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Archive for October 21st, 2009

Everybody is on Facebook.  Teenagers use it to keep in touch with their friends on a daily basis.  But, the older Facebook users use it to go back.  The phrase use to be “you can never go back” but Facebook has changed that.  I have several groups of friends on Facebook right now but the two I visit most often are my girlfriends from college and my gang from middle school.

This second group is my going back group. I may have never realized that except that my brother in law was laughing at me for being back in touch with people from middle school.  “Why would you ever want to do that?”Middle School Friends Sometimes a remark like this will just roll on by without an answer, but not this time.  This time I thought about it.  Why would I want to be in touch with people I haven’t seen in almost twenty five years? It was an easy question to answer.  My middle school years were a defining time in my life.  Life was great.  I had friends.  A lot of friends and we had fun.

I moved to my middle school in fourth grade and it was not just my first year at the middle school.  It was the first year for the school itself.  The building was finished a month before we moved in.  Many of my friends had been going to school together since kindergarten, but something about the new school made them more accepting of the new girl from the city.  I was poor but so were most of them.  Over the next five years we mished and moshed until we had the right combination of friends in our group.  We were members of the school band, cheerleading squad and basketball team.  Suddenly we weren’t just little kids trying to find our spots.  We had found our places.

Our world was compact.  It existed between those walls.  The summer after eighth grade, I spent in fear of what would lie ahead for us.  What would become of us in high school?  What would be expected?  Already there were signs that friends would change.  Already there were friends experimenting with sex and drugs.  Already there were rumors in our small town of divorce and job loss.

The changes in my life came as a surprise.  My life outside of those middle school walls had always been in upheaval.  My friends saw my mother as a wonderful, cheerful person.  They saw her as the joking, laughing mom that they wished they had.  They saw her when she was in her upswings.  They missed the downswings.  They missed the depression and the angry fits complete with fly swatter beatings.  They were not aware of my dad who was too quiet to be noticed but was like a super hero in my life.  They didn’t know that he was the protector.  The person who took the brunt of my mom’s anger as long as he wasn’t at work.  This was my life outside of middle school.  It had been my life for thirteen years and I assumed it would be my life until I graduated from high school and could get out.

But, I was wrong.  Halfway through my freshman year of high school I began to hear rumors.  To notice how other adults looked at my mother.  I wondered whether our secret had finally gotten out, whether someone had finally connected the dots of my many accidents.  If someone had noticed some wrong in the cheerleader who could get through whole school days and basketball games without hurting herself could show up to school with a black eye caused by her now famous clumsiness.  I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.

When it finally did, I was surprised.  The sin was not that my mom was beating her child.  It was that she was having an affair.  I found this out the day my dad and his shot gun disappeared from our house.  The principal found me and explained what had happened.  They did find my dad and all was fine, but my family was changed forever.  My life was never the same after that day.

We left that year and I lost touch with all of those friends.  The friends who had let me live a normal life six hours a day, five days a week for five years.  After that I was always the girl who couldn’t explain who the man we were living with was without turning bright red in embarrassment.  I was the girl who moved to five different high schools in an effort to escape my mom’s sins.  I was the girl whose home life overshadowed everything else.

My middle school friends were the friends who had let me escape that. They know what became of me and my family because it was a small town, but what they remember is the girl who was happy – the girl who was silly and liked to have fun.  As an adult, that is the girl I am again, but it is nice to put the two pieces together – to welcome friends, who meant so much to me twenty five years ago, back into my life.

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