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Thursday, July 24, 2008

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A Memoirist is Born


The winter I was nine years old and in grade four, my parents separated, and I moved away to New Brunswick to live with my mother and six-year-old sister. Forever. Or so I thought.

In an act of emotional valiance or sheer, self-immolating recklessness (I still have trouble telling which from which), I sat down and penned a letter to the boy I'd loved with every breath in my body since my eyes beheld him on the first day of second grade. The boy —let's call him David O'Neill, because David O'Neill was his name— was a dreamboat. He had the dusky olive skin and the thickly lashed dark eyes that are so prevalent on the coast I am from, where Irish and French blood mingle like salt and fresh waters in an estuary. He was quiet. He was smart. He was nice.

I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but I'm guessing the jist of it was, "You are smart and nice. I love you."

I vividly remember the spirit, if not the words, with which I wrote, the now-or-never imperative of a moment poised on the precipice of forever.

Forever turned out to be about nine months. My parents reconciled, and I returned to my hometown to begin fifth grade at my old elementary school in September.

A gentleman in possession of such a letter might write back, thanking the tender lady for her candour. He might rail against cursed destiny that he could not return her affections. He might make up any manner of excuse to lay a jacket of kindness over the mud puddle of her indiscretion: "I'm gay/engaged/sworn to the priesthood" are all serviceable white lies in such an instance.

I regret to tell you that David did not do with my letter as a gentleman might. He did not do as my own nine-year-old son would most likely do, which is shrug, toss it in the trash and go back to playing Star Wars. David O'Neill did the very thing you are fearing most he did, and took the letter to school and SHOWED EVERYONE.

My reputation never recovered. I am still thought of as that girl who puts it all out there. And in many ways, I guess I am.

David, if you ever read this, I hope you lost all your hair by twenty-five. Just kidding. CALL ME. No, better yet, WRITE ME.

I won't show anyone.

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Blogger Geoff Meeker said...

Priceless. We are so fortunate that you DO put it all out there, emotional bruises and all.

Little did David know away back then that his indiscretion would become fodder for a widely-read blog post. Such sweet, if good natured, vengeance!

Great photo, too, of you putting crayon to paper.

8:20 AM  
Blogger MoxieMamaKC said...

5th grade? There is nothing worse than 5th grade mortification, at least until you get to junior high. I'm glad you've recovered! Wonderful picture of you coloring.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Lara said...

Hi, soul sister! I, too, put it all out there. Boys in high school (and some in college) just didn't know what to do with me...oh the letters I wrote.
I loved your panel in SF. And your writing - god, the aching beauty of your writing!

9:30 AM  
Blogger She She said...

Ergh! I wrote a heartfelt letter to a boy in my school when I was 9. I actually quoted some Olivia Newton John lyrics (I honestly love you...). Jeff Roach, living up -- or down -- to his name, showed everyone. I'm almost over it.

10:14 AM  
Blogger beth♥ said...

So brilliant! Mine was George Dedudjian and I "put it all out there" by chasing him down every day and tackling him so that I might plant a kiss on his cheek. Apparently, words were too subtle for me.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

Heh. Mine was the other way round--his name was Robert, his letters really sweet, and yet, I behaved like the 7th-grade asshole I was and used them as social currency. Your post makes me want to write him a letter of apology ...

1:40 PM  
Blogger Jennifer H said...

See, I would wish that all the hair on his head had migrated to his back.

(This: "lay a jacket of kindness over the mud puddle of her indiscretion" --perfect. Wish my pen would write things like that.)

2:45 PM  
Blogger Ellen-Mary said...

OMG! I did this when we moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island in the first grade. Then I ended up staying an extra two weeks in Brooklyn with Grandma because I couldn't get into my new school right away. His name was Christopher and he loved dinosaurs so I drew a picture of a T-rex then professed my undying love. Yeah, he showed everyone. Luckily I did move away but those two weeks took forever. Years later I ended up in highschool with a girl who knew him. According to her he turned out to be a geek but I'll bet he still had beautiful blue eyes and sandy blond hair.

I haven't thought of him in years. Thanks ... I think.

7:37 PM  
Blogger elaine said...

Writing well is the best revenge.

This is a classic post. And you have some wonderful Kyranisms in it like " jackets of kindness" and "mud puddles of indiscretion." Brilliant.

Thank you for adding a smile to the start and the end of my day.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

i have "kyranisms!" somehow that makes me feel both known and loved. :-) thanks.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

That almost exact thing happened to me - really! - with a boy named Sean Spears. Except it was grade 8. And he later regretted it, and wrote me a letter using extensive quotes from Iron Maiden which I saved in a shoebox for years and showed people and laughed ('omg he was a METALHEAD har har')

I wish that I still had that letter. Both of them.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Mrs. G. said...

At least you were articulate. Most of my grade school love letters went along the lines of:

I like you. Do you like me? Circle

Yes or No

1:10 AM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

How little I knew you !

11:56 AM  
Blogger Squeaker Sullivan said...

I guess it happens to most people at least once. Mine was Richie Nelson, and we rode the same bus to and from school. I was in 7th grade, but he, oh, he was an older, more mature 8th grader. I wrote him a simple, "I like you because you're cute and funny. Want to go out?" on my puppy stationary, and he decided to read it out loud on the way home the same day. I was crushed.

Do we ever really get over these things?

1:17 PM  
Blogger said...

One time, in high school, I tried to write a letter to Greg Levine telling him that I did have a crush on him and the only reason I didn't go into the bathroom alone with him after we were naked from strip poker was because I had a yeast infection. My friend Beth read the letter first and said she'd throw herself in front of a bus if it got to Greg. For some reason I chose to save her life. She saved mine.

2:09 PM  

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