Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hump Day Hmm for January 30, 2008: Sweet Dreams


That year we went to Paris, and I fell in love with Renoir at the Louvre. I especially adored his series of the two girls, which reminded me so much of me and my best friend. I purchased two prints of this one, Reading in the Garden, because it was us. One for me and for her. As modern as the world got, some things never changed, and I think that's why Renoir is forever famous: his work is classic. There will always be dreamy girls reading together in a garden somewhere. And for those of us who once were those girls? Inside us remains, always, a dreamy young girl reading in a garden.

When I was thirteen, I thought it was just me. Isn't that how all teens think? It's just me, I'm the only one going through this, feeling this way, having this happen. It's a bold and unusual person who will share meexperiences and normalize, but in my case, I truly didn't think anyone could relate, and I might have been right about that, but I was wrong that it was just me changing: the world was changing too.

The world had transitioned from the 70s to the 80s, disco was dead, punk was on the rise, and in junior high, two big things came on the scene: MTV and an electronic game you could play on TV called pong.

Things weren't groovy any longer, now they were rad, and it was all about technology. Movies were about robots, aliens, and sassy teens from Valleys.

A sassy teen now myself, I boldly went to my junior high in a matching purple miniskirt set with purple leggings and purple legwarmers. I was bitchin'.

I liked my junior high. Although I sadly only went to that school for one year, I liked it. It was a great school. It had good teachers---the best I'd ever known---excellent programs, and enough nice kids that it didn't matter which part of the social scale you fell on. It's a bit of an oxymoron, isn't it, a nice junior high?

But it was.

I was lucky to have two best friends. Carrie from history and Emily from reading.

Carrie was fun-loving and crazy, especially boy crazy. She didn't mind my long crush on Gino, and completely understood when I dropped that crush like a hot potato after he finally spoke to me, only to say, "What happened to your real shoes?" and pointed to my super awesome new ballet flats, the height of fashion. Carrie and I were super fans of Mr. Harrison, the best teacher ever, who got us really excited about history and encouraged us to go on field trips. Carrie alerted me to flavored lip gloss and blue eye shadow, and taught me how to write ridiculous notes and fold them up fancy, with doodled ornamentation to make them pretty. We had scented pens with decorations on the end, and pens that clicked from one color to the next. Carrie was my doorway to adolescence.

Emily had long, straight, blonde hair that she usually pulled back from the top and tied with a bow in the back. She was reflective, but don't mistake that to mean quiet. Emily had passion for whatever her current topic happened to be, and she spoke up and out frequently. Emily liked old fashioned things, and had been a big Little House on the Prairie fan, too. She introduced me to Anne of Green Gables and the marvel that was L.M. Montgomery. Emily hooked me on current events, too. We went to libraries together, traded books, read together and decided it was okay to still have stuffed animals on your bed, even if you were in junior high. Emily was my safe friend, my window into childhood, the parts I wasn't ready to let go of yet.

At the end of the year, Emily and I both moved away. I had been so busy with my own journeys forward and back between teen and child, so busy with my new experiences, that I missed what was happening around me.

My mother remarried and we moved, again, to a new city. I left behind the nice school, the nice people, the good teachers. But before my life changed for the worse, I had the summer between seventh and eighth grade.

First, Emily flew down and visited me at our new house in our new town. She and my sister donned bridesmaid dresses from my mother's wedding and I used my new camera and new fascination with photography to take dreamy photos in the garden. We toured my new city, watched TV, listened to music, and all too soon, she flew home. Shortly thereafter, I flew to visit her, too.

It wasn't my first time flying, but it was still an experience I could count on one hand. It was the first time I flew alone. When I arrived, Emily and her family welcomed me, Emily with huge excitement and promises of a wonderful time. When we arrived at her new house, she took me on a tour and pointed out all the neat features, the best one being her room, which had several windows, all surrounded by trees. "It's like being in a secret tree house," she told me excitedly. She'd gotten a new bed and new bedspread, all done in the romantic country theme that suited her. Her bookshelf proudly displayed her collection of every single L.M. Montgomery book ever published. I only had the complete Anne series. Emily was a very proud girl and she was glad she had a better collection than I had.

While I was there, we picked strawberries and tried to make jam, toured museums and formal gardens (by ourselves!), and spent too much time sunning ourselves at her neighbor's pool...with sun-in spritzed in our hair to lighten it. Mine turned red, but hers got lovely golden streaks.

It only took a few days for us to run out of obvious ideas of things to do and get bored.

"I know!" Emily said excitedly, "Let's read every single play Shakespeare ever wrote! That can be our Summer Goal!"

But when we went to the library and saw what a task that would be, we changed our goal to only include the comedies. And so we passed the rest of the summer vacation reading Shakespeare instead of L.M. Montgomery. We laughed about parts, joked about which people we knew reminded us of certain characters, and shared general gossip and secrets---the sorts of things you can say with a true friend, who will accept and understand, and whom you trust.

When Emily accepted my crush on certain celebrities, I knew she had changed, too. I noticed her new bed didn't have any stuffed animals any longer. We adopted a scorn for all things childish, but we decided it was okay to still like Anne, even if we were nearly in high school.

I flew home, glad to be returning to my own place, but already missing Emily and her place. I wished we could move there, too. I wanted to enter this new time with my friend, have her with me as I began this new phase of life, as I tried to master and comprehend all the changes in me.

My mother looked at me and saw the changes, "Your hair is different," she said, "And you're so tan!" What she really meant was I looked a lot older.

I agreed, triumphantly, and added, "And there's more."

"You got your period," she said, "I knew it. I knew you would."

I nodded.

"Plus I read Shakespeare, now," I said, a tinge of arrogance to my tone.

"I see," my mother said. What she really meant was, and here it begins.

Looking back at photos of that year, Emily and I morphed from gawky and angular---with slightly too-long limbs and faces still round and soft---into long and lean almost young women. We showed the beginnings of our adult selves, some curves and thinned faces with structure. Our expressions changed, too. We posed and tried to look sophisticated. We dressed and accessorized differently. I left behind my cutesy ballet shoes earrings and chose chunky plastic disks, instead. My room, too, matured from child to teen. I hung art posters and photos of popular rock bands.

When summer came to an end, I excitedly began my new school, ready to take it on as the new, older me. It was a terrible place, the antithesis of my other school, every one of my other schools. Luckily, I came too late there. I'd already had good schools, good friends, and the wonderful summer. Those things sustained me.

That summer was the last time I believed.

And I spent the remainder of my childhood trying to recapture that time.

Now, as an adult, as I work to undo all the bad ideas and damage accrued in the years after that summer, I think back to it, I recall it vividly, pick it apart, stand to the side of those exuberant young girls who reached out to life with both hands. I watch, I listen, and I think, "How do I get something of that back? Something of her back?" That young girl was so sure of so many things. She had confidence and faith in herself, life and the people around her. She was sure she'd have good and true friends, and she needed only those. She enjoyed what she liked, and didn't worry about the rest. If I'm honest, I see traces of her in me now: the girl who could walk into a big, new school on her own and be okay; who would wear purple miniskirt sets because she liked them, beyond any need to be fashionable; and who knew quality of people over quantity. What is missing is the optimism. Time and experience has drained my glass to half empty, instead. Sometimes I wonder whether things really are that complicated; maybe there is simply more.

It is interesting how I grew away from her in my early adulthood and how I grow back to her as I get older.

What about you? What's a pivotol childhood memory for you? And how do you carry it with you now?



Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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39 comments:

thordora said...

thank you for this Julie. Even though I'm sitting here at work trying not to cry, thank you.

I missed this part of my youth-it totally passed me by as I grieved my mother, and I mourn it's loss. Thank you for showing me how lovely and peaceful and simple it should be, so I know how to be with my girls.

And I'm actually gonna do this one!

Robert said...

I have a similar break in my childhood memories: before my brother died and after. I could always remember something happened before then or after, and I remember being a happy-go-lucky kid before and being a morose, somber "little old man" after (yes, I was first called a little old man at ten years old). Now, thanks in large part to my children but also to my wife, I am experiencing a great deal more of a childhood than ever before. I see the joy they take in the simple things, and I find a little piece of that boy from before my brother died. It's been twenty years since he died, so I have come to terms with his death, but I know his death marked the break-line of when my childhood seemed to end.

I enjoyed your post very much. Sorry if this reply seems somber. I really am a happy person these days, and I thank my wife and kids often and much for that joy.

dharmamama said...

What a beautiful post. I love your writing, the way you catch both the free, open, hopeful feelings and the foreshadowing of not-so-good things to come.

I was thinking after your "unadulterated" post yesterday, that I'm so grateful to have found that inner kid. I think it started with the Grateful Dead, when I went to their shows I saw how adults would dance and play and be free, and realized that was a big part of the draw. I also realized I had NO happy, truly happy, adults around me when I was a kid... no wonder I was so resistant to becoming a grown-up and being responsible! Who wants that? So I'm trying to become responsible while retaining some play and freedom. I'm working on laughing more, really laughing out loud... odd that I have to teach myself how to do that.

I still love Anne. There's no one else like her.

Suz said...

As I try to think through my own childhood summers, I wonder if this one stood out particularly for you because of the challenges waiting on the other side. I wonder if this memory might have been absorbed a little more, taken it's place with the rest, if you had not switched schools and had to grow up so terribly fast.

painted maypole said...

wonderfully told

niobe said...

I love this post, but I'm trying to decide if I want to write about my own childhood memory. Perhaps it says more about me than I want to reveal.

Kyla said...

This was gorgeous, Julie.

Kathryn said...

Hmmm. That really does make me think. I don't know if I ever carried that kind of confindence with me when I was young.
That was a beautiful story, Julie. Thank you for sharing that memory.

Suki said...

Still mulling over this one. I keep wanting to respond but getting lost in other thoughts, lol.

By the way, it's 2008 so you might want to change your copyright thingy. I hope I'm not being lame... not sure how copyrights work.

Gwen said...

I'm sad for you, that that happy, confident girl had to suffer so much, that you wonder--a bit--where she went, if you can find her again.

Karen said...

Julie - that was really intriguing - and you know you still are that girl - you've got it, though time and troubles have passed.

we_be_toys said...

Ah adolescence! Isn't it funny how we were all convinced that no one else could possibly be going through our "Own Private Idaho". I think I was both relieved and a little depressed to discover I wasn't that unique in my angst.
Beautiful post, and btw, you're still "bitchin babe!"

Sober Briquette said...

I still count my few childhood friends as my closest friends, but the only one who still lives here in our hometown, as I do, is the only one with whom I've lost touch. I tried to reconnect with her a few years back, even wrote her a letter telling her how much of my childhood is tangled up with her, and having lost her, I've lost a good part of myself. But it's not to be. Not now, anyway.

rialudy said...

Giving always makes it feel like the cup is half empty.

It takes that same amount of courage to look into the half full part of the glass.

Why do we forget that?

Slow Panic said...

what a wonderful post. thank you for sharing this with us.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

What a wonderful, fragile memory. It seems almost unreal in it's beauty.

I have nothing like this.

Maddy said...

What a good sharer you are. Sorry I can't return the favour but I think mine would be too rude.
Cheers

melissa said...

I remember those times, too. And I often wonder where that girl went. Thanks for reminding me that she even existed.

Mine's finally up. I had a hard time with this one. Not sure what Spouse is going to say about it. Gulp.

flutter said...

I think mine was my first kiss. He bruised my face and then fell over. Classic.

flutter said...

I think mine was my first kiss. He bruised my face and then fell over. Classic.

le35 said...

I loved this post. I know how it feels to be free and then feel like the world is crashing around you. I was the happiest kids I've ever met. I have decided to find the joy in life by making sure I do something that makes me laugh every day, whether it's tease my husband, watch a comedy, or sing kareoke and dance with my kids in my living room. Life should be all about the joy and the fun. Even the responsible hard parts should have some fun. I remember pulling a chair up to the sink and wanting to use my mom's dish water to blow bubbles. I need to let Jackie fold a twistie tie and blow bubbles at the kitchen sink while I wash dishes. It would be fun for both of us.

wheelsonthebus said...

Every now and then someone chooses the perfect story to make a beautiful point. Today, you did.

Lawyer Mama said...

Lovely post, Julie. Just beautiful. I feel so wistful for that girl now.

Sometimes I say that it would be nice to be a child again for awhile. To have that freedom and innocence. But I wouldn't live through the junior high years again for anything. They're so toxic.

Emily said...

You know those posts that make you sit back in the chair after reading it and lift your gaze to the ceiling as you lose yourself in contemplation about all of the familiar scenarios and all of the stark differences...this is one of those posts, Julie.

Beautifully written.

realitytesting said...

Yay! I did it! My first one! Thanks!!

jeanie said...

Beautiful post, Julie - beautifully painted cusp of life.

I did think about writing on this one, but got distracted by the phone and now it is a day late and a half a world away.

ewe are here said...

This is a wonderful post... makes me wonder if you know what happened to your friend, Emily, when she became an adult...

Terri B. said...

Julie, What an absolutely beautiful post.

Coco said...

Julie, your post was lovely. I could actually see you and the girls you were so close to.

Thanks for visiting my post and for the kind compliments, too!

Aliki2006 said...

I love the idea for this Hump Day challenge, Julie. And your post was lovely--I often look through my old diaries and wonder at where the young girl went and, yes, you know--as I get older I find her returning to me again.

Robert said...

I felt like doing two posts on this, because yours made me think about how little of a "child" I really was. Mine is about being called the "little old man" starting at age ten.

a beaverhausen said...

The way you write amazes me. So natural and unforced. Yet? So meaningful.

Yolanda said...

I'm at a loss of words....words with enough heft...to respond to your lovely piece. Thank you for this prompt. It's allowed me to tell a story that I have shied way from for a long time.

Family Adventure said...

Beautiful post, Julie.
I always save your posts until I have time to really sit down and enjoy them. And I really enjoyed this one. Thank you for sharing. And thank goodness you had that year and that summer!

Heidi

Mary Alice said...

Julie, your personal story was a hauntingly beautiful tribute to the journey our psyche takes on its way to maturity.

Mad Hatter said...

What a wonderful pocket of memories to keep in your pocket, to keep you whole. I don't know that I ever had friends like that, at least not until I was an adult. There was one good friend in my teen years and she was so very good to me then but we have since grown so very far apart.

Mad Hatter said...

oh and I left you a post in case you didn't see it in Mr. Linky.

Christine said...

don't we all have a summer like that. i can remember mine very, very well.

thanks for sharing this poignant memory, julie.

Running on empty