Frank Sinatra takes me back.

I heard a Frank Sinatra Christmas song today (I know—but it was SNOWING) and I was instantly transported to my twelfth birthday party.

I was taken back to the day when, glitter-gold Gelly Roll pen in hand, I scrawled ‘Dress to impress!!!!’ inside the invite.

My dad and younger brother donned black suits and greeted guests at the door, where my arriving friends had to show their invites in order to enter the party. (My friend Emily forgot hers, but we let her in any way.)

Once inside the Minnesota split level, guests were ushered downstairs. The family room had been transformed into a spot for the swankiest of soirées. White Christmas lights were now moodlighting. A long table replaced the recliner. Sinatra swooned through my dad’s CD player’s speakers. The fireplace roared as my middle school girlfriends took their seats.

We noshed on my mom’s famous (to me) lasagna and sipped sparkling grape juice, convinced we were getting tipsy. We gave award-show worthy speeches after winning glamorous games, like charades. My friend Anna told everyone she could Celtic dance. (She couldn’t.) My friend Angela told everyone she could sing ‘Happy Birthday’ like Marilyn Monroe. (She could.)

We guzzled so many glasses of faux vino that my mom, our dutiful chef/waitress extraordinaire, was frantically upstairs mixing equal parts apple juice and 7up and funneling it back in our bottles.

I had just moved from the Iowa town I grew up in to a suburb of the Twin Cities, and the goal of Kayla’s Birthday Bash was to blow my new friends away. I got a lot of friendship bracelets after that, so I think it worked.

Most middle schoolers fabulously revel in their awkwardness. But on December 13, 1999, I awkwardly reveled in my fabulousness.

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