(I am sort of skipping a week, here, but I promise to come back and do the 3rd kinderblog question. Soon!)
Kinderblog challenge, question #4:
Tell the story of one specific child, who walked into your life and changed everything.
The one child who changed everything.
Confession: This is the one and only kinderblog assignment where I have known my own answers even before publishing the question. I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to choose. I knew. It would be Sarah. It has always been Sarah. It will always be Sarah. I have written about Sarah before, in other contexts. I have written TO Sarah: quick scribbled notes and epic letters. I have written FOR Sarah: reference letters and employment verification forms. Sarah, whose name is stitched so tightly onto the surface of my heart that I swear sometimes I can physically feel it. Sarah.
However, the challenging part of this was: Sarah is not some student from long ago, rendered anonymous by time and distance. Sarah, now, is a grown-up young woman, a professional in her field, building a career and a reputation for herself. Sarah is my Facebook friend. Sarah reads this blog. (Hi Sweet Girl! I love you!). So, yesterday, I wrote to her, asking permission to tell her story here.
I was fully prepared for her to say no. I had several other stories in mind if she did. I have been blessed to love and be loved by many, many, amazing kids, each of whom changed everything. Their stories are inextricably knitted into my history, and I carry pieces of them with me every day. All of them, I have loved (and continue to love). Many of them, I have liked. A handful have now grown into adults that I truly consider my friends.
But Sarah is where it all started. And so, when she promptly replied to my note, granting permission for her story to be told here, it was like a ray of sunshine came right through the computer screen and into my heart. What a blessing, indeed, to spend the better part of an afternoon reliving one of the most powerful relationships in my life….
The thing is: to do this story justice, it’s going to take more than one blog post. So, for today, here is:
Sarah and I met at summer camp, a place we both called home for a truly impressive number of years. I still think of it as home. I imagine Sarah maybe does, too. It makes sense that our relationship grew out of that rocky red soil, and blossomed in the high sierra sunlight, where only the toughest plants produce flowers. Camp re-wove the fabric of my life, and built the strongest friendships I have ever known. Of course I found Sarah there. Where else would I have ever found her?
I don’t really remember being at camp without knowing Sarah, which is probably accurate. I think she came to one of the first drama rehearsals I ever ran on that splintery outdoor stage, the first session of my first summer, when I was all of 20 years old. What I do remember is her jumping up and down, volunteering herself and her best friend, Alan, to play Batman and Robin in the script we were writing. I know I gave them the roles, that I was at once surprised and thrilled at their enthusiasm.
Sarah’s beauty now makes me catch my breath, brings a sting to my eyes, but that first summer, I remember her simply being tall for her age, plain and muscular and almost stocky in the way of girls who spend a lot of time in a swimming pool (as opposed to simply lounging next to a swimming pool), the beginnings of acne showing on her cheeks and forehead. In the mornings I would see her trudging up dust on the road to the riding arena, and again later with dirt ground into her jeans, heat and horse dust suspended around her, an even band pressed into her hair from her helmet. She came to drama rehearsal every afternoon, when the bright flat sun bounced off the plywood backdrop, and made the woodchips stick to our sweaty sandalled feet. I enjoyed having her there – laughter seemed to follow Sarah wherever she went, and she recruited her entourage of platonic male friends to join us – but her 2-week session ended and she went home and the summer went on. I remembered her, and thought of her occasionally over the winter, but she remained simply a nice kid – a bright kid, with a quirky sense of humor and a gift for satire; a unique kid who managed to be a fourteen year old girl without really behaving like one – but still, basically, just a nice kid. She made me laugh, and she thought I was cool. It was still so early in my career that perhaps that was just what I needed — a kid who thought I was cool.
The next summer, Sarah became a fifteen year old girl, and she fell in love. Falling in love seemed to be the thing to do if you were in the oldest girls cabin, and Sarah, along with her 3 closest friends, did it with the same enthusiasm she had for everything else in life. The boy was Scotty – 5 feet tall to Sarah’s 5’7”, nuts about her in spite of barely being able to fit his skinny arm all the way around her waist. They were inseparable, and, after curfew when I would creep into the girls’ cabin to catch the latest camper gossip, I heard breathless stories of kisses at the shower house, and cuddling under the tarp on the backpack trip. I spent one entire morning sitting in a square of sunlight on the side porch with Sarah and her friends: Lizzie, Anthony, Mary, Faith, Alan, Scotty. They told me about their schools, their friends at home. It was from them that I first learned that being a teenager with money carried its own set of stresses, issues, fears. Sarah was older than the rest of them by a single year – a year that made her an old hand at the high school scene, and made a leader out of her, whether she wanted to be or not. I remember her warning her friends in a wise tone about the dangers of high school life, the drawbacks of pot, the side-effects of partying too hard. I fell in love with those kids that hot June afternoon, and perhaps they fell a little in love with me, too. We laughed together, and I basked in the glow of their affection for me.
Obviously, the story does not stop here, but that patch of sunlight, with that circle of laughing teenagers, seems like a pretty nice place to hang out for a while. Let’s enjoy it. We have some shadows to get through soon enough.