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by Denise Moore

.Awakened from sleep, I picked up the phone to hear a soft quiet voice pleading "momma I want to come home." Hanna, my 9 year old, was seeking rescue from a slumber party gone awry. A slumber party packed with scary ghost stories. Scared, she asked her friends not to tell them. "Mom, they say they're like fairy tales, but I don't care. Please come get me," pleaded a child who rarely asked for the midnight taxi home. She calmly explained her exhaustion of pleas to stop, her attempt to "hang" with the story- tellers, yet ghost stories and fright persisted (probably fueled by the pleas.) Uncomfortable, she wanted to come home.

Of course, I would come get her, I replied. I could have been angry at being put-upon in the wee hours, with two sleeping 6 year olds in my house and a husband in Florida (a slight inconvenience, since we live in Texas). I rushed over, grabbing the cell phone and throwing the girls and their sleeping bags in the van.

Rescued and safe, Hanna settled in for the ride home and began to talk. Upset with her friends for continuing to scare her, she'd discovered "true" friends -the ones who supported her (you may remember the line drawn in fourth grade, dividing "us" from "them", friends among friends). She could not fathom how people could tell, let alone relish in the telling, of these ghost stories. How could they continue, amidst her fright? Well, some people like pepperoni.

Some people like pepperoni, some don't. Some may harass others to include pepperoni on their pizzas. Some may even taunt and tease the refusers. "What? Afraid of a little spicy meat?" Other lovers of pepperoni may accept those less than fond of the pizza topping --letting them eat cheese, if you will. We look to fill our friendship circle with those who accept us -with or without pepperoni.

You see, I can't explain why some like pepperoni. Nor can I explain why some people love ghost stories. I, myself, am fond of the Hannibal Lechter- type movies. Thrilled to be scared out of my seat, and left curled into a tight ball, refusing to tear my eyes from the screen long enough to clean the popcorn kernels from my shirt. Yet, I find myself dragging my husband to these movies, my girl friends shy away -"not a chick flick?" They won't go. I still love them. I wonder if they were ever scared at a slumber party.

As we rode home, I listened to Hanna's frustrations, her tireless efforts to understand why some of her friends (the ghost- story -telling-ones) could not accept her dislike of ghost stories. As much as some like pepperoni, others dislike it, even hate it. I assured her, that hopefully, those friends would mature and learn to accept the "non-pepperoni-lovers" in their circle. Reminded her to think of others when they disagree with her -one day she may be the pepperoni lover.

One day, it may be beer, and not may be a joint and not a ghost story...she learned to take care of herself that night, finding a safe way out of an uncomfortable situation. For this, I thank the pepperoni lovers at the slumber party. I am proud of my daughter for taking care of herself.

"But why? Why momma? Why do they tell those stories?" She whispered, as her head leaned on her hand and her long eyelashes closed. To which I replied "Some people like pepperoni, babe."

Have you faced similar situations? -- let us know.

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