FWF Kellie Elmore: Junior High

English: View of Davey Elementary School in Ke...

English: View of Davey Elementary School in Kent, Ohio. The building opened in 1922 and was first home to Theodore Roosevelt High School until 1959 before serving as Davey Junior High/Middle School until 1999. It was renovated from 1999-2000 and reopened in 2000 as Davey Elementary School. Originally uploaded 3 February 2007 to English Wikipedia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On my first day of Junior High School I was nervous, excited and scared.  I walked from my apartment building with a friend, up the steep hill, passing the red brick elementary school I had graduated from and the gray cemetery that lurked on the right side. It was at least a 25 minute walk to our bus stop which was in front of the big, smoky subway station.

I was overwhelmed by the sensory overload in the morning: noise and stimulation, many people bustling about, headed to trains or buses, to the coffee shop, The Pastrami King, the pharmacy, or the courthouse. Everybody walked so quickly, rushing to their destination.

Finally, our bus came and we piled on pushing and shoving trying unsuccessfully to save a seat for a friend. There were four seats in the last row where the “tough” kids sat smoking and blowing their smoke in our direction.

There were smells on that bus from an array of  both food and people: tuna fish sandwiches, the sugar sweetness of  French crullers, sweat, body odor and smelly feet, potato chips. There was always one “bad kid” in the neighborhood and of course he was there ready to make himself known as if we had forgotten him after six years of elementary school.

We passed the bank clock and it was always 8:32 am, every single day, in bright large numbers, in yellow-orange against a black background, that always cheered me up.  I marveled at the accuracy of the bus each morning. That was the highlight of my day. It was, after all,  Junior High School, you were almost required to be moody and miserable, it’s just the one thing they didn’t pass a handbook out for.

The real change was recess which was not held in the comfortable basement of our school like it was in elementary school but rather outside in a cold, cement area marked with high wired fences. It looked like a prison. There were no trees in the back, not a blade of grass or flowers.

It was the first time where we changed teachers for different subjects, moved with the same students, from class to class. It was fascinating and new, odd and strange. Junior High School is not a great experience for many people, probably due to our age. It’s an awkward time, the guys and girls wearing acne, boys’ voices were in the middle of changing, the girls were in a huge range of maturity and we were all uncomfortable and self-conscious, everybody hated how they looked.

Socially, it was a new world, new girl friends, a larger and diverse crowd than elementary school. I hung out with a new friend who introduced me to smoking menthol cigarettes while chewing gum and drinking Fresca soda on a huge rock that we scrambled up in the big, bright park after school. Her name was Susan and after my phase of trying to be bad, I gave it up shortly.  Judy, was my best friend with bright red hair and a twin and we sat next to each other in class, trying to desperately hide our laughter. We had a horrible teacher who made angry spots on the blackboard with his chalk and every time he did it we would burst out in hysterics. At the same time I stared at a classmate who picked at her hair for an entire hour and a half. I couldn’t stand to look yet I couldn’t look away.

It was a world unknown and new yet very stressful and depressing. It was on the very same bus, going home, that I heard one of my friends, since childhood, had committed suicide. She overdosed on drugs after her mother remarried a classmate’s father. I couldn’t stop thinking about that, I never forgot about it either.

Her absence, in Junior High School was far more memorable than any day I sat in class. I can still picture her face, her long black eyelashes, the intense blue of her unwavering stare. This is in memory for you, Lori B.

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Carry On Tuesday: “I Had A Dream”

Publicity photo of Ralph Waite (John Walton, S...

Publicity photo of Ralph Waite (John Walton, Sr.), Richard Thomas (John Boy), and Michael Learned (Olivia Walton) from the television program The Waltons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a dream, when I was younger, that all families were like the ones I  watched on television: Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best and most importantly, The Waltons. Everyone always got along, the siblings were close, sure they bantered back and forth but I could just feel the love between them and the mutual admiration they had for one another. I grew up thinking that life was fair; good people got good things and bad people got what they deserved: punishment. Life was about giving and taking, things always worked out in the end, or so I thought.

I certainly don’t believe in that as much as I used to, hell, I’m not sure I believe in it at all.  There are too many bad people getting away with too much horrible crap and too many good people are given way too much stuff to handle that they don’t deserve. Think about it for a minute, I bet you can think of a few, truly good and kind people who don’t deserve what they have and a few unkind, bad and selfish people you wish had more of the same, negative karma that they give out,  if only to teach them a lesson or two. Does it happen often? No, it rarely happens if at all.

I know I started  my youthful fantasies, back when there was a Santa Claus, and an Easter Bunny and if you had a bad day, the next day was a promise with a kiss to be better. It was a world when moms and dads could tell you things and you believed them in your child-like innocence. Parents weren’t flawed people, they were just, well…parents. Apparently, life is not based out of old episodes of a television series. Reality hit me when I was an adolescent and those innocent years of childhood ended abruptly.

Families, like The Waltons all lived together in one big house; sure they were poor but they all got along and loved and trusted one another, three generations living under one roof. We can’t even have a dinner with the “adults” in my family before someone’s childish drama and selfishness rears its dysfunctional head, loudly and inappropriately, within a matter of minutes. At my mother’s  birthday celebration, one member of my family made it all about her. I wasn’t shocked or surprised it happens that way all the time. I just shook my head, looked at my poor husband who had just been delivered a stern lecture and saw his flushed cheeks and his bewildered, hurt brown eyes; he was very upset. After that, just looking at his body language he had checked out. There’s always one victim, usually it’s me, now it was both of us, but I don’t feel defeated anymore, I just felt disgusted.

Here is what I have learned:  people do not change. The most “enlightened” sounding people can be the most disturbed and do not know themselves at all; they need professional help. As much as we are all in this together with our friends, family, neighbors,  ultimately, we are alone. We are born alone and we will die alone. The most important thing to have is strength in yourself. We all need that wisdom and courage it takes to go to bed and wake up the next day knowing that even though it is hard to put one foot in front of the other, we have no choice but to continue. That even in uncharted territory we must force ourselves to go on and that family is not necessarily defined by blood lines but by goodwill, caring, kind, well-intentioned, love. Pure and simple. Love should not be that complicated, and if it always is, there is something very, very wrong.

Like We Used To

mother and son

Image by 'PixelPlacebo' via Flickr

It’s a different page in the book, the old chapter ended abruptly. Now, there’s a new chapter that really doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest. But, since I have no choice but to continue reading, whether I want to or not, I will learn something in the end. I’m not sure if I will like the ending or if I will hate it but it is not an ending that I get to write. Not anymore. It’s no longer my story. I’m so low on energy today with the temperature and the humidity so high it hurts to breathe and I am feeling daggers of chest pain. Tears are sliding down my cheeks but I don’t bother to wipe them away; it’s all out of my control. I wish I could hide away somewhere, or go on vacation alone and relearn who I am.

It would be nice to be able to talk to my eighteen and a half-year old son with the same ease, joy, warmth and humor that we used to have. Now, he is readying himself for camp and college and independence; I understand that but still, sometimes what he does or says sting. I am sure he will come back, at least that’s what other parents of older children have told me. I’m his mother, I will wait. New words entered our vocabulary last year, things like beer pong and prom, girlfriend, college, admissions and honor programs. Maybe there is still a little kid inside him also trying to deal with changes too. Maybe he doesn’t know how he’s acting or how different he seems. It’s a little rocky in the beginning when things change so dramatically but eventually we all learn to adjust to everything. The ability to adjust is what keeps people alive; we have no other option but to adapt.

I have pains in my chest; I feel weak and sad and  fragile and everything in my body hurts from Fibromyalgia and my heart hurts too. My body, is stiff and unyielding. I’m tired of being tired and I feel everything and nothing. Today, nothing trumps everything. There were many things that used to make me happy. More importantly, I used to make myself feel happy but I don’t anymore. Does the true essence of my self still exist if I can’t feel it?

Things People Are Surprised to Learn About Me

Who Me?

shy

I’m usually very outgoing, but it depends on the situation. I think most people would be surprised to learn that I can be very shy. When I was a child I was painfully shy and to this day I am still quiet around very boisterous people. It all depends on who I am with and whether I am comfortable. I’m so much better now than I was years ago but every so often it creeps up on me like a little gray mouse and I become the very quiet, very shy, young me.

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My Teenagers Are Meanies

The Meaning to Life

Image by Lel4nd via Flickr

Oh sure, we are always supposed to give our thanks for what we have and do gratitude journals and write down five things every day we enjoy. No. I won’t do it today. I’m mad and cranky and I’ve had my fill of just about everybody except my dog (and my husband). My two teenagers, (that speaks volumes in itself) 16 1/2 and 18, have been making fun of me and teasing me non-stop. At least that’s what it feels like. We were sitting around the kitchen table and my daughter told my son something”stupid” I said and my son joined in with another mistake I made and proceeded to “text” dad with something I got mixed up with, Texas, Tennessee, whatever.  What I felt like doing was having a nutty, exploding and screaming things like “Shut up, you ungrateful brats I’ve had enough” but I didn’t; I regret that now.

I feel like “Mommy Rae” and want to stand up on the kitchen table with a sign that says there should be “A Union For All Moms.” I did tell my children that they were taking advantage of me and I was sick and tired of it. I was ready to cry, explode or yell (which would not have been a bad thing) but instead I left the kitchen table abruptly so they could probably make fun of my lack of sense of humor or whatever else they were dissing me for. (note to people who don’t have teens: to diss: to make fun of or put down.) I escaped, stomped up the stairs and stayed in my bedroom and watched a DVR’d version of one of my favorite shows, Top Chef. I did not go down to “make dinner”early because I had my limit of “what do you want, and what do YOU want” since my daughter is a vegetarian and my son thinks good food consists of ring jells and mixed fruit cocktail in jello. I kid you not.

I napped my intense anger away and when my husband came home and I thought that he was the only one on my side and that’s what it felt like. When he gave me a big hug, I didn’t want him to go. To Buffalo. (no offense to those who live in Buffalo) On Sunday. For six weeks. I thought to myself “how am I going to live with these two monster teenagers alone?”  I still don’t have the answer but I am going to lay down the law and tell them to step up and help out. The fact that I have a chronic pain disease does really not seem to affect them, hey, they are feeling good, isn’t everybody? NO, chronic pain means pain ALL THE TIME, I have the amount of energy as a dead tick does. I’m tired, I feel like crap. LISTEN TO ME!

I refuse to pick my daughter up late at night for the next six weeks because I fade at 3pm not to mention 12 midnight. She will have to make plans, get it together. Help out. Think of me. (I scoff). Teenagers, by design, do not think of anyone but themselves. My son will have to man up and help out with things too, he can pick up his sister late at night and take part in whatever is needed for the family. The what? The family, you know, the one that is supposed to be a joint unit, each of us helping each other. (I scoff again).

I’m doing the best I can, that’s what parents do. They try and try and hope that they make the right decision because they only want the best for their children. Do children appreciate that? A resounding NO. I have said the old stand-by to them: “I can’t wait till YOU have teenagers.” Does it make a difference to them? Of course not!!! It just makes me feel a tiny bit better and that is better than nothing.

To Have Loved and Lost

I wanna hold your hand

Image by Josep Ma. Rosell via Flickr

Is There Any Question?

 
YES, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I remember asking my mother the same type of question when I was a teenager as we were walking from the hot, steamy parking lot to the beach’s entrance. I was 14 and I will never forget her answer. I asked “but what if something bad happens to the person you love?” She replied calmly: “You can’t be scared of everything. Some bad things will happen, but you have to take the chance. You don’t want to be alone forever.” She was right. Years later I went on to date my then boyfriend, now husband of 22 years. We have many wonderful memories together, we have two teenage children that we adore. I live in fear that something will happen to him or the children, the same fear that I feel for all the people I love. I worry, too, about my darling 8 and a half-year old dog.

There will be pain in our lives, devastation, loss. It comes with the territory. My father died almost 9 years ago. Do I miss him? Yes. Have I forgotten him? No. Is it still painful? Definitely. What I try to do now is focus on the good times we shared and the amazing love we had for each other. It takes time for pain to dissipate and really, it never goes away completely. As we all know, life is not safe. We all need to be grateful and appreciate what we have, every day, every moment if possible. Health is the most important thing we have, not money or fame or status. Love. True, unconditional love. It can be scary, it does mean you are taking a chance, it also means you need to trust. Sometimes, you just have to shut your eyes tight, take a chance, hold on tight to your loved one’s hands and jump.

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What My Heart Feels

20080329 - Oranjello, the new kitten - 152-528...

Image by Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via Flickr

Nostalgia slips in on tiny kitten paws at the strangest places and the most unexpected of times. Today I went out with my 16-year-old daughter to her annual physical. She got her learner’s permit less than a month ago and drove slowly but easily and with confidence, into the crowded parking lot. As soon as she put the car in Park, the lump in my throat thickened and I was unable to speak.

I started babbling and told her how proud I was of her. That from a shy, timid little girl she had grown into the most amazing, strong, confident and beautiful young woman. She looked at me, as only a teenage daughter can, with a bit of confusion, disgust and annoyance. Frankly, I can’t blame her.

For me,  this week has consisted of writing an essay about my son who is now a senior in high school and writing checks for my daughter’s PSAT test and driver’s education course. Years have slipped into minutes as I felt the twisting and turning, and actual jabbing pain in my heart. We were still right there in the parking lot when my daughter, without a sound, casually handed me back my keys.

The pediatrician’s office was filled with little children, a girl named Maddie, age 3, reminded me of my daughter when she was that age. Inquisitve, bright, lovely with straight blond hair, she danced around the waiting room, talking to the bright yellow and blue fish that swam in the fish tank. We were called in moments later and after the initial hello to the doctor, the pediatrician who has known my daughter since she was about 5, I left the room. The doctor asked my daughter if she wanted me to come back when she had the shots, a yearly tradition, she shrugged her shoulders up and down and said “I don’t care.”  It took me a minute to get up and leave; it was the first time my daughter hadn’t wanted to dig her fingernails, into my skin when she got the shot. I now missed the indentations her polished, blue fingernails would make in my hand.

It is hard to believe that next year my son will be in college and my daughter will be a senior. I feel like singing “Sunrise, Sunset” every day. Life passes by us, without reminders or stop signs. We have taught our children to be independent and strong, birds flying on their own. Times moves on and so must we. I’ve looked at old childhood photographs of when they were young but quickly replaced them with more up to date photos. I need to remind myself that they are young adults now. Once they leave for college it’s all very different. They don’t need us in the same way, we will see them less often but we will be here, quietly, patiently, with love, warmth and excitement whenever they want to come home. We will be waiting here, in their childhood home, with open arms.

The Door Between Madness And Sun (Fiction)

No matter what people tell you, once you have the label you’re stuck with it. You can’t ever lose it. I see it on my parents’ wrinkled faces and a few of my old friends from grade school.  It’s attached to you like one of those mechanic bracelets or anklets they use for drug and alcohol addiction, except it’s invisible. You’ll always be the family with the daughter who committed suicide, or the brother whose sister died when she was five or the husband whose wife had a stroke at 35. It’s a well-known fact although people say it in supposedly hushed voices. There’s nothing hushed about it, whether they speak it or shout it or think it. That’s forever and for that I am sorry. Really.

My name is Lindsay and I’m 18 years old. I had been best friends with Kaitlyn for many years when we were younger, we grew up together you could say.  Things changed a lot when we both started high school and we just grew apart. I guess if I am honest I grew apart from her.  Kaitlyn didn’t know what to do, she used to kind of hang around me but we had nothing to say to each other anymore. I felt bad about it but mostly I just wanted to forget the past and move on to the future. If she couldn’t handle it, it really wasn’t my fault. She couldn’t figure out that I had grown up and changed and I didn’t want to explain it to her, that seemed so lame.  I started liking cooler kids that were different, but she just didn’t get it and wouldn’t leave me alone.  I heard her tell people I was weird.  I heard her tell everyone I was a freak; not a really nice thing to say about an old friend.

Kaitlyn knew I had tried drugs and alcohol a few times but I never went into details with her, it was none of her business. I was a senior now and wanted to feel free and grown-up; I deserved it. I started to steal things and someone would ask about all these new items, I lied and told people they were presents. Well, in a way they were, they were presents from me to me. I couldn’t deal with all the questions and my old friends couldn’t handle it. I had moved on but they hadn’t and that was fine with me.

After awhile people looked the other way when I was around and I was glad.  Once at a school talent show I threw my pack of cigarettes across the room just for attention; people literally freaked out. So I flirted with guys and played around; big deal. All my old friends were just so immature. People talked about my drug use; I admit I used cocaine, pot, pills and yeah, I tried acid but only once.  If I hadn’t gotten so wrecked that one time and had to call one of my old friends to pick me up at a party one night because I couldn’t find my car, no one would never have known. But, of course the little snitch that picked me up told that story to anyone and everyone she knew.  Bitch.

I know my  parents were worried but really, I was fine. They even called the police on me, imagine calling the police on your own daughter.  I told them that I was just a normal teenager doing teenage things but they would cry and scream and yell at me all the time. It got so bad that I learned how to tune them out and when they yelled I couldn’t even hear them anymore; I became numb. Numb felt good because it didn’t feel like anything.

The night I did it, I watched Kaitlyn go to sleep in the big queen bed we used to share on sleepovers. She lay in her room with while outside the snow and sleet pounded to the ground. She had curled up in her bed, I remember she used to be scared of storms and wind.  She still slept in her old room that she never bothered to update with posters or good make-up;  she liked things just the way they were. It was like we were still seven years old, her pink room filled with old stuffed animals and those fuzzy pink heart pillows; she could never throw anything away.

I saw my dad calling Kaitlyn’s mom, her mom picked up the phone and started to cry. I never thought that would happen. That morning at 6am I saw Katie’s mom walk quietly to Katie’s room, it was like looking at her walk in slow motion. She tiptoed into Katie’s room and sit on her bed for a long time.  I saw the shadow of her mother peering from the dark room before Kaitlyn even sat up. Her mom’s body was outlined against the blazing orange hall light as if she had been outlined in a crime scene. Katie started to stir and was surprised when her mother was sitting next to her, she was confused. “Katie, honey,” her mother said ” I have really bad news” and I saw Kaitlyn’s whole body freeze with fear. I knew she was thinking about her father, her brother in college, her grandmother and grandfather. She didn’t even think about me for one second. So when her mom said ” it’s about Lindsay” she had no idea what was going on. Katie’s mom continued” ” I just got a call from Lindsay’s dad and Lindsay……..Lindsay is dead, honey. She committed suicide, I am so sorry.”

Kaitlyn was absolutely still for a few minutes, she didn’t move and then she started shrieking and screaming “No, No, No” over and over again. My dad’s terse message didn’t help you know, he could have been gentler.  How was Katie supposed to react? He just said that he had seen me take some drugs that I was nervous and mad and I had been crying.  He thought I was asleep but I wasn’t, it was time, long overdue and I had to get out. I had been in so much pain that I had to go, had to get rid of all those bad feelings that would never leave me alone, so I did it.

All Kaitlyn had to do is ask the question in her eyes, because she could not find the words, and her mother answered slowly “she hung herself.”

I watched Kaitlyn, crying,  laying on her bed.  I didn’t think she would care that much; we hadn’t been friends in years. I saw her stare at the ceiling and she rocked herself back and forth like she would do, when she was little and when she was really scared. I saw the morning light, the early sun, creep into her room and stop on her face; she was very, very pale. She had put on the friendship bracelet which we made for each other years ago. I’m sorry,  I didn’t know what to do, honest, it felt like the best way out. For me. I had to go. I really did love you, I just hated myself.

I slipped out of her room and disappeared into the night air. It was snowing and was very cold, but I felt nothing and that was good.