There are certain people from your childhood whom you never forget. You were one of those people. Bigger than life. Quick to laugh. Quick to anger. Slow to cool. That's my take, but then that's probably what you thought of me as well.
You got to Arlington a couple of years before I did. And when I got there, I was miserable. I was ahead of you guys in reading by a full book. Math, I don't remember so much, but I know I was ahead of where the teacher placed me. It took a couple of weeks before I met you while I grappled with the teachers. But when I moved into Language Arts with you and JS, we soon became a pretty tight little trio.
My first clear memory must have been late October, just before my birthday. My mom told me I could have ONE friend over. I had two friends. You and JS and I had no idea how to pick just one of you without the other getting their feelings hurt. I decided whoever lived closer would be the one to come over and presented that to you both. Tracy, you managed to convince me that you lived closest. JS was kind pissed about that, but I guess she was used to the way you worked and didn't fight it too much.
Soon after that, I remember your math teacher announcing to all of the third grade, "Everyone who belongs in the high math class, come over here."
I bristled, still in the second high class, where I didn't think I belonged. "I oughta go," I muttered.
You heard me and egged me on. "She said if you belong. You belong."
And so I went.
Things weren't always that easy between us, though. Another day, probably not too long after that, I bucked your authority. You and JS had this agreement. You worked until number X on whatever worksheet, then waited for the other person to catch up. Then worked another 10 problems, etc, etc. That way you could both turn in your papers at the same time. Really, though, you were usually the last done and you didn't want to be the only one turning in your paper.
The problem was, I was a speed freak and easily bored. I wanted to be done so I could read a book. And one day ... I saw how far behind JS was. And then how far behind you were. And I just kept working. By the time you realized that not only had I gone past number ten (or whatever), but when JS noticed I'd worked ahead, she, too, left you behind.
I think about this particular situation a lot. We were what, 10? This was 30 fucking years ago, but to this day, Tracy, to this day, I feel badly about it. I wouldn't change it ... but I might try to explain it. I didn't realize then that you didn't want to be the last person to turn something in. I didn't realize you needed that feeling of "pack" when you turned in an assignment. I just knew I was bored already and I wanted to read my book. I was not prepared for you to burst into tears when you saw we'd both worked ahead. I hadn't intended to hurt you and I've always felt badly that I did.
It wasn't long after that we had our first fight. Well, fight by proxy. You "hired" one of the boys to beat me up at recess. Unfortunately, you picked a boy who fought like a girl, scratching rather than punching, and a girl who fought like a boy. Amazingly, no teachers seemed to notice. No crowd gathered.
Most of the time, though, we got along in third grade. And mostly in fourth. By then, it was Tracy, JS, Annette, Jenny and I. I often wonder why the four of you hung out with me. I was so different from the other kids. I like to think it was because of my imagination. But eventually, the differences between you and I became too much, Tracy. Despite the fact that you and I united darn near all of the third grade at the end of the year to re-enact an epic recess of Star Wars ... or an early version of Space Balls ... our big scene was Vader and Leia coming out of her cell, drunk and singing "How Dry I Am" ... we were both just too bull-headed to remain in a group together.
Tracy, I'm sorry. It wasn't until long after college and grad school that I learned what we had in common. For you it was your mom. For me, it was my dad. Those out-of-control parents shaped our childhoods and made us more alike than I realized. You wanted to control your situation. I get that now. I was a loose cannon, sowing dissent. It's no wonder you continued hiring boys to fight me until I finally got the point and drifted away from your group and "your" softball team.
I was tired of fighting. I gave you our friends. I gave you the pitcher's spot on the softball team. I just didn't see the point in everything being a personal battle.
Even still, you didn't make my life easy after that. There were the digs about my not being the stereotypical girl. Hints that I was crazy. And I admit, I was a very messed up little kid at that point. I hated Arlington. I hated my parents. I felt a connection to very little, so losing my friends, too? That was really, really hard. I get why you needed them. And I'm glad you had them. I mean, you guys were friends all the way through high school and into college and that, Tracy, that is something special.
We weren't done with our rivalry, though. We went to junior high and we both latched on to Mrs. Ward as a surrogate mom. I still didn't know that there were problems with your mom. I don't know that you realized how difficult my family situation was. Once more, though, we were competing for someone's attention. You were the first to call her Mom when she got pregnant, but I quickly followed suit.
I think we were both devastated when she lost the baby. October 27. I don't remember the year any more, but I've never forgotten the date.
And then, my mother transferred me to the other junior high and I lost track of you. Even after we were at the same high school, somehow we just never crossed paths again.
I never stopped thinking about you, though. I remember the day you invited me over and we played in the woods all afternoon. We found some Fisher Price Adventure People toys in the creek, abandoned. We took them back to your house, gleefully liberated. It was, all in all, a joyous day. One of the best I can ever remember in Arlington.
And every time over the years that I remembered you, I remembered that day as well. With all the personality clashes we as strong-willed kids had ... that day was awesome. Happy.
And I've never forgotten it.
I've thought about trying to find you a few times. I've talked with Annette off and on over the last few years. Never head back from JS or Jenny. But I never could find you.
Tonight I logged into my blog stats and there you were. There are a few iconic people from my childhood: Chris Balcezak was one. Tracy McGuire was another. People with whom I didn't always get along, but always felt a connection to.
As with Chris, after seeing your name in my stats, I googled you only to find out that you, too, had passed away.
Chris died near the end of 2003. I didn't learn about it until ... well ... just days after you died, Tracy. May of 2008.
In May of 2008, we should all three have been looking forward to turning 40.
I'm sorry I wasn't a better friend, Tracy. I'm sorry I didn't pick up on the things you and your dad tried so hard to hide about your mom. All I could see was how wonderful your dad was, probably because mine was such an ass.
I'm sorry I couldn't deal with your control issues any better than you coped with mine.
Most of all, I'm sorry you left the party so early, Tracy. You deserved better, more. I hope you made the most of it and enjoyed it all to the fullest.
Posted by Red Monkey at July 1, 2013 11:15 PM |
Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping.
I'm glad you didn't completely give up here, because I can't respond to you on the baking soda post anymore. I miss the good old days when blogging was "in". Sigh.July 7, 2013 10:34 PM