Grad For The Uncool Girl

She was uncool and she didn’t know how to pose

Warning: This one’s a bit long – over 2000 words.

Grad seems to be such a big deal for a lot of people. I wonder if anyone actually enjoys it. I wonder if anyone looks back and says they are glad it all happened.

There’s this one girl I know who tried her best to avoid being involved in the grad hoopla. She refused to sign up for the prom dinner.

Her principal found out she wasn’t buying a ticket and asked her why.

“Waste of time and money,” she said. “I just want out of this system. I can’t handle one more minute of it than absolutely necessary.”

He tried to convince her to go, saying it was important, saying it would be fun, saying she’d regret not going. He even offered to pay for her ticket, which, in 1985, was $50 for the fancy dinner and venue in downtown Vancouver. She told him she’d think about it.

It wasn’t that she didn’t have the money. She was a purveyor of plant products of the illegal kind, and other substances forbidden for sale in her country. She had money.

In the end, she decided to go, though reluctantly. She can’t recall if she ended up accepting her principal’s offer to buy her ticket or if she bought it herself. She does know she was increasingly stressed as the days toward graduation progressed.

She tried on dresses at the ritzy Holt Renfrew and found one she loved. It was a strapless, shiny little number, with a white corset-like top that flowed out into layers of pastel downward-facing tulip petals for a calf-length skirt. That one was a few hundred dollars. She saw the same ones at Le Chateau for less than a hundred. Maybe they were imitations.

Either way, she knew the dress was too fancy for her. Besides, she thought, there was no point in spending money on a dress she’d only wear once, for an event that didn’t move her in the least.

Ultimately, she opted for a $20 ivory cotton gauze dress. It was of 1970s vintage. It was unearthed at a Kitsilano consignment store on West 4th. The woman who owned the shop said the girl ought to wear black underthings beneath it because the boys would go wild.

That wasn’t going to happen. Boys would not care because they didn’t look at her regardless of what she wore.

Later that summer, some weeks after grad, she cut the dress into a crop top and a skirt to be worn separately, to get more mileage out of it.

There was a ceremony that bored her half to death. That consisted of sitting in a room behind a stage with a few hundred of her peers, wearing a square cap with a tassel, and a satin robe.

Why the outfit? What did it mean, other than heat and discomfort in the month of June in that hemisphere? She had no idea, but later heard it was a tradition started of necessity during the Middle Ages, when university buildings were unheated, and students needed robes for warmth. Some sources believe its roots go back to Druidic priests and Roman Catholic clerics, with something to do with trying to create a semblance of unity. She calls it unoriginality.

Whatever the reason, it seemed unnecessarily hyped up, and her preference would have been to simply walk out of the school building after her final class and never look back.

So, there was that ceremony. She waited till her name was called in the alphabetical list of hundreds of young adults. She walked out onto the stage to get her diploma, shook the principal’s hand, received obligatory applause, and returned to the back room.

Another uncool brick in the overheated wall.

During that week, there was a party at the beach. Everyone was under the legal drinking age, but they were all drinking aplenty. When the police showed up, the guy with whom she was talking said, “If they see us making out, they’ll leave us alone.”

Before she could say “Huh?”, the guy had her in his arms and was kissing her.

It worked. But even after the cops passed by, the makeout continued. The important thing was that the police left them alone.

Maybe the cops would have ignored them anyway and the guy:

A: was drunk
B: was sneaky and not to be trusted
C: had a crush on the girl, as one of his friends had said
D: all of the above

He wasn’t her type and it never went anywhere after that evening.

The next morning, there was a grad breakfast at the school cafeteria. Hundreds of underage hungover humans showed up to eat pancakes.

The week ended with the girl putting curlers in her freshly washed hair, readying for her pre-selected “date” to pick her up (thanks to her best friend who was part of the committee who pre-selected those dates based on things like height. Her buddy wasn’t aware that the guy chosen for her friend was someone with whom the girl had shared a mutual disdain ever since they were in grade 4 together, as she had gone to a different elementary school than her friend. By the time she told her, it was too late to rearrange.)

The guy was on his way to pick her up in his dad’s car. The girl’s long blonde hair was still damp when she took the curlers out. She fluffed it up as best she could with hairspray and went out the door. She was happy to hear Dire Straits music in the car.

“Right on! You like Dire Straits?” said the girl.

“Yeah, they’re a great band. I have all their tapes there.”

He pointed to a cassette case and she saw them all in it, even the latest one at the time, Brothers In Arms.

The guy was redeemed in her mind, but still they listened in silence.

Their first stop was the high school, to gather with their class in the gym for photos. The zoo of grads were lined up on bleachers – the young women on one side, the young men on the other.

Click. Click. Click. Photos were shot for the high school yearbook. Then the grads were free to leave. Some hung around for other photos. Some never showed up at all, choosing instead to meet in a park for clandestine consumption of alcohol.

Their next stop was an hour away in downtown Vancouver. More Dire Straits tunes played, pulled out largely by Mark Knopfler’s fingers on his blue guitar and the musical skills of the rest of the boys in the band totaling beautiful sounds through the bars of a rhyme. Mark’s soulful voice spilled out words to make the absence of conversation comfortable.

The Commodore Ballroom was all set up with fancy linen on the tables and fine food for the meal. Stuffy and uncomfortable it was for the girl, but she sat through it. A moving speech by one of her classmates was heard, 1980s music she didn’t like was played, dancing might have occurred but she paid no mind to it, and then it was time to go.

Her grad partner wasn’t driving back to their hometown right away, though. He was headed straight to the roller rink in Richmond for the grad party.

The girl caught a ride home from one of the vice principals and his wife. She wished that instead of the six-pack of pear cider she lugged along unopened in her backpack she had had the forethought to bring a change of clothes for the party. At the time, though, in her preparations, she was not aware that her date would not be bringing her home after dinner.

Every time they drove over a speed bump in the parking garage, the bottles clinked suspiciously. She tried to squish them together with her feet to reduce the possibility of sound, but the clanging persisted. If the folks in the front seat noticed, they didn’t say. Like the drive with her grad partner, the drive home that night was also without conversation.

Once she got into her house, she madly searched for comfortable clothing. She fished out a pair of red and black leopard print cotton leggings and a big T-shirt from the washing machine – items that would dry quicker than jeans – and put them on their own into the dryer. Her older self would soon learn that wasting electricity on two items like that was unwise, but she was still young and (more) foolish.

Time was running out for her to catch the last bus to Richmond, so with clothing that was not quite dry, she dressed, slung her backpack onto her back, and ran as fast as she could to the bus stop a few blocks away.

She made it in the nick of time, only to learn from the driver that he was headed back to the bus garage for the night. He would not be going through Ladner, where she would need to connect with a bus to take her to the roller rink. The best he could offer was to drop her off on the side of the highway by a Richmond hotel just before the Oak Street bridge that led to Vancouver.

She was the only passenger on the bus. She sat up front and chatted with the driver. They were familiar to each other from previous trips. He didn’t seem to notice or mind that she was chugging pear cider while they drove. He wished her well as he dropped her off on the side of the highway half an hour later.

The girl climbed over a chain link fence and down a grassy hill to the hotel, where she phoned for a taxi.

When she arrived at her destination, she bumped into a few people from various crowds, none of whom were normally part of each other’s circles, but all of whom had a fine enough time sitting in a car smoking weed together and drinking their respective alcoholic beverages before heading into the roller rink.

For most of the evening, the girl sat at a table like a mafia drug dealer, quietly observing the dancing bodies on the roller rink floor, sometimes being joined by people she barely knew.

The music, which was mostly 80s songs she didn’t like, was too loud for conversation, other than by yelling, so she avoided communication unless necessary for business.

Her best friend was off with a boyfriend at the time. The guy the girl herself hopelessly liked for the past few years was avoiding her, as usual, and her other buddies were younger/older/ and therefore not in her grad class.

She was running out of mind-altering substances to be sold, and so the price went up as people vied for what was left. She knew it was unreasonable, but they were willing to pay. They were people who weren’t her regular customers. She figured they must be desperate for mind-alteration. Maybe they were as disillusioned with an existence as presented by twelve years of prison-without-bars as she was.

After the roller rink closed, the girl and a few people she barely knew – for she barely knew most of the people with whom she spent all those years in classrooms – went to Denny’s for breakfast. They had camaraderie until she walked away alone. The sun’s first light painted the sky with shades of rose as she waited for the bus.

The best part of grad week was conversation with another girl she had hitherto only vaguely known. They talked with great depth for the next hour on the bus ride home, finding that they shared a lot in common. They parted with a mutual “I wish we’d gotten to know each other better all the years we spent in that wretched school system.”

They are still friends to this day, thirty-three years later. But who knows – they might have gotten to know each other some other way, too.

The girl wishes she would have not bothered with any of the grad hullabaloo. She has never actually used the word “hullabaloo” out loud, but it seemed to fit with the ordeal. She would like to say she instead stayed home and watched Benny Hill reruns and read books that night – books of her choosing because she loved to read and not because a teacher assigned them to her.

She would like to tell others that if they don’t want to participate in grad events, they should follow through with their desire and do what they’d prefer.

Go ahead and be uncool. It’s cooler than being cool.

Epilogue: Two years later, the girl came to know and believe that Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, died and rose again, to pay the price to unite her with God forever. She is cool in God’s eyes and that is what ultimately matters.

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Into Freedom

Some songs hurt too much to hear because someone I love has left their earthly body and gone to be with Jesus, and the song was special to them and to me. Memories fill in the spaces between the lyrics and blend with the sounds of the instruments, reaching out with silken tentacled arms that wrap around my throat and squeeze.

“Into The Mystic” by Van Morrison is at the top of the pain list for reasons of indescribable agony. I love it, but it is playing at a café where I am sitting and it is all I can do not to run outside and cry… yet, I am cemented to my chair with every note cutting into my soul.

I wonder if I am the only one so afflicted by songs heavily drenched with the spirit of someone beloved and missed.

This version by the Zac Brown Band especially tears my heart out. But I am going to be brave and listen, and know in the depths of my heart that I will again see my loved ones who died in Christ, better than before, singing, dancing, pain-free, sin-free, joyously free for eternity!

From The Just Sayin’ Department: Towels

When you grab a clean towel from a shelf in readiment for a bath or shower, always shake the towel free from its folded (or whatever semblance of folding it is in) state before resting it in its wait for drying duty. Give it a shake and inspect it for insects or spiders. After your bath or shower, before employing the towel, check it once more for insects or spiders.

Just sayin’.

Seriously, though. This is especially important if you dry your laundry outdoors.

“Squeak”

“Squeak”, said the cupboard door, as I opened it to put glasses away from the drying rack.

How did those glasses get into the drying rack? I cleaned the kitchen before bed last night. There was nothing in the drying rack then. And for that matter, why are there crumbs on the island’s cutting board top?

Not that the cupboard door cares, even if I had asked out loud. Its sole purpose this morning is to yell at me.

“You need to get the WD40, wench. Do it, or I’m gonna squeak and squack and wake up your kids. I don’t CARE that you only had four hours of sleep last night. And woah there, missy! Backspace and correct that spelling error. It’s SQUAWK, not ‘squack’. Idiot.”

Eyeballs plugged into a head full of pain glare out from this thing called Christine and say, “Screw you,” not just to the cupboard, who MIGHT get its wish commanded if I remember to write it on the to-do notebook’s latest page, but to everything in and out of sight.

I turn on the kettle and don’t bother grinding coffee. Earl Grey is my friend, though he has little to say. I’m cool with that today, for I don’t want to talk anyway.

Sweetest Song I Know

I can’t get enough of Armor Music Ministry’s a capella version of this song. Maybe you will like it, too.

“Sweetest Song I Know”

Verse:
I’ve heard them sing “He Paid The Price” and “Jesus Bore It All”
I’ve heard them sing  “I’m Coming Home” and “Hear The Master’s Call”
I’ve heard them sing the modern songs and songs of long ago
But, “Amazing Grace”, is the sweetest song I know

Chorus:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
No sweeter song could ever be found
And I’ve heard of a fountain filled with blood
But, Amazing Grace, is the sweetest song I know

Verse:
It was the song my mother sang in sweet and humble voice
Like music from the world above, it makes my soul rejoice
Those soothing words and melodies, like rippling waters flow
But, Amazing Grace, is the sweetest song I know

Chorus

Repeat chorus

(I dedicate this song to my friend, GeeDub. May it make him smile and dance.)

Friendship Like This

im-just-going-to-come-right-out-and-say-it-23327841.png

O, to have a friend with whom sweet fellowship is shared,

Whose love is real and unretractable

Who sees my flaws and doesn’t try to fix them

Who can tell me he hates me but we know it’s a lie

Who laughs with – not at – me

Who lets me spoil him and doesn’t expect or demand

Unselfish love.

So rare a love.

The kind that lasts forever.

Hang on to those friends with love.

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity (love) these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”(1 Corinthians 13:13)

What’s Up With Poetry?

Trees behind a mossy roof at the old Alexandra Bridge parking area near Spuzzum, BC

I notice that on WordPress, the blog posts that get the most attention are poems. Lots of people like them and the discussion that follows is often lively. What’s up with that? Hmm, maybe I ought to post a poem? I’ll think about it.

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, I did it. I wrote a poem and posted it here: A Muse

My Mother’s Hand

My sister’s hand holding our mother’s hand

One year ago to the day, my mom left this world.

I dreamed about her last night. It was as though she had never left. We went swimming together in an indoor pool within a huge log house with lots of windows letting in sunshine through a filter of tall evergreens. Later in the dream, we met up again with plans to return to the pool. Nothing at all crossed my mind to hint she had died. It seemed totally normal.

Man, I love dreams. That was a good one.

Only in the past few days have I begun to go through the boxes of my mom’s stuff that I brought up here last year. The thing that gets me the most is seeing her writing. Her nice, neat, left-handed writing was the same since I was little up until the notes she made during her final week in her old home.

Here is a photo my sister sent to my cell phone a year ago while a few of my kids and I were an hour into the drive on which we embarked after hearing the news of my mom having suffered a massive stroke. My mom was unconscious in a hospital bed as my sister held her hand and took that picture.

That’s the hand that penned letters, words, and thoughts I will always cherish. That’s the hand that raised me. That’s the hand that led me with love.

I didn’t get there in time. My mom passed away a couple hours after that photo was taken.

Some will understand when I say I will see my mom again and things will be better than ever. I look forward to that.

How To Not Get Distracted

Classic shot of something that has nothing to do with the blog post: yesterday’s lunch

The link I am about to share is for an article I enjoy reading, at least the amount I’ve gotten to read so far. I’ve had it open in a window on my computer for the past few weeks. I read a little here, a little there, but I keep getting distracted, so I’ve not finished reading the whole thing. Maybe you’ll find it helpful. If so, do let me know some things that stood out to you, or any other tips you may have on productivity and staying focused.

Here’s the link: How To Not Get Distracted