Sleepover at Sam’s
Samantha Phillips was my best friend all through Primary School. From the second I clapped eyes on long white hair and wowser-yowser glasses-that-magically-changed-to-sun-glasses in the heady days of ‘reception’ in 1974, I fell into deep and abiding LIKE.
As the years progressed, Sam’s glasses turned into the cooler, silver-edged ones and her sensible uniform gave way to cork-soled sandals, three-tiered skirts and oodles of crushed velvet. Needless to say, for a kid whose mother made her wear the voluntary school uniform at least 95% of the time, Samantha was also my sartorial hero.
Where we did disagree was regarding who was going to be Agnetha during our ABBA lip synch events. I was the bossier one and tended to win, but Sam had the dead straight blonde hair and would have been a more obvious choice: Oh well, in our version Frida had clearly overdone the bleach and tinted contact lenses….
My fondest memories are of the sleepovers I had at her place. Whilst my family home was a monument to all that was fashionable when my parents got married (ie 1964 complete with black vinyl and green fabric lounge, lunar module legs on everything, a crystal cabinet and florally lurid axminster carpets), Samantha’s parents were fully committed to everything that was fashionable and fun about the 1970s.
Their white, rectangular house looked unassuming from the outside, but as soon as you stepped into the cork-tiled hallway and got a glimpse of the pool room with ‘Abba in the Moog’ on the turntable and a beaten copper wall plaque, you knew you were in for a visual treat.
The kitchen was bright red and blue formica and glossy paint accessorised by a yellow semi-circle light that swung precariously over our heads as we worked the electric popcorn machine on the bench. The lounge was mostly brown, with a modular that was so soft and velvety that your butt cheeks eventually sank to the floor so that you were staring at the Rank Arena at a lower angle than even the cord bean bags alongside.
Going to the toilet there was always a bit of a drama for a shy petal like me because the loo was open and only divided by a bamboo screen that was a merely decorative nod to privacy and certainly not an effective one. With the ferns alongside it, I half expected to see Molly Meldrum in there conducting an interview with Jean Paul Young and the Countdown crew.
Samantha’s room wasn’t particularly restful; not that such an issue was important to two girls aiming to chat and giggle all night long. Plus, we could look through the window at the Murray Bridge Look Out next door and see cars pull up and young couples in there smooching. It was as entertaining and as enlightening as leafing through her mother's stash of Cleo magazines.
Sam's curtains were huge diagonal stripes of dark purple and sunburst yellow – a theme that also extended to her furniture, floor coverings and bed. My envy of the colour scheme was only eclipsed by the fact that Sam had her own record player and we played ‘Take a Chance on me’ ceaselessly.
Or at least it must have seemed so to her brother Corey, whose adjoining bedroom was done with similar furnishings but in a retina-burning tomato red and riotous tree frog green scheme. I’m sure he saw the reverse colours against the back of his eyes when he finally closed them at night.
Corey was only a year younger than Samantha and even though I loved her dearly, she wasn’t the best when it came to a good sibling scrum. In fact, she was pathetically weak. So, when I came over to stay, he pounced on me, itching for a good wrestle from a tomboyish girl who had two brothers and therefore knew how to punch, give (or receive) a dead-leg, hen-peck or a stinging flick of the earlobe.
We were pretty evenly matched, but being unofficially scheduled as Corey’s physical entertainment used to wear very thin when I had double that amount available to me in my own home and was in fact looking forward to staying in another home for the weekend that had other, less strenuous and far less violent things to offer.
Things such as hearing and being part of what her parents did for a living. My Dad was a high school teacher and Mum was doing her matriculation via night classes and home duties during the day, but Samantha’s Dad was running a Music Bus and her mother was setting up a take-away shop in the main street called ‘The Hungry Bunyip.’ It was the first establishment in our riverside town to sell cappuccinos and I’d sometimes return home on a Sunday afternoon wondering just why I felt like bouncing on the back of Dad’s trailer sending the harvested dead corn cobs he'd stacked ready to take to the dump catapulting up and into the nearby incinerator on only an hour’s sleep and a stomach full of buttered and icing-sugar encrusted popcorn….
The Music Bus was a funky idea, but perhaps not a practical one. The thought of several children undertaking music lessons on a moving bus at the same time might have been a tad cacophonic rather than euphoric. I never found out personally because that was the year I decided that learning the piano was not for me.
Back to Corey. He leapt at me from behind just as I was placing ‘Abba the Album’ reverently on Samantha’s little record player. Sam had dressed their maltese terrier, Danny, in an old black leotard so that he resembled a fluffy liquorice allsort and we were about to take some photos of him ‘dancing’ on their Polaroid.
Corey’s impact sent the needle scratching over the entire music unit, Danny was cruelly squashed under the speaker and Sam nearly dropped her Dad’s new camera. I saw red and blindly reached for whatever weapon was handy.
Unfortunately for Corey it was a stray coat hanger. I hadn’t even turned around to sight my target (Corey’s shoulder, leg or arse would have been fine), but lashed out in fury. Judging from the ‘dangle, stretch and snap’ feel of the wire in my hands, I’d obviously succeeded in snagging something fairly soft and precious residing below his belly button that saw him scream in a pitch that out-howled their 12 breeding beagles outside, and slowly back out from the room, bent double in agony. I didn't see him again for the rest of the weekend.
Whatever: Sam and I had to work out just how the dog was going to dance to a song that now never moved beyond Bjorn and Benny's background bleats of "Take a chance, take a chance, take a ch-ch-ch-chance….”