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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When Old Friends Become New

"Golden girl" – Horses (unknown bree...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve known my friend Meryl for as long as I can remember. We lived in the same neighborhood, attended the same schools starting with elementary school; we had what is now known as “playdates.” We had mutual friends but we grew apart over time, there was never any fighting, we just drifted apart.   That was over 30 years ago; just recently we reconnected.

Meryl, is my history and I am hers. How wonderful for her to remember that my dad, now deceased, had a telescope and would let us look through it; how heart-warming to hear her say ” your dad was so kind.” We talked about horseback riding (which terrifies me) and I suddenly flashed back to a strong image of pictures that she drew. I hadn’t remembered it or thought of it in at least thirty  years. The memory came back to me like a flash:”You drew horses, didn’t you?”  She smiled widely “Yes I did.”

I  remembered a cold winter day, in third grade, wearing a gray parka and walking from my apartment building to her beautiful white house. Her house definitely had better snacks than my house did, and that is something that you don’t forget! Her room was huge and I remember sitting on her bed and us talking.

Now, my husband and I are now very good friends with Meryl and her husband, Paul. It’s very hard sometimes to make new friends, especially close friends that like each other equally. We’ve all had friends where one or two people don’t get along; it’s very awkward. We feel so lucky, so blessed to have another couple where each one likes the other equally, not to mention that we all like to eat good food….together.

There’s a comfort level with an old friend, history, school pictures, adventures we had together. There is history with having a sibling (and we each have a sister) but there is no fighting, resentment, emotional baggage that comes along with it.  Meryl has become my sister without being a sibling. It is both incredibly comforting  and exciting to have a new, old friend: someone to confide in, someone who supports you, someone who really knows the adult and the child within.

*Dedicated to Meryl and Paul

Facebook Friends?

I’ve learned the hard way that just because you’ve been “friended” on Facebook, doesn’t necessarily mean you have new friends.  There’s no guarantee that you’ve reconnected with a very old friend either. Really, all you have done is clicked a button that possibly signifies ” we knew each other in passing 45 years ago.”  It’s not a given that you will renew these friendships with vigor.  It’s not the ideal setting for an old fashioned reunion .Been there, done that. I’ve learned the hard way that just because someone accepts your “friendship” does not mean they want to be your friend.

I  have friends that I have great fondness for because of our shared childhood. Race to the present and I have nothing in common with them anymore or them with me. Is that enough to call it a friendship?  A past friendship? An acquaintance? “A long-time acquaintance?

I was truly too naive for Facebook.  Initially I thought that once we were “friends” we really would stay in touch or reconnect, even meet.  That’s not always how it works, that’s how I wished it worked. Cynical and distrustful  doesn’t come naturally to me but I’m learning fast. “Facebook” as we know it is really is a facade.  Faux friends.

My children collect ” friends” on Facebook like my son used to collect baseball  or Pokemon cards. The more you have, the cooler you must be. Some adults fall prey to this as well. I’m not one of them.

A friend to me is one that I can count on. Always. I may not see this person more than a couple of times a year but I know for sure that if I needed him/her at 3AM for any reason, they would be there. No questions asked.  That is a true friend. One that holds you in their hearts, and would do anything for you at anytime. It’s more than just someone you have had  brief experience with in the past. Someone that is there for you through thick and thin, hot and cold, ups and downs and all around.  The truth about friendship is that you really don’t need 623 friends. It doesn’t mean anything. What matters is that you have a few people in your life that you count on and they count on you. It’s common sense and a no-brainer but I fell for the whole new concept of being “friended” too.

I actually felt hurt when some of my so-called friends  on Facebook did not have any interest  in planning a reunion or picking up the pieces that were dropped years ago.    Facebook is not a real reflection of the amount of friends that you have. It’s only the amount of people you can collect.

So, for many of the people I “friended” I’m sorry.  Fantasy is nice, but reality is what counts. For all the Matthews, Linda’s, Susie’s that I” friended” I should have known better.I’m old fashioned and I wanted to believe that we could just pick up where we left off 25 years ago. I should have known that when you don’t hear from people it’s because they don’t want to be friends with you anymore or do not have the capacity for it.  True friendship comes with instinct and the feeling you get when you know you like and trust a person.  It also comes with time.

Recently I became friends with a woman named Sarah. We’ve known each other for years and I often thought I would like to get to know her but neither of us did anything about it.  This year, when I saw her, I took a chance. I plunged. I  asked if she would like to get together sometime for coffee. She said “yes.” We’ve gotten together many times now and I consider her one of my new best friends. We talk about our children, we talk about us as parents, we share things, and we don’t judge each other. We are here to support each other. When I was sick, she brought me flowers and DVD’s to watch.  The true meaning of friendship does not come by way of Facebook, it comes with chemistry, instinct and a slight bit of chance.  Making a new friend is fairly uncommon at our ungodly ages but it worked. And, as the kids say, she’s my new BFF and I didn’t meet her on Facebook, I met her half way.