The scent of wood smoke, the rustle of fallen leaves, the sound of children's voices fading...I look up from raking in time to see a trio of girls from the local middle school round the corner.
They move in formation, shoulder to shoulder, heads bent together, their chatter punctuated by gasps and squeals. There is something universal about the 'tween years. Change the i phones to a note penned on a sheet of notebook paper. Change the khaki pants, and blue puffy jackets of the local school uniform to bell bottoms, and pea coats and they could be me and my friends. It was us, just yesterday...
DO you remember the year you leapt from elementary to middle school?
In our excitement we'd forgotten that the transition took us from the exalted position of 5th graders, the Big Kids, and placed us on the low rung at a new school.
We were back to being the youngest kids in the school, 6th graders, with two long years to slog through before we were once again Top of the Heap. There were no more cozy classrooms with artwork festooning the walls. No more intimate reading groups clustered like chicks around a hen. We would switch classes now. Home room was our touchstone. Announcements, salute the flag, attendance, and then we were set adrift. We learned to navigate the halls, the school, and a shifting social pecking order.
In the 6th grade worldliness rocketed one right up the social ladder.
Suddenly nice quiet girls were applying Bonn Bell Lip Balm and reading Tiger Beat magazine in homeroom. Four girls already knew what we'd hear in Nurse Scott's Now You're a Woman talk. Callie Walker got a training bra. All around me ducklings were transforming into swans. All around me classmates were striding forward in maturity.
My best friend Fanny and I developed an unspoken pact to never mention we still played Barbie dolls.
But even Fanny was branching out, finding new friends. Our group of walkers grew into a clutch of chattering girls. Each day I lagged a little farther behind, pulling up my socks, picking up my books. I waited to morph from Socially Awkward Girl into...what? I was hoping for Fashion Trend Setter but the clothes budget didn't allow for that. Ballerina girl? My parents had signed me up for ballet lessons years ago. I must be good, I reasoned, they just upped my ballet lessons from one day a week to three and added tap and jazz!
Dance class three days a week, Mother assured me, would melt off my baby fat. Baby fat? What baby fat? My brothers had been taunting me about my weight for years. I just assumed it was because they were mean. So, I was fat and clumsy?
Looking in the mirror I saw an average girl. Okay, so she was on the plump side with fly away hair and socks that never stayed up. Her nose was small. She had exactly seven freckles. Her teeth were straight, and her eyes were the clear, clear, baby blue of a crisp Autumn day. Her lips were smiling. She looked friendly. I liked her. This girl just needed her bangs trimmed and some better socks. This girl could become Ballerina Girl.
Mother battled the illness with goopy pink medicine, Vick's' Vapor Rub, and St. Josephs aspirin. I battled it with tea, toast, and books.
Returning to school I was banned from outside recess and gym, and worst of all no dance class until further notice. Plunked down in the library for an hour each day turned out to be not so bad. As November rolled by I learned how to re-shelve books, use the copy machine, and the heady power of accepting returned books and stamping the date on outgoing books. I became adept at helping other children, even 7th and 8th graders with the card catalog. The librarian let me take home extra books over the Christmas holiday and I discovered the worlds created by Rosmund DuJardin, Beverly Cleary, and Caroline Keene. I became obsessed with 50's fashion and nagged my mother into buying me thrifted plaid skirts, and saddle shoes. My grandmother Elsie, tired of of the hair in my eyes and sagging socks gifted me with two beautiful tortoise shell hairband and half a dozen Bonnie Doone argyle socks.
Christmas break ended and the doctor cleared me for gym and dance class. I couldn't wait! I had a new ballet box stuffed full of pink leotards and a pair of black ballet flats for jazz class nestled in there with my new black patent leather tap shoes. Give me a month, I thought, I'll be Ballet girl in no time!
But a funny thing had happened. My preference for vintage clothes made me stand out. With my hair out of my face, people noticed my blue eyes and nice smile. Kids knew me from the library and asked me questions about assignments and books. I joined the library club, and became a helper. I started to write. I danced my heart out and laughed when I was clumsy, or obviously dyslexic. I was quirky, and awkward. I was friendly and helpful. I could have had many labels.
Walking home one day with Fanny some girls called to her and came running up bubbling over with things to say about something that had happened in their class that day. They edged in, and I moved to the outside of the circle. One of the girls spared me a glance. "Who's she?"
"This is Susie," Fanny said slipping her arm through mine. "My best friend."
Best friend, I thought as we continued home amid the squealing and giggling, is a good person to be.
Wishing you a blessed week and good friends.
Meet lots of good people at these great parties.
Check out this Pick of the Week!
Visit Sarah and have a cup of tea in lovely brown transferware. Sugar? Right there in an antique French caddy. And gingerbread acorns.
Visit Spot on Cedar Pond for a thoughtful post on our wandering minds and some lovely blue lusterware. While you are there check out her darling handmade sheep in a variety of colors and 'seasons'. I have a flock of Cedar Pond's nativity sheep which I love !!!
Spot on Cedar Pond