Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I Remember Nine

Today Julia turns nine.

Every birthday brings about its own unique set of emotions - this year I find myself as reflective as always, but not just on Julia's life, on my own.
Because I remember nine.
And not just fragmented, isolated, snap shot memories of nine. I REMEMBER nine.

I remember starting third grade at a new school.
I remember being the new girl.
I remember feeling lonely.
I remember adoring my third grade teacher, Mrs. M, and hoping she would like me back.

I remember being boy crazy,
I remember being mean to the kid in my class whom I thought was weird.
I remember loving horses.

I remember walking through the hallway one day thinking "I wish I could walk like a horse."
So then I tried.
And one of my classmates who was not yet my friend, tattled on me to the teacher I adored:
"Mrs. M!!!! Laurie is walking weird!!!!!"
I remember glaring at her thinking, "You don't get it, I just want to walk like a horse."

I remember finally making a friend.
And I remember the relief of finally making a friend.
My new friend introduced me to her best friend.
And my new friend's best friend loved horses just like me.
So they added me to their pair.
And I knew I was the third wheel but I didn't even mind, because now I belonged somewhere.
And I remember how good belonging felt.

And at recess when everyone else played on the playground, we went to the very back corner of the school's property and played horses.  Our little corner was the stable and we had to take care of our horses and ride them and make food for them - which we did. Horses love mud pies in case you didn't know.

And then one Sunday afternoon I remember my mom asked me to take a walk with her. And we sat down on a bench and took our shoes off, which I thought was kind of fun.
And my mom told me that sometimes really sad things happen.
And that my friend's best friend who was now my friend, who loved horses as much as I did, had fallen off her horse...

And I remember my first funeral.
I remember waving to the boy I had a crush on as we walked down the center aisle of the church to find a seat.
And my mom told me not to wave at boys during a funeral.

And when everyone started walking up to the front, I remember my mom saying "Sometimes it's better not to look," but I wanted to look.
And then I remember thinking my mom was right.
Her face was too pale and I couldn't see her freckles.

The next week at school, I remember her big sister came into our classroom to clean out her cubby.
I remember no one said anything to her.
And I thought we should say something to her.
But no one said anything.

And weeks later at my horseback riding lesson, I remember being told I would be riding the horse today.
Her horse. The one from...
I remember being terrified and then feeling ashamed for being terrified and then telling myself I should try to be brave.  And so I tried.  But my lesson ended early that day. And my parents weren't even upset. They said it was okay to end early. They said I didn't have to ride that horse again.

And I remember I didn't ride any horses again for a long, long time.

I remember making more friends, some that would last the rest of my life.
I remember having more crushes.
I remember slumber parties and best friend necklaces and favorite books and hurt feelings and continuing to be mean to the kid I thought was weird.

And I remember thinking about her...
The girl we lost when we were nine, who decades later came back to us as a hurricane...
My new friend's best friend who loved horses just like me.

I'll always remember nine.