REMEMBERING IMPORTANT DATES.
It happens every March.I think about lovely Carol B., my school chum from 5th grade.The school? Our Lady of Perpetual Help.I'm serious. That was really the name of it.This Roman Catholic School(grades k-8th)is the school I attended from 2nd grade until 8th grade graduation.
She had long, reddish-brown hair, and the palest skin I've ever seen. Almond-shaped, medium-brown eyes. And tiny, sculpted features.I suppose I had a bit of a "crush" on her, though being 11 years old, I would not have known that's what it was called.Carol was also brilliantly intelligent and creative. Intelligent and creative are the traits I would desire in myself, and I would aspire to that, and look for that in partners, long after I lost track of Carol B...
In 9th grade, I attended Tampa Catholic, and Carol went to a public school. I would see her again, just a year later, when my parents and I learned that East Bay High was being expanded, and upgraded. A high school near me!(Tampa Catholic was nearly 50 minutes away)My parents bravely offered to let me choose to attend public school (location-wise, it meant I could participate in after-school activities, something I could not do at T.C. High.Catholic school had offered a great, solid foundation,but it was just too far away).
I quickly chose East Bay High. It felt exhilirating to me. I imagined getting to wear my own, contemporary clothes(I'd worn uniforms to school nearly all my life), and becoming more outgoing(I'd been rather shy, self-conscious, withdrawn--a reputation hard to change, when the kids have known you, all your life).And so, first day of school, I marched into the imposing, crowded cafeteria, wearing red bell-bottoms, and a white turtleneck and a short-sleeved sweater, and immediately spotted a slender, elegant girl, dressed in a white sweater, and tight blue jeans. Carol B. smiled, and I felt excited to see her again.
I had an idea to take a drama class to get over my shyness(I figured I could learn how to speak up, if I were onstage!).We had no drama department, but I was told if I could get 30 signatures, we'd have a drama class. I got 50 signatures--and Carol (who took the class with me)was very helpful in my obtaining them. Ms. Lynette M., our gifted, kind instructor led the department, and in less than three years, we ranked first in the state of Florida, at the Thespian Association's Competition.
Carol and I worked on the school newspaper, Smoke Signals(East Bay High's mascot was "the Indians") together and I remember admiring her daring, as she came dressed as a hobbit for Halloween(her close friend, Marti, dressed as Gollum. I was soooo jealous.Though I wouldn't have known to call it that.).Carol was earth-friendly, way before it became popular, too. Eating mostly veg, and bicycling everywhere.
She wrote in my yearbook, senior year,"I love you Miss Allender. I got to watch you grow up. Take care of Yourself.Carol".I read the words so many times, I felt dizzy, giddy. I still have those words memorized.
A few years ago, I googled her. Her name came up, and it linked to a television show that spotlighted people helping those with cancer.It had a photo of several people. Which I studied closely, searching for her in an official position, helping others, which she always did. There was Carol with very short hair, looking paler than ever. It appeared SHE'D had cancer, but was healing. And indeed, she was giving back. Helping others with cancer, counseling, reaching out.
I decided to try to find her. And when she e-mailed me back, and listed her phone number, I e-mailed her, then decided to call. We spoke for several minutes, and she said "You know, when I met you in 5th grade, I used to always look over at you, and think, that girl with the long black hair, she's so pretty."
"Really?" I asked, surprising myself when my words caught in my throat. "Yes, Lisa."
So we talked some more. I told her how I remembered her dog's-- a pomeranian-- name, Michelle. I asked about her niece(she'd helped take care of her when Carol's only sibling-- an older sis-- was tragically killed in a car accident). I told her I remembered her birthday, March 3rd.
She seemed surprised.
So, I think of Carol every March. For some reason, I have never forgotten her birthday, and I spent a bit of time that day this year, thinking about her, reminiscing, imagining what my life may have been like, if we'd been closer. Perhaps thinking I loved her. But I wouldn't have known to call it that.