When I look back at my childhood, I hardly ever think about the fourth grade. My teacher wasn’t particularly memorable. I had no strong feelings about her either way. Her classroom had the only piano outside of the music room and she was obsessed with teaching us how to speak French. I learned to sing a lot of songs in French that year. I don’t remember any of them now, but speaking (and singing) in French is the first of only five things I recall from that school year.
The second thing I remember is the time I lost three teeth in one afternoon. That meant three trips to the drinking fountain and three envelopes for tooth storage. It seemed important at the time, and it probably earned me seventy-five cents to spend on candy. In 1985 I could have bought two candy bars with that cash.
I was runner-up in the district wide spelling bee after spelling “course” instead of “coarse.” That’s right. Runner up.
That’s all I want to say about that.
And I will never ever forget the Mother’s Day program that year. Instead of making the usual three-ring bound cookbook covered with wallpaper scraps, we invited the moms in for a live musical performance. We sang the annoying song, “Parents Are People.” Its melody is seared in my brain for life. Google it if you dare.
But the most memorable event in fourth grade was the official breakup of the friendship between me and my best friend, Angie.
I had met Angie on the first day of second grade. She was the new kid in class and we hit it off immediately. We created a foursome with two other girls and called ourselves “The Gull Lake Four” (because apparently none of us were very creative). Through the magical childhood hour of recess, our friendship even survived having different teachers in the third grade.
Or did it? I guess the beginning of the end was when I became good friends with another Angie who was in the same third grade classroom with me. By the time fourth grade rolled around things were getting complicated. The Angies were not interested in being friends with each other and I was forced to choose. Recess time was becoming unmanageable. The first Angie had so many other playground opportunities, we agreed that we would stop spending recess together.
And as any grade school child knows- not hanging out at recess means it’s over. She ended up with another Jenny (because in the eighties, all girls were named Angie and Jenny) and that was the end of our friendship.
Jenny hated that I existed, which secretly pleased me. In the fifth grade I wrote Angie a letter telling her how sorry I was, and that I didn’t have any bad feelings toward her. Jenny yelled at me on the playground. She told me to stop sending her best friend “love letters” which was a poor retaliation at best. Angie came to my defense. We were never friends again, but we remained friendly throughout high school.
It seems like nothing now, but I believe it stands as the only friendship I ever ended intentionally. All other relationships simply faded, as they often do. I know at the time it mattered more than anything, but the memories are fuzzy now. That’s how life works.
That’s the part that stays with me now; the fact that the world was so small when we were young. There was nothing else. Everything mattered on a grander scale because the people who surrounded us were going to be there every day for what might as well have been forever. Remember what a kid year felt like?
Kid years are long gone, but in my adult life I have felt a similar thing. I get stuck feeling as if my current situation is all there is, but there is a sea of coworkers and classmates out there that once mattered- and I can’t even remember most of their names. We live many lives in our short lifetime. I know that now, but there was no possible way to understand that when I was nine.
I’m trying to remember this about Teghan. It’s so hard to wrap my mind around, because my world experiences are always getting in the way. We all believe we will grow up and be different. We will be the parents who get it. What happens? Experience makes us see the world clearer. It also makes it almost impossible to imagine not knowing what we know.
Right now Teghan’s world is a very small place. The things that happen at school, which are often a mystery to us, are everything to her. Every word we say means more now. Every disappointment means more now. Every success and failure means more now. She hasn’t lived long enough to know what forgetting feels like. And I don’t remember what THAT feels like.
She doesn’t interact typically with other children, but I don’t know what’s in her head. Does she care about the kids in her class? Does she like being with them? If she was placed in a new class, how much would her feelings factor into my decision? Even when I know best, it isn’t always fair. In her world my experience means nothing. It only creates obstacles for her. And that will be true forever. Or until it isn’t true for her.
I had to sit down and really think about what I remember from the fourth grade. I remember people who mattered in a vague sort of way, as if it were a movie I saw. I have no attachment to the characters anymore, but I bet I spent at least a kid year crying over that friendship.
When we are young we don’t know what it feels like to get over things and forget; no concept of moving forward from disappointment so far that we don’t even know it anymore. It takes practically forever to find that out for ourselves. Right now I am trying to remember that my kid is still facing forever every single day.