I don’t know why I was thinking about this the other day—I was at the rockpools at Island Bay with some buddies after doing Frocks On Bikes—but for some reason I had this very visceral memory of something we used to do in my secret club I was in as a kid. It was called Paradise Fun Club (PFC for short) and my friends Marah, Ashley (of Key Girl fame) and Annette were in it with me. It met Mondays after school, for all of fourth grade, right after Gifted, mostly in a treehouse in Marah’s Nana’s front yard. That was twenty-five years ago and I can still see the interior of the house in the grapetree we painted (bright lipstick pink) if I think just the least little bit about it.
We did a couple of things in this secret club: we had secret names and ate a lot of Soft Batch cookies (that we we put in a basket tied to a string to winch up to the treehouse) and we played with Marah’s dogs and collected ten cents a week to buy the cafeteria ladies Christmas presents. We did a group Halloween costume (50s girls in custom-made poodle skirts). Once Ashley re-enacted the entire plot of Back To The Future to the rest of us as we watched spellbound. Once we had a fire drill. We were all very very into stickers—the oilies, the sparklies, the full-on half-page Lisa Frank unicorns—and we had all these rules about our sticker albums and trading them; you had to be completely silent and sort out which stickers you were trading that day and you’d put them in a pile and then—deadly serious, you understand—you’d go “Out for offer” and put a sticker out and the other three would sort of purse their lips and make a bid, and you’d accept it or you wouldn’t or you’d negotiate a little and finally get the sticker you wanted, and then it was the next girl’s turn.
We also—and I had completely forgotten this until Sunday at the rock pools—did something we called Amazing Thing. This was an indoor activity (along with attempting to play “Heart And Soul” on the piano) that took place in Marah’s mom’s bedroom, on her four poster bed. Each girl had to sort of clamber up onto the fourposter headboard and balance between the two big posts in her bare feet, and report on something that had happened that week. Being in fourth grade, our Amazing Things were usually like, “I got to take home the class hamster this week!” or “I’m playing The Cat in our ballet class’ rendition of Peter And The Wolf and I get to wear legwarmers!” or “The cutest boy in the whole fourth grade has a calculator watch!” And then, after you reported your Amazing Thing, you had to do a flip off the headboard onto the bed. I think maybe we rated the Amazing Thing? And maybe the flip? That part I can’t remember.
The rest I could see really clearly, the three little girls with their side ponytails and jelly shoes and string bracelets. I could see the palm trees outside the window while Ashley balanced up on the headboard on her nine year old legs. She grips with her toes like a lizard—nine years old is practical like that– and opens her mouth to astound us. She doesn’t know what I know, as I watch her from this memory, from almost-thirty-six: that everything will change in the most expected ways, but that we’ll still managed to be shocked by it all the same.
What would I say now, if it were my turn to hoist and tumble? What’s the more amazing thing: everything that’s happened in the last twenty-five years, or everything that hasn’t? What I’ve done or what I’ve failed to do?