My neglect of this blog for the past year has led to it’s automatic renewal. So I am back for another year. I resolve to write more frequently and more briefly with the hope that some of my old followers will return! I will be expecting to hear from all 7 of you.
Missing a Match
When I was in seventh grade I signed up for a week-long writing workshop. As a part of the course, we had to select writing partners and this boy who was in eighth grade had asked me to be his. Our teacher, Ms. Lattanzi, encouraged the match. I refused. I didn’t articulate my reasons out loud but Ms. Lattanzi could have assumed why I said no. He was a boy. He was awkward. He wasn’t “cool” enough for me.
I remember Ms. Lattanzi’s disappointment. She didn’t push the issue though. I assume she understood the intransigence of a middle schooler’s misguided motivations. She just said, “Okay. You can stay with Christina.” And she sighed. This was the sigh she usually reserved for the cool boys when they made a joke about farting or something.
Christina was a sixth grader. Truthfully, I don’t remember her name. I do remember that she had good hair, though, and she curled her bangs like I did. As Christina and I started on our joint story, we clashed immediately. In keeping with my grandiose ambitions, I wanted to write something unusual, with unconventional characters. She wanted to write about teddy bears who were cute. In the end, I let her keep the teddy bears. She let me put them on a space ship to travel to a distant planet where they were captured by an army of evil ferns. When, at the end of the week, we all gathered to read our stories to the group I was pretty proud of our work. It wasn’t great, obviously, but we were in middle school. How could you expect anything great from us?
Then the boy who had asked me to be his partner shared his story. As he got up to read it by himself (no one else agreed to be his partner either), I felt a little bad. Then, for the next few minutes I sat and listened. At first I was interested. Then I became more engrossed in his story and utterly amazed by how good it was. As he concluded, to the collective gasp of his rapt audience, I looked at my teacher who, as if she was expecting this very reaction, was looking straight at me.
Again, as before, I don’t know if I articulated my thoughts out loud but I know Ms. Lattanzi knew what I was thinking. With her knowing gaze, and her eyebrows raised with a smirk, she silently conveyed her reproach. “Told ya’,” she said without uttering a word, “You missed out. And you totally deserved that.”
The boy, for his part, didn’t catch any of this exchange. He didn’t seem to notice or care that he had had to write his awesome story by himself. He was cool like that.
As I grew up, I held onto this lesson and often wondered what happened to the boy. Much later, when I bumped into his profile on Facebook (through one of his 1000+ friends), I was very pleased to learn that he was doing just fine. More than fine, really, but I won’t go into details. That amazing story–which includes a stunning career, world travel, and a great family–is his to tell.