Yesterday a guy I knew in elementary school posted a picture of our fourth grade class from Elementary School. I’m the one on the second row, second from the right. Our teacher was named Mrs. Florence, and I remember liking her, even though she said II talked too much. I looked at my little nine-year-old face and wished I could sit myself down and tell myself how it would all shake out. We had just moved to Birmingham, Alabama from Abilene, Texas. This was my first year in a new school and a new city. It would get worse before it got better. Here’s what I wish I could tell myself:
Dear Nine-Year-Old Me,
First of all, you are adorable. I’m not sure where you got the idea that you weren’t as cute as the other girls, but judging from this picture, you were indeed as cute or cuter than them! The 70’s were tough on everybody fashion-wise, and we all still look back with some regret. Keep that beautiful smile. It’ll open some doors and take you some places.
I know it is hard moving to another city and leaving all the friends and support people you’ve ever known. Since your dad was a minister of music at a large Baptist church in town, people loved you and your family. This was back in the day when pastors and ministers were treated really special and people at FBC Abilene loved you to pieces. The Browns were family to you and I know you are crying yourself to sleep at night missing Molly and Brenda.
Elementary school is going to be okay. You’ll make some good friends and it will be fun. You’ll love taking French and you will be a great reader. When 7th grade gets here, things are going to get tough. You are going to “mature” physically before literally anyone else in your grade. You’ll shoot up to a whopping 5’3” tall, taller than anybody else, including the boys. It will suck. Since you got your period last year, before anyone else had theirs, you’re already getting used to feeling different. Carrying that purse around to put your feminine supplies in will be pretty terrible. No one in 1974 carries a purse or backpack to school. It will be bad, but you’ll survive.
Middle school is where things are going to get off track. A lot of your friends will come from wealthy families and have a pretty sweet life, at least financially. Lots of your friend’s parents will be divorced, and you and your friends will kind of slide under the radar. Your mom and dad will both be busy with their work, and you are going to make some poor choices. You’ll get caught, and you’ll get grounded. A lot. I wish I could warn you in advance about some gross boys who will break your heart. You’re going to think you love them, and they’re going to break up with you. You’re going to think you won’t get over it. You will.
High school is better in some ways. Your dad will FINALLY buy you a car, but it will be a pea-green Ford Pinto. Not cool, I know. You’ll convince him it will explode if you get rear-ended, which was a thing for Pintos. He will cave and get you a brown Toyota Corona. The legal drinking age will be 18 in Alabama. Your high school will have fraternities and sororities. I probably don’t need to describe for you what that combination will allow to happen. Of yea, I forgot you’re nine and you probably don’t know. Suffice it to say it’s bad. Really bad. A couple of boys are going to take advantage of you and you will feel like scum. You’ll have a really unhealthy relationship that will cause you to do some things you won’t believe you do. It lasts a long time. Thankfully you’ll get involved in a wonderful church, and a youth pastor named Leon will see something deep down in your scared little heart and will help you to see it too. It’s a game changer little girl!
College will bring a handsome young man into your life and you are going to marry him! He’s a soccer player and he’s super cute and you will be IN LOVE. You’ll make great friends at the University of Alabama and have a blast. You won’t distinguish yourself academically. At all, In fact, you’re going to squeak by and have to go to summer school to graduate. Some of your friends will graduate on time and others won’t. In 34 years you’ll have a reunion weekend with some of those girls, and it’ll feel like you saw them yesterday. Everybody will still be married to their college sweetheart, which is unusual.
You will get married and have three little girls in four years. You’ll refer to those early years as “The Black Years”. It’ll be a fog. But it’s all good. You’ll survive, and they will too. There’s a lot more to your story little girl, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. After all, you’re only nine. Trust me when I say it has a good ending.