Thursday, February 3, 2011

Peace, Love, Happiness, Whatever

I apologize for the long lapse between posts - I've been going to a lot of doctor appointments for myself and my cat, who is trying really hard to die on me as far as his blood work is concerned, but seems mostly like his happy-go-lucky-please-let-me-outside-now self, so I'm hoping the blood workup is a dirty lie and he turns out triumphant. Maybe he was bit by a radioactive spider or something and will become a SUPERCAT.

This note is from a girl named Chelsea, who was a friend from the second session of a summer day camp between 6th & 7th grade to the end of the summer between 6th & 7th grade. It wasn’t more than six weeks, but I’m pretty sure she thought we’d be friends forever. It was the kind of friendship that starts when one of you (me) says something awkward and nerdy while you’re tie-dying t-shirts or writing poems about nature and 99% of the class thinks you’re “weird” (to be called weird when you’re 12 might as well be the kiss of death, but as I’d been ‘weird’ forever, I was used to it, and used to saying things aloud anyway) but one other girl in the class – one, if you’re lucky! – thinks you’re her kindred spirit immediately and to demonstrate overwhelming relief that there is one other person in the room that could “get” her, she shares her coveted Gardetto’s at lunch, which totally suckered me in. I mean, come on. Mini breadsticks, rye crackers AND pretzels? Sign me up!

This is the only note I have from her, which makes me think that I either a) really did not get the note she asks about or b) I DID get the note but threw it away in an effort to destroy evidence that I got the letter and didn’t write back, as I’m sure it also commanded “AND WRITE BACK”… I’m sure I would’ve put the note on my bulletin board and would have seen it staring at me, making me feel guiltier and guiltier every day I didn’t WRITE BACK, but feeling really contrary about it, because I don’t like it when anyone tells me what to do, and Chelsea didn’t scare me in the least.

B sounds more like me.

Anyway, unlike Chelsea, I was probably looking forward to school, because my summers were difficult. School meant socializing with friends and being busy with lots of after-school activities like girl scouts and chess club and dance and theater; the summer meant endless amounts of chores when I wasn’t at day camp (There was no rhyme or reason to themes of these camps, either. I don’t know who picked what, but I’ve been to French camp, writing camp, math camp, swimming camp… you name it, I was signed up for it). But day camp is just that – a day, or more likely, half-a-day – which meant hours upon hours of precious daylight to clean the bathroom, dust every surface in the house, clean my room, clean my room again because it wasn’t good enough the first time, wash dishes, pull weeds, mow the lawn… I digress. I’m just saying, my idea of summer wasn’t romantic visions of lounging around in the sun for three months, playing with my friends and hanging out at the ‘ol swimmin’ hole, eating ice cream… none of those idyllic things. I just imagined a long line of brooms coming at me menacingly, like in Fantasia.

Chelsea was the first person to write a postscript to me like that – the symbols and the words “Peace Love Happiness Friendship Harmony”. I’m glad she spelled them out (I now realize that was the custom, but then I felt relief) because I would have otherwise thought it was some really cool code she’d come up with that I had to figure out. I would have probably torn the letter apart, looking for clues to the symbols, trying to rise to the challenge, because I always rise to challenges; and honestly, that could have easily been a decisive end to our friendship because how uncool is it to have a dorky, intense response (imagine I wrote a banal, casual letter but with a PS written in the secret code I think she’s written but that she doesn’t understand) to something that everybody knows is just a simple “cool” thing to write at the end of a letter?

Surviving middle school is about keeping up with what everybody else knows - or at least that’s what I tried to do, and generally failed. It felt like I was always trying to keep up with the biological phenomena that is schooling fish; they turn and move with a particular groupthink that directs their movements and allows the majority of them to survive, but if you don't join up you don't know what music to listen to or what TV to watch or what shoes to wear.

Our friendship failed because I didn’t, in the end, write back, and we never made arrangements to visit one another. At least, I don’t remember writing back – and it’s possible she ended up moving away, or I lost her address – but mostly I think I didn’t care. Chelsea had been a good comrade at day camp, but she wasn't in my immediate frame of reference and that made it hard for me to keep up my end. Plus I'm sure this letter would have been followed by other boring letters and eventually I would have run out of things to say. While I definitely had appreciated her appreciation for my weirdness, Chelsea wasn't that weird; I felt a little betrayed that she wasn't really a kindred spirit - she knew things like "Peace Love Happiness Friendship Harmony". She could swim with the school a little more easily.

PS - Don't you think it's weird "Friendship" is a star? Discuss!


  1. Love it! A couple things:

    1. My summers were filled with endless chores too! Boo.
    2. I think I’m going to have to get a bag of Gardettos from the vending machine now
    3. I used to sign my notes with little pictures too :)

  2. "~", < a P-. "~ / ?." ~ >

    -Brendan, a P- (/ really)

  3. I would liken the symbol trend to the H.A.K.A.S. or H.A.G.S. phenomenon in middle school. I, the flat-chested, sheltered little child that I was, actually asked someone what that meant (it was written all over my yearbook). And the response was "Oh my god, you really don't know? It means Have A Kick Ass Summer! Oh my god, how could you not know that!" Duh, I guess...