I write about my childhood quite a bit. Perhaps because my memories are so vivid, I feel compelled to write them down. Perhaps if I understand who I was a child, I’ll better understand who I am now.
The other day, I got an email from a dear childhood friend. She was one of the original stomp girls about whom I’ve written. We who sang Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll at the top of our lungs at recess.
See, I had forgotten what started us in the first place. Until my friend Laura faxed me the gem below:
It reads (with typos and misspellings included):
Women have rights. But how come their not equal? Some say that women are weak or to fragile to do a man’s job. For instance men think that women will never play football or baseball because we might break a fingernail. They don’t know about women inside. So I’ve started a club called W-L (Women’s Lib.) It will be at recess. You may ask questions and we’ll think about what to do to make a woman’s life better. We will work as a team. Why do some men act this way? Well they want to be A#1 of course they have to be better and stronger than women. Can we fight this for equal rights? I have know idea. Alot of women feel the same way we do. For more information, call Laura or Jenny.
P.S. Keep this club private.
When I stopped laughing at how totally awesome and hilarious this little manifesto is, I felt that old feeling. I remember when the boys stopped letting us play football with them. I remember how some friendships vanished because we had reached the age when differences started creating distance. And, I remember how mad we were about it. Because all of a sudden, we weren’t just uninvited, we were no longer equal. Holy junior feminists, Batman! I get it. Now I remember the source of the stomping. If we were no longer invited, we would make our own party. We would sing loud. We would raise our fists. We would stomp. We would raise our fists. And one day, we would be equal.
I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey in a small town called Berkeley Heights. It’s very easily whizzed by if you’re traveling at high speed on Interstate 78.
I attended public school and graduated high school with 140 kids, many of whom I have known since elementary school. When Facebook began taking over the universe, I reconnected with tons of people from home, amazed at how everyone had grown up. Now, it’s a pretty normal occurrence to skim Facebook and see the photos of babies, dogs, vacations, and homes of the same people I played kickball with so long ago.
Almost two weeks ago, I received a group message that one of the girls I grew up with had suffered a massive heart attack. The message was sent by her best friend, the same best friend she had when we were in grade school. Over the past two weeks, we’ve received regular updates on her condition (please think healing thoughts). And while the initial reason for getting us all in contact was and is frightening and upsetting on so many levels, it is also full of joy, nostalgia and gratitude.
Because along with our fear and concern, we’ve gathered up armfuls of laughter and childhood memories. Photos have been posted, like this one:
It’s funny, a while back I wrote about the collective power and energy of this same band of girls from my childhood. And just as we did then, here we are again, shoring each other up with laughter and a certain kind of gratitude that perhaps comes from the place where we first tested our boundaries and ourselves: a town where you could play outside until your parents called you home, a place with creeks to cross and small mountains to climb, a place where the kids you knew become the people you always want to know. Home.
While drying between my toes after a bath the other night, I remembered how the four-year-old me used to stand on the closed toilet lid and hang onto the towel bar as you dried me off after my bath. “Left leg,” you’d say and I’d hold it out for you to dry. Each limb in turn.
You dried toes vigorously, and it’s that moment that strikes me. The thought of my own small toes in your large, towel-covered hand, how you meticulously dried each one, your brow slightly furrowed in concentration, how I could still feel the strength of your hand.
And I, standing tall on the toilet seat, obediently following your instructions, waiting for you to look up, pleased with yourself and me.
My Uncle Bob passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer.
Dear Uncle Bob,
Thank you for always being an example to me of a life well lived. My memories of you and Aunt Georgia are filled with love…of warm, homemade cookies…long swims in your pool until my fingers and toes were wrinkled…vivid summer flowers Aunt Georgia tended…the kaleidoscope of colors of the jukebox in the basement…watching with wonder as you talked about your job…the heat of the sun-warmed cement lulling me to sleep by the pool…the way you always both talked to me like I was a person, not just a kid, even when I was a kid…the comfort of knowing I was safe and loved…safe enough to fall asleep in your car on the trip from Findlay…loved enough to strive to live fully as you both do…
The moments I spent with you are precious beyond measure. You taught me so much with your honesty, humor and compassion. I hope what I’m writing now is something you already knew, already and always felt from me. But I wanted to write this so that it’s clear. I love you and am so very grateful for all have brought to my life.