Trailing through my photos this summer in a feeble attempt at organization, I stumbled across pictures of my elementary school days. I found this classic shot of me with some of my fifth grade pals. Of course I chuckled. How could I not? I'm wearing a puka bead necklace for crying out loud. Then it dawned on me. This is me at age ten — the same age as my son is now. It's freaky. And by freaky, I'm not just referring to my gap toothed smile and tragic bowl cut.
Our son is going into grade five this year. It's hard to believe, but I did the math and it's correct (coincidentally, my arithmetic ability stops abruptly at fifth grade level).
I decided to introduce the ten-year-old him to the ten-year-old me. I told my son a bit about my fifth grade experience. I also shared a little about each of the kids in this photograph (their stories are below the photo if you're interested).
Before you send your kids back to school, why not dig up a photo of you at the grade level your child is entering? Even make it a yearly BTS tradition. What a wonderful way to bridge the gap between generations by sharing a little of yourself with your kids in this easy, time-warp sort of way.
That's me in the "Vancouver 81" t-shirt. I was ten. On my left (in the lavendar blouse) is Tiffany. She and I have been best friends since the third grade. We still are. We grew up together, but at the same time, we've never actually grown up all the way. We're sure to be old ladies, rocking furiously together in our pimped out rocking chairs, throwing our heads back and laughing hard until one of us spits out our false teeth.
Beside Tiff is the boy who I had a mad crush on. He and I built forts together and played with our Star Wars action figures in his yard. We tore around the neighbourhood on our bikes, climbed trees and jumped on pogo sticks. Though I secretly loved him with all my heart, he only ever saw me as a buddy. But that was okay. The memories I have of him are sweet and I wouldn't change a thing.
Lorraine, pictured below my "boy friend," was a sweetheart and still is. I played my first video game at her house. She rented an Atari system for her birthday and we partied hard. We reconnected on Facebook and I learned that she and I are both proud mums of special girls. Lorraine is rocking the parent thing and she inspires me in so many ways.
I pointed out each child to my son and told him their stories. For the purpose of privacy I will mention the rest only by initial here.
R was the first person to tease me. It happened in grade two. He called me Poo Coat. Silly, but it hurt at the time. Looking back on it and knowing now about his current lifestyle, I understand how he may have struggled to fit in.
T was the first boy I ever kissed. It was on a dare. It wasn't particularly pleasant, nor unpleasant. There were no fireworks or angels singing. It just was.
D was the first boy I "went around with." Did you ever call it that? We went to McDonalds together and he bought me a cheese burger.
We played "dance club" in L's basement and listened to Deep Purple cranked up high in her room. She was quiet at times, but had a firey spark in her that I always admired. She grew up to be a successful business women, an athlete and mother. That spark has served her well.
A was the first friend to make me doubt myself. She left me out and made me feel insecure. I questioned my self worth. I didn't understand the complexities of manipulation at the time. A year later she came crawling back. I forgave her, but I never trusted her again.
M was one of my closet friends. We lost touch somewhere during Junior High and I missed her. How could we have been so close, and then grown so far apart? We spent countless days roller skating, swimming at the local pool and doing gymnastics on the lawn. We shared secrets and I wanted to be like her. I lost track of her after I moved away. But again, through the magic of Facebook, we've reconnected. She always comments on my blog posts and updates and supports me in everything I do. That connection, that bond of friendship is still there. It turns out it was never lost after all, but merely sidetracked. Real friends don't ever really leave you.
E and I met in grade 5 and become fast friends. She was the smartest person I knew. She struggled to fit in and always seemed to have something to prove. But when we were together, E was just E. She always made me strive for more, to be better, to learn more, to know more. I'll always be grateful to her for that. We stayed close friends well into our adulthood. When my daughter was diagnosed with challenges and my focus shifted from free and easy to family first, she left. She told me I wasn't "fun" anymore. Maybe real friends do leave?
Son, choose your friends wisely. Treat them with kindness and respect and expect the same from them. Grade five will come and go in a flash and leave you with memories you will cherish and that will help shape you into the man you will soon become.
I'd love to see a photo of YOU in all your school days glory! Feel free to share in the comments below.