One of my Facebook friends recently tagged me in this photo, and it brought back a flood of memories and emotions.
That’s me on the back row, third from the right, rocking the Holly Hobbie shirt. I was shocked to see that I looked pretty much like an average fifth grader, like all the other kids in the class. I didn’t remember myself that way.
You see, this was the year I moved to a new school, and there were a couple of girls who let me know right off that I did not fit in. They were sort of the unofficial leaders of the class, so they let all the other kids know it too, and they reminded everyone regularly so we would all be keenly aware at all times that CONNIE DID NOT FIT IN.
I didn’t wear name brand clothes like they did. My mama shopped at garage sales and resale shops. I didn’t know the songs the other kids sang on the playground. My parents listened to country music, not KVIL, the popular music station.
That last oddity was the most problematic for me that year because it just so happened that the music teacher structured the entirety of her lessons so that each day our class would file in and sit down and she would take song requests to play on the piano so we could all sing along. Well, all except Connie, who did not know “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain and Tennille or any other songs played on KVIL. And since the music teacher did not know “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, or any other songs played on WBAP, you can see how this all played right into the CONNIE DID NOT FIT IN scenario, right?
I’m not sure how long I endured the torment of those two girls cajoling everyone else into making fun of me for my lack of Top Ten Pop Song knowledge before I cracked and told my mom about it. She promptly made an appointment for a meeting to speak with the principal and the music teacher and they all agreed that the best solution would be to change the structure of the music class so music would actually be taught (imagine that!) instead of strictly being a song request and sing-along format. (Now you know where I get my “I Need to Speak to the Manager” attitude.)
As I’m sure you can guess, this change made me even more wildly popular among my classmates than I ever was before. The students had to give up their beloved sing-along class, and they would not soon let me forget it.
I spent the rest of that year in misery.
Looking back now, it seems such an insignificant blip on the screen of the entirety of my life so far. I hadn’t even remembered it until the photo appeared on my Facebook timeline. And then it all came back. The enormity of it all. The misery. The embarrassment. The longing to fit in, to be liked.
These days I try to ask myself what God wants me to learn about certain things that weigh heavily on my mind. With this memory that won’t let me go, I imagine God is telling me to remember that 10 year old girls have big feelings. What now, to my adult mind, seems like a rough patch can feel like a whole landslide to a little girl. What is no big deal in an adult’s eyes can seem like the whole world is falling apart in a child’s eyes. That one year in fifth grade is now 1/49th of my life so far, but to that Me Child in the picture it was Everything. It was The Present. It was all that existed.
And now, as I type this out, I know why that Very Hard Year happened for me. It was so I could empathize with and comfort little girls I have living right in my own house. When they have spats with sisters or don’t get invited to the party or when they are the only ones who don’t know how to “whip and nae nae”, instead of minimizing the impact of those things, I can recognize that those are big feelings.
I can listen and nod and hug them close when they tear up telling me about their big hurts that didn’t seem all that big to me before I saw my blast from the past.