We went to the same school in 8th and 9th grade. And beyond all reasonable expectation or assumptions, we became friends. Really good friends. The other day she came to mind as in invaded my brain. I hadn’t thought of her in years… and years. Hadn’t seen her in at least twenty-five years, but suddenly I couldn’t get her out of my mind. So I did what any logical person would do—I looked her up on Facebook. I didn’t find her although I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching. I mean, who’s not on Facebook? I know, I know—lots of people aren’t on Facebook, but still. I did uncover her parents and a sister.
Anyway, a torrent of memories from those years unleashed—some embarrassing moments I’d like to forget along with a couple escapades I let myself get talked in to. Those particular memories were followed closely by prayers of thanksgiving that what might’ve happened didn’t. If we only knew then how much the decisions we make, the relationships we develop, and the values we choose to embrace or ignore would impact our lives… forever. If only we could process the fact that so few of the moments/events/issues we felt certain would end our world in the next ten seconds would matter at all in the greater scheme of things. If only…
It would be amazing if all those important life lessons we learn the hard way in junior high could be downloaded at the “Life Lessons Store.” Stuff like how to be a good friend, and how to weather the ups and down of family life, that whole learning to be comfortable with ourselves and stand up for ourselves gig, and let’s not forget that ‘ole admitting when we’ve messed up bit that goes hand in hand with offering forgiveness when others do likewise.
Funny how all this looking back happened just days before I picked up, to read in its entirety, my writing partner’s debut novel. You see, we get sections and chapters and pieces of each other’s stories as they are created but what a treat to read the final version in one piece!
Cynthia Toney’s “Bird Face” captures all of the above mentioned junior high-ness and more in the real-world tale of almost fourteen-year-old Wendy Robichaud whose life is anything but carefree, perfect or easy. She struggles with self-image, friendships, family issues, dashed dreams—the stuff real-life junior highers deal with on a daily basis–as well as tougher issues like eating disorders and suicide. And when Wendy discovers that hers is not the only less than perfect life, readers are reminded that even those who appear to have everything going for them usually don’t. Ten to fourteen-year-olds will see themselves and their friends in the cast of characters surrounding Wendy.
“Bird Face” is a great read for parents, too, especially those whose children are in or will soon enter the tween years. Getting tossed back umpteen years to the time when they themselves walked or rather stumbled through the uncertain and often times unfriendly halls of a junior high school is a good thing. Read up, mom and dad, then share this great story with your son or daughter.
Because the search for my former classmate didn’t end with Facebook—I can be a tad bit obsessive—my inbox is now inundated with promises and appeals from one of those helpful companies who wants to assist me in locating my long lost friend for a fee. No thanks. My curiosity has waned somewhat so I’m not sure if I’ll continue the search. But since I’m also cheap, rest assured I won’t be paying for any information. I’ll hit up the free services of Facebook again and send her mom a message. Sounds like a plan, right?
What do you remember most about junior high?