January rainstorm here in Daygo, wet green trees outside my window, Afrika Bambaata and De La Soul, ginger tea. I’m 43. Some of you are reading this via Facebook, and have known me, or known of me, for 35 years.
When we were little boys. When we were little girls, as Michael Stipe mumbled in ’83, “Catapult,” the Murmur album. A fairly long time ago for REM and the little kids of E.M. Baker School.
Facebook. I didn’t want to join it. Over a year ago, at the behest of Sister Vicki, I did, and it’s been mostly a great experience. With BlackBerry in hand and a gnarly line at B of A, it’s an instant kaffe klatsch with some lovely people. Thanks to Facebook, I communicate exuberantly and often with a Godiva assortment of past faces:
My favorite client from my typing service at Oberlin, whose papers I banged out on my Smith Corona Intrepid, whom I regret not, er, well, banging back in ’85, if we’re speaking of banging…
My estranged cousin’s former wife, who knows the good and bad, the dark caramel family lore, the neuroses and the secrets, whose heart is sweet and big and whose recipes I may one day attempt…
My former shrink’s son, who knows the true meaning of the Carvel Whaley cake, and who shares my lust for Kensington Deli and Christmas…
My old friend’s little sister’s friend from Great Neck, whose long ago boyfriend played in a band called Phantom Toolbooth, who is today a beautiful Brooklynite and kickass funky smart writergirl…
My brilliant carrot-topped classmate of decades ago, who called my dog’s sweet-potato-packed poo “autumnally-hued ordure” and made me laugh at 2:00 AM.
There’s more. It would be a mighty long catalogue, and the above just skims the surface. I’m so glad to reconnect with Melanie of the boundless dry wit and gleaming hair, with the giving and resourceful and hilarious Kerrie, with brave, sweet Laura G.
Anyway, it is all good, this interaction, this engagement.
318 names on my Facebook friend list at the moment. From Baker Hill days, there are some important names. There’s the bespectacled smartypants I shared a bunk with at Ashokan, the Outward Bound sixth grade experience; she’s a friend in real time to whom I am inordinately devoted. The first boy I had a crush on, now a grownup with great taste in music and food. Not too many from Baker, truth be told. Few people were nice to me at that school.
I was a funny-looking kid, tubby, not cute, shy to the point of silence. Dandruff, big glasses, in general, ugh. Book in hand, face to the ground. No shiny pigtails for me.
Homely children have certain advantages. When you’re not perky, cute, stunning and/or charismatic, you have no choice but to cultivate a personality. Back at Baker, I was too shy to show myself to anyone, really, but I was plenty busy, forming the framework of humor and observation for my sassy, loquacious, compassionate, and quite sexy adult self.
For years I hated the little girl I was at Baker. So many kids were jerks. The adults weren’t so hot either. One popular girl became a temporary pariah, enduring two days of teasing from her suddenly-antagonistic cohort. If my memory serves me correctly, someone called her a slut. Not very nice for sixth graders, to be sure. For two days she was shunned and teased, and for this there were grade-wide interventions, assemblies, punishments. I sat there, thinking, wait, these brats throw paper and crumpled milk cartons at me, call me names every damn day. Where is my fucking assembly?
My friend S. tells me to be kinder to the little girl back at Baker. She knew the little girl that was me. She told me once, “I knew her, you know. She wasn’t so bad. She was funny and sweet. Stop saying you want to throw her under a bus.”
For the most part, I have listened to my good friend S. I like that little girl more and more.
There’s someone on Facebook I haven’t friended. Let’s call her L.B. (for Little Bitch). I never played gym — thank you, Miss Holtzer, for poking my (then) upholstered belly and telling me I was fat — and one day L.B. sat on the sidelines with me. Her leg was in a cast, you see. She was tiny and adorable in her big cast and tight black curls.
I was shy, per usual, but took a chance: “L.B., how does your leg feel?”
L.B.: “Stop looking at me, you’re making my leg hurt more.”
Oh, L.B. You’re 43 now. Blonde. Maybe you’re nice. Who knows. To you, I will say this: I hope your leg hurts when it rains.