Elise Hammond is one of those sunshine girls , always upbeat , bubbly and having been inspired by something she saw on television about world hunger – Could it be the We are the World special? She wants to do something about it. Her suggestions are a jump- rope-athon – but she gets a little help from her studious best friend Ben Forrest who has his nose stuck in a helicopter project for science but he comes up for air long enough to suggest a rollerathon (roller skating). Elise loves that idea and wrangles Ben to help out while her other friends – Jeremy Stone a sexy student from England agrees it would make an excellent class project , Jonathan Preston in his Indiana Jones hat agrees. ( I had to mention Jonathan’s Indiana Jones hat – I just read in Sunset High about someone wearing an Indiana Jones hat! Was there some secret fad I don’t know about?) Meanwhile Diana , a lovely silver blonde who has just moved to Rose Hill ( California ) from Montana discovers her boyfriend – Jeremy has sent off pictures he took of her to a modeling agency she is embarrassed , she doesn’t want to be a model nor does she think she’s all that special. But the agency wants her to call…
As Elise is trying to convince fuddy-duddy Ben to come to a party they’ve both been invited to , he agrees and they decide to go together – strictly as friends , Diana calls the agency and agrees to go to a casting call even though she hates it and is only doing it for her boyfriend who’s thrilled.
Elise is a vision of Christmas romance with tiny gold heart shaped earrings in her ears and a green dress with scooped neck and mutton sleeves. Minutes on arriving at Diana’s party she finds herself under the mistletoe and playfully tells Ben he’s the closest one to her. He takes her in his arms startling her with a genuine makes-you-weak-in-the-knees kiss! Trying to pretend nothing happened after all it was just Ben , she greets new coming guests noticing Phoebe’s festive french braid ( she has woven sprigs of holly through it ). As she wanders around enjoying the holiday atmosphere – crackling fire , silver-blue spruce tree covered in ornaments , the smell of peppermint , hot mulled cider , and Christmas music playing in the background she finds Ben sitting and pulls him into a slow dance. Ben is becoming like a brand-new person to her , even as they are talking about the good-old days of snow forts when they are children and suddenly find themselves under the mistletoe again. Another steaming kiss that neither can deny the magic of and Elise is bubbling over with excitement – why has it taken us so long to realize how right we are for each other.
I love the description of Elise’s bedroom – ‘Elise’s bedroom is painted in a variety of pinks ranging from carnation pink to vivid , hot magentas. Her curtains were patterned with Harlequin diamonds in pinks and turquoise and her bedspread was one of old , fashioned white eyelet. On top of the spread sat three jaunty , multicolored teddy bears ( Care Bears? Popples?) Her walls were covered with posters of dancers and a few romantic scenes from classic films. One was of Vivian Leigh and Clarke Gable in Gone With the Wind.’
Elise calls her sister Delayne to tell her the good news – (Don’t you just
love some of these 80’s names?! Delayne , Elise! ) while Ben is taking heat from his stupid younger brothers who believe that Elise is hot and would never date anyone like Ben. Their father admonishes them saying Ben is not a nerd , he’s a quiet , studious boy. The two boys , Joey and Matt burst out laughing that’s a nerd!
When Elise calls Ben unsure about his feelings tells his brothers to say he’s not there Elise is baffled sensing the boy is lying. But she’s on a romantic high wondering is she should put a tiny picture of Ben in her locket.
At school she writes a poem and plants it on his locker – Roses are red , Bluebells are blue – all I can think of is you.
But Ben’s been avoiding her all morning , she finally stakes out a staircase she knows he’ll use but when to her horror he breezes right past her with a casual hello , she chases after him threatening – Ben Forrest just you stop right there or I’ll scream so loud it’ll pop everyone’s ear drums. He stops and they agree to meet and talk.
She talks to her friends Diana and Fiona who invite her to go shopping
, they buy giant cookies at the Chocolate Chippery – ( oh I haven’t had a giant mall cookie in ages! I think the cookie place shut down in my mall I will have to check that out. ) and watch skaters on the ice rink as they munch.
Elise finds the old sentimental tinsel and glitter of Christmas decorations every year comforting – ( Me too! Only I kind of miss overblown 80’s it seems that perhaps it’s just melting pot Canada toning down Christmas , but I seem to remember more hoopla than nowadays. )
Ben avoids Elise and she begins to see it quite clearly when at their roller-thon meeting at the sub shop , Ben leaves with his friend – blonde haired , baby-blue eyed Steve who he brought as a buffer. Steve confesses and interest in Elise which brings out a wild , jealousy in Ben.
Elise walks to school with the usual crowd but manages inadvertently to make Ben jealous by having Steve stand beside her. Grumpy ole Ben
stands on her other side and makes glaring remarks to Steve who can only comment he’s been kind of a pychopath lately.
After several unfruitful attempts to talk to Ben , he finally talks to Elise a little like the good old Ben , but Elise discovers that he pictures himself as a kind of underdog , like the stray dogs she used to bring home.
Diana who has gotten the job finds the whole modeling assignment absolutely hateful , standing in the cold , having her hair yanked when it’s brushed being called Goldilocks.
Elise tries once and for all to talk to Ben while they are delivering releases for the rollerathon but he wants to stick to their job. Elise has had it and coldly tells him not to speak to her again , not to come to her parents open house on Christmas eve and possibly don’t bother with the rollerthon.
He says she’s getting hysterical , shocked that his awful behavior has finally repeated it’s harvest.
Elise stalks over to the sub shop where her friends notice how down she is , but then Diana comes in and lies about what a great day she had modeling. Jeremy however starts to get worried thinking as he’s been teased that she might leave her friends behind for a glamorous new life style.
Jeremy’s friend Woody tells him that he’s been concentrating too much on Diana’s physical beauty and not enough on her other traits. Jeremy finally sees the light , and agrees to set his photographer’s eye aside and talk to Diana.
Elise breaks down crying talking to her friends in the rest room of the sub shop, regretting her rash words with Ben , but they are kind and supportive – telling her she had a very human reaction to an intolerable situation. The sub shop bathroom wallpaper is patterned with swans , lily pads and willow trees how retro! ( why are swans so prominent in bathroom motif’s – even my grandmother had blue swan tiles , and I recall swan decals , and let’s not forget White Swan toilet paper). She stubbornly decides she won’t apologize to him , but her friends say you probably won’t have to , you’ll be hearing from Ben.
Ben at the mall seeks advice from his cousin whose taking Psychology , and works in a pet store.
Jeremy goes with Diana to the modeling shoot , finally compliments her on her terrific personality and brains then realizes that modeling isn’t fun , Diana cries because it’s too cold to wear a spring dress , and Jeremy bristles at her being called Goldie. Diana finally tells him the truth – she hates modeling.
Ben’s parents tell him to get ready to go over to Elise’s on Christmas eve , he does braving rejection , then when Elise opens the door he’s never seen her looking so gorgeous – she is wearing a high necked red velvet dress with long sleeves and tiny diamond earrings. Not moments inside , Steve grabs Elise and kisses her , Ben wants to kill Steve. Ben finally corners Elise and apologizes to her but even after things seemed to be worked out when Ben sees Steve kiss Elise under the mistletoe again he sneaks out.
Elise goes out with Steve but he realizes she’s stuck on Ben and that explains a lot about Ben’s behavior – no wonder he acts like he wants to kill me. They go out for milkshakes holding hands as friends but are seen by classmates and Ben’s brothers who rush home to tell him about it.
They kick off the rollerthon with Lionel Ritchie’s appropriate ‘All night Long’ ( 80’s music was great for events like things! Joyful , upbeat , corny , catchy and fun! )
Ben requests their song when they kissed under the mistletoe “Winter Song” ( I’ve never heard of that song , it’s quite possibly one of those fake pop culture things that authors always slip in ) and he wobbles over on his rollerskates to dance with her. He admits he loves her , they hug and land with a flop on the wooden floor. The rollerthon is a huge success and afterwards the next day Ben and Elise go to their old fort in the woods only to discover it’s rotted out and collapsed and for a moment she is dismayed then laughs – they’ve both grown up. Ben I’m glad we did , they kiss and he purrs look at that , we don’t even need mistletoe.
This couples book was sweet and sincere without resorting to a lot of trashy soap opera moments. Elise’s friends were caring and thoughtful full of decent advice. Ben at moments got on your nerves for treating Elise so shabbily and worrying , seemingly over nothing. But it’s scary territory to switch from friend to boyfriend/girlfriend , if the romance doesn’t work out you could possibly fizzle a friendship. Definitely one of the better series ( high school setting ) books I’ve read.
( My families mistletoe has since been lost or trampled or been digested by some weird mouse with a yen for plastic ornaments – it was one of those
laugh-inducing 70’s things garish and cutesy leafy plastic garland like
material in a cage shape with two plastic cuddling elves in the middle. I kinda miss that thing now all we have is the ordinary sprig everyone else has dangling from our ceiling beam.)
Remember those school skip-a-thons? I had one of those in my grade school – fifth grade? I think possibly they had them every year. Only one thing could possibly spoil them – I hated my school’s skipping ropes! They were made of plastic slender beads that were heavy and slashed your ankles like some sort of mediaeval torture devise and whoa anyone in the middle of a fight during skipping week , I recall one girl waiting till the teachers back was turned to swing it and whap you right across the thigh , then when you screamed she’d be all sugar-sweet oh sorry I didn’t see you there. Naturally that teacher bought that rubbish. I usually tried to remember to bring my own rope in – recall those rubber ones they were these creamsicle colors like pale orange , pale pink , pale yellow and the handles were small tubes of plastic – the same color with ribbons of contrasting white all in one bumpy tube. They were matte plastic not shiny like a jelly bracelet. I had an orange and a pink one and for some reason used to chew on the ends.
I hardly ever see girls jump rope anymore but we used to do it all the time , you always had one girl whose parents bought the large size rather than having to tie two ropes together – that was awful! sometimes you’d get slapped right in the face with that big knot or worse when it broke loose ( ( cause someone hadn’t tied it good enough) you’d have the tail end whap you upside the head and everyone would laugh.
Remember roping someone into being a rope turner – that’s when childhood meanness rears it’s ugly head. They would whine when is it my turn? And you’d say in a minute – hoping to stall them off till the end of recess.
And the rhymes!
Teddy Bear , Teddy Bear
Teddy Bear , Teddy Bear
touch the ground
Teddy bear , Teddy Bear
say your prayers
Teddy Bear , Teddy Bear
turn out the light
Teddy Bear , Teddy Bear
– each saying you had to mime out the action – of touching the ground , turning around , etc.
In the year of 17-42
Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and
the waves got
– This one was my favorite! Each time the rope turners said higher , they’d lift the rope off the ground and the others would count out how many jumps you could make , till you got tangled in the rope.
As for the skip-athons I loved them! They were the only time you could bring a boom box to school and legitimately blast music , you got to spend the day outside on the tarmac and usually freezers were brought into
school with ice cream treats that you had to wait like a half an hour in line to buy something. I can remember the day clearly my shoulders were sunburnt and peeling , their was the frisson of excitement in the air , you got to hang out with your friends , you don’t even mind waiting in line for them , they’d do the same for you. The taste of an ice cold freezie! Remember green freezies? They used to be my favorite they were coconut flavored – not lime. That’s what I ordered that day a coconut freezie – not to be mistaken for the pina colada white freezie , and a strawberry shortcake bar. Oh why don’t they make those anymore – I love those! Was your school as corny with the songs as ours , one older group – the grade eights made a tape full of ‘jump’ songs – Wham – wake me up before you go-go , Van Halen’s Jump , Pointer Sisters’s Jump , Kenny Loggins’s Footloose and Billy Idol’s Mony Mony . I seem to recall Belinda Carlisle in there too – Heaven is a place on Earth. I miss the chumminess of old school events too bad workplaces couldn’t come up with some of those fun , freewheeling charity events , although it would a little awkward for a thirty-two year old to get sponsors for a rollerthon!