I hated high school. I don’t mean dislike. I mean bonafide loathing. People who consider high school the best years of their life are entirely foreign to me. I just don’t get it.
My first two years in high school were spent staying aloft in the chaos that was my mother’s life, fighting stress, and taking refuge in dancing school. In my junior year, over the weekend of the junior prom, circumstances with my mother and the psychopath she married got violent, so I left to live with my grandparents.
“Okay, honey, I’ll be right there.”
I felt lost in high school. I didn’t fit there. I bet many kids felt that way, but the only place I fit was at Connie’s school. I was upset, confused, and ever so full of myself. My friends kept me afloat in that sea of turmoil. I had some good friends.
I hung out in the school library with Tracey. She was a diehard Beetles fan and was desperately and very seriously in love with John Lennon. I went to her house once after school and was floored by her homage to the Fab Four. She seemed to have the entire upstairs to herself. One room was her bedroom, and the other room, a little bigger than a walk in closet, was devoted entirely to the Beetles. Every inch of every wall was plastered with pictures. It was the coolest, most profound demonstration of true and obsessive love I’d ever seen, and it towered miles high in devotion over my shrine to Dolly Parton, whom I adored. I’ve never forgotten that room.
Tracy and I would spend entire class periods hanging out in the library’s private reading room listening to John Lennon and Dolly on the record player. We were juniors when John Lennon was assassinated. I was sitting on a desk in Advanced Biology, and Tracey appeared at the door with a black band on her arm and fresh tears of mourning streaming down her face. She’d lost her first true love. To this day, Tracey still carries a torch for John, just as I will always adore Dolly. Some teenage crushes never go away.
I completely lost track of Tracey after high school. I got involved with Leslie, and our relationship moved me 3,000 miles across the United States. We had a baby; we’ve bought and sold houses, and moved across country twice. I’m still here 27 years later. A few years back, Tracey appeared on Facebook. It was crazy to hear from her again. She gave me hell for changing my name because it made me difficult to find. We’ve been Facebook friends ever since, reliving old times and getting reacquainted.
Tracey has been married to the same man for years. She got her teaching degree and taught elementary school in Floyd County in between having four incredibly beautiful and well-adjusted children. She’s highly opinionated, politically minded, and is an advocate for the LGBT community in the college where she teaches. She runs a learning resource center, and a bunch of people report to her. What’s more, she loves her job and the people who work for her. She’s a success story.
When my unemployment ended unexpectedly in mid-September and Leslie and I felt the bottom fall out of our financial security, Tracey was one of the few who offered us substantial help. I got a message from her on Facebook asking me if I wanted to remotely tutor her students. There were papers to be reviewed, and things to do! She offered me a temporary, part-time position that I desperately needed.
I talked to Tracey over the phone the other day, and doing so was a blast from the past. She sounds much as I remember her, but she’s picked up a regional accent that I find delightful. I had trouble expressing my gratitude.
You know, we grow up with certain people in our lives, and they have so much to do with how we navigate our world. When I was a teenager, my friends anchored me, kept me from floating away, but I didn't expect most of them to hang around for long. I rarely look to the past for my solace, and have gotten the hang of living in the now. That’s what makes Tracey so remarkable to me. She wasn’t content to sit in the past on Facebook. She insinuated herself right into my present, and she did it when I needed her the most.
Thank you, Tracey.