way back when

Sat 03 February 2018


I never mentioned this, but all day yesterday, I had this strange thought in the back of my head that kept popping up at random moments. This thought was, "Today is Jill's birthday. I wonder what she's up to these days."

(Jill is not the actual name of this person.)

But anyway, I was acquainted with Jill for a grand total of 3 years, which, considering that I'm in my 40's, is a pretty small percentage of my life. But these 3 years happened to be the ones when I was in middle school, and for better or worse, I remember almost everything - and everyone - from that period of time. For example, I have a picture of my 8th grade English class and can name every single person in it without flexing my memory muscle at all. My first grade class photo is a bit harder - there are some kids whose names don't come up for me at all, and I think it's partly that I was only there for half a year, partly because I was so young at the time, and partly because I am getting to be awfully old now. But even if their names escape me, I can look at those little faces and remember who I liked and disliked, who was a big ol' snob, who was always nice to me, and who poured mucilage in my hair.

So last night, I had this dream which included a whole bunch of people from my adult life, but also this one guy that I went to both middle and high school with. It was not his birthday yesterday. His birthday is in September - I remember he once told the class that he was born on Labor Day, which I'm sure his mom thought was a great big joke, only not. The fact that I remember this kind of weirds me out, but I guess those were some really formative years. When you're in school, you spend most of your waking hours with the same group of kids, like it or not. They are not necessarily people you would have chosen to be your friends, but some of them end up becoming so anyway, either because you lucked out and found some kindred souls or just because of simple proximity. Most of the people I refer to as "friends" from my grade school years weren't really my friends. They weren't people I could talk to about my problems. I never saw most of them outside of school, and the ones I did spend my free time with - honestly, I was convinced that they all hated me and invited me out of pity, but I was so desperate to get out of the house that I went along with it anyway. Sigh.

But at odd moments, when a certain date passes on the calendar or I find something I owned in 1988 or somebody randomly mentions Dirty Dancing, I'll think of these people and wonder what ever became of them. I wonder if they do the same about me, if I played any role in their formative years, or if they had so many real friends that they hardly remember me at all. Maybe to them, I was just background noise, some quiet, strange girl who silently observed the world around her, hoping to figure out how to be an actual person.