Thursday, September 19, 2013

Funny, I Don't Even Remember Having a Frilly Barrette

I was in 4th grade when I learned what the word "frilly" means.  I did not learn in class.  I can hardly recall a thing I learned in that class except that sometimes adults (my teacher that year) are total jerks, and how to spell "mountain".  I learned about "frilly" from Tracy Ross.  I don't know Tracy's origins, but she was in my class that year, and I was aware of her for many years after that, though I cannot recall exactly when she faded into the background and completely out of my awareness.  The only exchange I can recall ever having with Tracy was that day in 4th grade when I walked past her and she declared "oh, I like your barrette!  It's so frilly.  Do you know what "frilly" means?"  I said that I did not and she said "it's when something is very decorative in a sort of delicate and poofy way.  Like lace".  To this day, I think of Tracy when I hear that word, though I must admit, it isn't often; I live a life that's a little too utilitarian for things to be frilly around me.

The thing about Tracy was, she was a social pariah.  When I picture her, I remember a thin girl with brown eyes and unkempt, matted, yellow hair.  She was usually dressed in clothes that looked dirty and frumpy.  No one really spoke to her, but people often said mean things about her.  Like that she had lice.  It seems unlikely to me now, since I don't recall anyone else in my class having lice and frankly, they are very social creatures, but I suppose it's possible.  I had no opinion of Tracy.  I do recall, though, that she would occasionally attempt to enter a conversation, only to be ignored. 

In middle school we all went to the cafeteria in the mornings before school started.  Everyone huddled with their friends.  I remember seeing Tracy there, sitting at the end of the one of the long lunch tables, completely alone.  I remember thinking I should go say hi to her, ask her how she was doing.  I never did, though.  I wanted to visit with my friends, and I had no real desire to be Tracy's friend.  So, I would see her, think she seemed lonely, wonder if my saying hello would make her feel better, then not do anything about it. 

Today, when I think that something is frilly, I wish I'd taken 30 seconds every now and again to chat with Tracy.  She was not an unpleasant girl, despite the faint odor.  She smiled easily, and sat right out in the middle of things, looking approachable.  I wish I'd taken that time, because school can be brutal, socially, and I found it difficult even with a lot of friends.  I felt the urge to be kind, and ignored it.  Would it have made a difference to Tracy?  I have no idea.  Would it have made a difference to me?  Very much so.  When we are kind to others, we feel better.  We affirm for ourselves that we are decent, loving people, and when we do that, we know we deserve to be loved and when we know that, we do not accept anything less.  I know now that if I had offered that kid a smile and a wave in the hall or the cafeteria, my own junior high experience would have been slightly less insufferable. 

I'm telling you this now, because I know, without a doubt, there is probably more than one Tracy Ross in your respective worlds.  I know it might seem awkward, or forced, and I know it might make you think your own friends will think less of you - but please say something kind to your Tracy Rosses.  Anyone who would think less of you for it, does not know your value, their own value or that of the kid sitting alone.  Do it for yourself, and you never know, you might find out there's serious friend material there. 

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