My sister and I shared a bedroom from day one. A lot of people wince in response to that bit of information—but not us. We certainly had our issues during daylight hours, wearing out phrases like, “I’m telling!” and “That’s MY Tiger Beat!” and “Stop breathing on me!”, but once it was bedtime, it was like being at camp with no supervision.
We’d talk about everything from what we’d name triplets to how tight we should wear our Gloria Vanderbilts (spoiler alert: unspeakably tight). For a short while, we had separate twin beds situated on opposite sides of the room, and we’d play a game where one of us would reveal a secret on a cassette recorder and crawl over in the dark to deliver it. The other would press play, hear the deep-dark, then record both a response and a secret of her own, before making the return delivery.
When it was my turn, I’d pull the covers over my head and get my mouth as close to the speaker as I could—using my most discreet inside voice. I’d feel my way over to her bed and make the transfer. By the time I’d rush back to dive under my covers, she’d be blessed with this gem, “I think I’m in love with Paul McCartney.”
I’d wait anxiously, not being able to stand the suspense of hearing her response to my secret and what juicy tidbit she’d divulge back to me. Had she kissed Blaine? Was she the culprit who slugged back Daddy’s last Coke? Had she really passed her algebra test?
In this particular instance, I was quite perturbed that she “already knew about” my infatuation with one quarter of the Fab Four. How she could have allowed me to traverse the murky waters of celebrity obsession alone all those months is something I’ll never understand. Not to mention the difficulties Paul and I would face in dealing with the stigma of our disparate ages.
Another time when we were relegated to twin beds—and this is why I believe them NOT to be all they’re cracked up to be—we were talking with animated British accents, pretending to be royalty. “The princess is pooting! The precious princess is pooting! The precious princess is pooting in the palace! The precious princess is pooting in the prince’s palace!”
Our squirreliness escalated to the point of trouble and my mom took away my beloved tape recorder. Not a big deal, you say? Wrong. I’d recorded myself spelling over a hundred practice words to get ready for the big spelling bee the next day. I’d read something about “sleep learning” and my plan had been to fall asleep to my voice reciting words like c-o-n-j-e-c-t-u-r-e. I’m convinced this thwarted plan is what yielded me 18th place. There were 25 participants.
As a whole, I believe things were better for us when we shared a bed. Particularly our king-sized waterbed. We got in less trouble because we could whisper and talk for longer periods of time without getting out of control. We did, of course, still get overly giggly and loud until we’d hear, “GIRLS!!” That dreaded word was surpassed only by its accompanying dreaded tone—an unnerving bark that jolted us back to whispers and compelled us to proceed with greater caution.
As we got a little older, we settled into a nightly routine of talking, mostly quietly, until we fell asleep. It was pretty balanced, as far as who talked the most and who fell asleep quickest. What was not as noticeably even was how we felt about drifting away from the conversation and into dreamland.
It pained me to no end to feel the loopies coming on and know I was fading at an alarming rate, just as she was getting into the meat of her story. I would fight with all my might to hang on until the end—until I could hear the final talking point—all the while making audible, active listening sounds and affirmations. However, more than a few times, when I was well into a life-changing story (whatever that means for an eleven year old) I would wrap up and realize she was sound asleep. I’d scan my brain to figure out what the last thing she heard was, so I could finish it up the next night. All in all, we did really well and loved talking every night.
Then, we found our voice.
However, what started off as an agreed-upon duet session, with shared vocal responsibilities, segued into me consistently being assigned lead male vocal. And soon after, for reasons I don’t recall, I was handling the parts of both singers. That made harmony really tough. You and I by Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gayle is a beautiful love song. It’s a lot less moving when a 12-year old girl is Eddie. Endless Love might be one of the greatest love songs of the century, but when, as a preteen, you are charged with managing both parts, I can tell you that the integrity of the song suffers.
Ask me to be Lionel Richie and the vocals are passable. Ask me to handle Diana Ross and you’ll get my best, albeit lacking, effort—as I had yet to perfect my vibrato. But expect me to be Lionel and Diana and your ear canals will not be amused. When I’d get to the power portion of the song, “Noooo one can deny, this looooove I have inside, and I’ll giiiiiiiive it all to you” and it was but one lone voice, willing itself to be two, it was a disaster in the making. Those were the times I was happy she fell asleep before the bridge.
I can’t complain. I quite enjoyed singing her to sleep. It’s one of my best memories growing up with my sister and sharing a room. The secretly borrowed clothes that were ruined pale in comparison to the trouble we got in, the talks we had, the games we played and the harmonies we shared.