycle of life."

My heart sinks.  Is she sick?  Is she going to the hospital?  Is she going to die?

I try to avoid thinking about my worries and enjoy my first sleepover.  It's not what I was expecting: no other boys except Mike.  Mr. and Mrs. Maartin right there all the time.  We watch Bewitched and That Girl and Dragnet, eat Jiffy Pop  Popcorn, read comic books, and play army men.  At 9:00, Mrs. Maartin brings us mugs of warm milk, and then sends us to brush our teeth.

9:00?  I thought you stayed up all night at a sleepover.       

Mr. Maartin stands at the bathroom door, already in his pajamas.  I see his broad pale chest with little hairs around his nipples, his thick biceps, his little belly.   "Ok, cowboys, which of you wants to bunk with Mike, and which wants to bunk with his old dad?"

"You!"  I exclaim.  Mike is cute, slim, brown-haired, blue-eyed, with small, hard biceps and an outtie belly button.  I like how his brown skin stands out against the white of his pajamas.  But -- Mr Maartin is big!  And I'll be able to see his shame!

"I want Mommy!" Kenny exclaims.

"She'll be fine, I promise," Mr. Maartin says.  He turns to me.  " know, pardner, if it's all the same to you, I think the little buckeroo might need a woman's touch tonight."  He takes Kenny by the hand and leads him down the hall.

Suddenly I realize that he meant him and Mrs. Maartin.  No way would I want to sleep with a lady!  All those disgusting powders and perfumes.  Besides, at church the preacher said boys should never sleep with girls unless they're married.

Mike smiles at me.  "Sometimes I snore, but all you have to do is shake me til I I wake up.  I don't care."

We climb into his single bed and wait for Mrs. Maartin to say goodnight and turn the light off.

The bed is very narrow.  I accidentally push my leg against Mike's thigh.

"Hey, stay on your own side!" he murmurs.

This isn't fair!  You get stuck with the second-best bed, far away from Mr. Maartin and his shame, and you can't even be comfortable!

"I don't got cooties!", I say, wrapping my leg over his leg and my arm over his thin chest.

I've never held a boy like this before -- it's amazing, warm, hard, intimate.  I flush with unexpected joy.

Instead of shrugging me off, Mike turns over onto his side.  My arm is around his chest, and my other arm slides against his butt.  After a few minutes, he begins to snore.  I kiss his shoulder.

I don't want to fall asleep, to miss even a moment of this joy.  I want to lie like this, with Mike in my arms, tonight and tomorrow night, and every night, for the rest of my life.

I never had another sleepover with Mike -- he was a year younger than me, an impassible age gap.  But in the next weeks, and months, and years, and decades, I had lots of sleepovers with lots of other boys and men.  Holding a boyfriend in your arms all night is way better than a sausage sighting.

By the way, as you probably guessed, Mom was having a baby.  In the 1960s adults never discussed such things with kids, so I was oblivious until Dad called the next morning to announce that I had a baby sister.

See also: I Get a Glimpse of Cousin Joe's Shame; My Third Grade Boyfriend; A Crush on the Girl Next Door's Boyfriend.


  1. Love the "Mike" picture. It's been around since AOL back in the early 90's.

  2. I enjoy reading your childhood tales. but be honest, a lit of them sound made up. are they real or fictional accounts? for instance, you didnt notice & your dad never explained why your mom developed an enormous belly in 9 months?? I grew up in the 1960s as well. & we all knew what pregnancies looked like.

    1. The stories are all based on actual events, but they all have some degree of fiction, either because I don't remember exactly what happened, ot to make them more interesting. I actually don't remember my mother having an enormous belly. It seems like a 4-5 year old would notice, and maybe I did at the time, but I don't remember it.



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