I have this exercise for my children's/young adult lit class this summer where I am supposed to re-read a book that we loved as a child, but first reflect on why it was so significant to us at the time. Now, I know that for me, the most significant books that taught me about people and resonated with me on some kind of profoundly spiritual level were those written by Judy Blume. I read all of her books for young adults when I was a kid. The most popular series, the Superfudge trilogy, weren't even my favorites, although they were great.
I rarely re-read books. I have a bizarrely good memory and almost never feel the need to revisit a text I read before without reason (poetry is a notable exception). One book from childhood, though, that I must have read 4-5 times in fifth and sixth grades was Blume's Just as Long as We're Together. The funny thing is, I cannot really recall details about it, like I can most of her other books that I read. I know it's about a close friendship that changes as the girls grow apart and encounter new challenges like popularity and boys, but for a book I read like good Christians read the Bible, I can't even remember the names of the main characters.
It's kind of embarrassing to admit that such a significant part of my development is just... forgotten. Maybe it was just absorbed so thoroughly that I cannot distinguish the story from my life. I know it was my favorite book back then, and I'm pretty sure I know why, but it's hard to own up that something so childishly trivial had affected me for so long... I wrote a lot in diaries about the hurt for years because I was afraid to publicly own it. I told the story to someone the other day and I couldn't believe that I still felt some tears catching in the back of my throat, but as an adult I want to just take my still-injured fifth grade psyche and tell her to get over it already. It's really so stupid. I feel myself hesitant to type it out even now, even after such an introduction (that hopefully turned most of you off from reading about my ridiculously embarrassing childhood).
I didn't have many friends growing up. I played with stuffed animals more than other children and had a vivid imagination. I was a bit of a "tom boy" in that I got along better with the boys in day care because they played superhero games instead of gossiping. At Damascus Elementary, they called me the walking, talking dictionary (which was strangely ironic because vocabulary was my weakest subject at the time). Even the other smart kids would make fun of me to gain an edge with the popular kids.
Then my parents sent me to Fox Chapel, a gifted and talented center for fourth grade, and suddenly being smart was normal. I had friends for the first time--you know the kind you have slumber parties with and giggle about boys and tell all your deepest, darkest secrets to. I suddenly had a "best friend" like the girls in the books I read. Her name was Shekar. We had two other friends, Erin and Missy, who were best friends with each other. It was lovely.
One day in the summer between fifth and sixth grade, unbeknownst to me, the other three girls had a slumber party where they decided that they no longer wanted to be my friend. Shekar wrote me a letter, in beautiful calligraphy no less, explaining their decision. They mailed it to me. It took a few days to arrive, but the thing that kills me in retrospect, is how they kept up appearances during those days post letter writing, but prior to my receiving it, as if they were still my best friends. The shocking level of deceptiveness was, for me, what marks the cruelty of their actions. I can take being rejected. I cannot take being lied to and manipulated.
Girls are mean.
I've had other things happen since in relationships with females that are similar. I still don't get it. I still can't treat people I really care about like that and although I now understand not everyone works the same way I do, I still don't believe it is possible to care about someone the way I care about people and to deceive them in that way.
I've been reflecting a lot about the past lately; like not just the recent boyfriend and career complexities, but about what formed me into the person I am. I have been writing about my mother a lot (I know you sometimes read this, so hi mom--don't worry, it's nothing bad!) and about other significant, formative relationships.
I think this event is the that got me writing so much, because I could no longer trust others like I could trust myself. There is more to this story... to my story. But I feel I must abruptly end this because I cannot share any more at this time. I can't even properly edit this post so that you'll enjoy it. Just take it as it is, or not at all.