When I was in sixth grade I had a crisis. I was awkward, shy, skinny, and pasty white. Kids would say I looked like a Q-Tip with arms. I was attending my fourth school in six years.
While I had done well making friends at all of my other schools, I was struggling at this point. When I arrived at this school two years before I was not only the “new girl” but I was also the “public school girl.” The nun who taught my class that year did not let me or my classmates forget that I was less of a person because my prior education came at the tax payers’ expense. Her dubbing me “public school girl” was the equivalent of announcing to the world I had leprosy. I was an outcast.
By sixth grade I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke down one Sunday morning as our family prepared breakfast after Mass. The thought of going to school the next day was just too much. When I started to cry my father pulled me aside and took me into his study. He shut the door and we talked.
This was a miracle for many reasons. The first being he doesn’t like tears they make him very uncomfortable; he’s not usually his best until after he eats; and our house was usually chaotic with little time for private father daughter talks.
I confessed to my father that I wanted to be popular. What I meant by popular was that I wanted to have friends and have people like me. He listened to me. He explained the key to making friends was to really listen to people. He also told me he’d find some way to help me.
His help arrived in the mail. He wrote away to Ann Landers and her organization sent me a booklet on how to be popular. Her definition of popular was similar to mine at the time: have friends and be liked by others.
So since I was 12 my biggest wish in life was to have friends. I didn’t want a lot but I wanted true friends.
Perhaps it was luck. Perhaps it was the booklet. Perhaps it was the influence of my father. Most likely it was divine intervention as my life has been filled with tremendous friends!
I remember meeting my friend Shelley our freshman year of high school while we had to do the President’s Council on Physical Fitness tests. She held my ankles while I did sit-ups and I did the same. There was no way we could have known then that our friendship would span a lifetime and include college, weddings, children, a divorce, death, and a fire.
There is Christine who was that one true friend that every girl wishes for. She was the one who I stayed up late in the night making plans and solving the world’s problems with. And even though she is now on the other side of the country, she just happens to know when I’m in a dressing room looking for the perfect outfit to wear for a TV interview. Her buoyant texts reminded me that I would do fine no matter what I had on.
I have one friend that I don’t ever see but we text. In the corner of the world I live in I am the only divorced person. This friend is on the receiving end of many rants that I text about the challenges of parenting after divorce, the frustrations, and has been ready to get me out of some awkward dating situations.
I’ve collected new friends on the way. It’s an interesting cornucopia of people; Different age groups, backgrounds, religious, professions but all amazing people.
I remember when my first daughter was born. I held her in the rocking chair that first night and I made wishes for her. I wished that her life would be filled with a few true friends.
This year my daughter was in sixth grade. Unlike her mother her proportions are normal and she does not look like a Q-Tip. Her skin dotted with freckles would never be called pasty. She is the typical sixth grade girl caught between childhood and adolescence.
She has an amazing group of friends. The school principal told me that this group of girls was the nicest he’s worked with in his career. That’s quite a compliment I think.
My daughter has no desire to be “popular.” The word has changed since I was in sixth grade. The kids who are “popular” are mean and bullies. She seems to know who she is and what she values, and I am grateful for this.