Today is Jolebration Day 2019 — The day I celebrate and remember my BFF on her birthday.
The beloved, wild, and zany Johanna Cantrell would have turned 60 years old today.
And we would have celebrated with a pajama party—because that’s what we always did.
The first pajama party that I ever attended was to celebrate Jo’s 12th birthday. She hosted the shindig at her house—the perfect place to host a bunch of screaming teenaged girls because it was a former funeral parlor.
In an act of birthday foolishness, Jo’s mom allowed FIVE of us to take over the entire lower floor of their home while she and Jo’s grandma retreated to the relative safety of the un-soundproofed upstairs to survive the night.
Oh, how we laughed and screamed that night. (Jo’s mom occasionally did too—but not in a fun way, if you know what I mean.) We feasted like Vikings on junk food and gulped down gallons of soft drinks. And screamed some more.
It was the early Seventies and Women’s Lib was pretty hip at the time, so my other BFF, Sheila, suggested that we burn our bras to celebrate our burgeoning womanhood. To be honest, we were hesitant to destroy our bras (our first, by the way). They wouldn't have made much of a fire because they were training bras - which is to say - if we had burned them, no one would have noticed! They were basically strips of elastic with triangles of fabric attached to the front in the guise of actually supporting something. We also knew that starting a bonfire in the living room would definitely lead to our untimely deaths (not from the fire, but from Frances—Jo’s mom). Therefore we opted for a less incendiary statement of equality and hung our flimsy brassieres from the ceiling light fixture as a sad, tangled chandelier of “big dreams, small realities”.
After eating and screaming ourselves close-to-comatose, we passed out at dawn, splayed out in a pile of potato chip remains and sleeping bags. We awoke to the sounds of birds singing. Ha ha ha! Don't I wish. We actually awoke to the sounds of Frances yelling at us, “You girls get up!!! Start cleaning up this mess!”
Jo leapt up to grab the vacuum cleaner while extracting a rolled up slice of lunch meat from her ear. (Sandra had strategically inserted it—amid our muffled giggles—while Jo slept.) The rest of us, exhausted from the lack of sleep, stumbled around the room, picking up the litter from the nights festivities, amazed at our ability to thoroughly scatter food particles onto every surface and into every crevice of the room.
And yet! On that fair and fateful night, the five of us became an official clique, eventually known throughout our high school as The Johanna Bananas.
And from that time forward we were serial pajama partiers. I hosted sleepovers . . . Sheila hosted sleepovers . . . But the sleepovers at Jo’s were always the best. (Maybe it’s just more fun to scream loud enough to wake the dead when you're actually spending the night in a former funeral home.)
If Jo were still here today, we’d plan a super Jolebration for her 60th. There would be gallons of Coke (the cola kind), stacks of Chef Boyardee pizzas, and bags and bags of all manner of chips ingested with much laughing and burping. Rolling Stone songs and Liza Minnelli tunes would fill the air.
And there would be screaming. Lots and lots of screaming.
And maybe we'd create another brassiere chandelier—though, sadly, we still could burn them and nobody would notice.
I know I speak for the whole Johannah Banana Gang (Sheila, Sandra, Diane and I) when I say . . .
Happy 60th Johannah Banana!
Always Remembering (and laughing when I do) . . .
(left to right:)
Connie, Sheila and Jo in our matching pajama gowns
at the Annual State Keywanette Conference.
(Even scarier: I was the State President at the time!)