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Tag: childhood memories

Compliments and insults

You know those moments that stick with you forever? Those things people say that no matter how many years go by will always stand out in your mind? I have a few of those moments. Words etched so clearly in my brain that it’s as if they were only spoken a few minutes ago. Some still make me feel all warm and happy. Others still make me inwardly cringe.

I used to go to a summer camp. It was family camp so I went every year from when I was born until I was 15. I looked forward to camp more than Christmas every year. I made some of the best friends there and had some of the greatest times. When I was a teenager, probably 13 or 14, we were all sitting around talking about whatever nonsense young teenagers talk about. Somehow we got on the subject of names.

We discussed the meanings of our names and the conversation migrated to whether or not we looked like what we were named. We then started throwing out suggestions as to what other names we might look like (as I said, teenage nonsense).

When the conversation moved to my name a few suggestions were thrown out. Then someone suggested the name Amber. At the time I knew a really obnoxious girl named Amber and so the name was kind of tainted for me.* I kind of protested that I didn’t like the name Amber and didn’t think I looked like one. There was one girl there that was part of the group but unlike many of the people there, her and I weren’t particularly close. We hadn’t had many, if any, interactions that I can recall other than as part of a group.

As I expressed my dislike for the name Amber she chimed in. I can remember her exact words to this day.

“Actually, you look a lot like an Amber I know. Except she? Is pretty.”

I don’t remember another word of that discussion. All I remember is falling into a stunned silence. I had no idea this girl had a problem with me until that very moment. I have no idea what I did to her. Like, I said, I don’t really remember many interactions with her period. As a moderately insecure 13 year old though those words stung. A lot.

Some of my best memories come from that camp as well. I got one of my favorite compliments ever there. This one happened a couple years later when I was 15 or so. The camp was held at a college campus. So, it wasn’t so much camping as it was a bunch of families and teens hanging out in dorms. Anyway, part of the camp was attending lectures and classes.

We were sitting in a big auditorium waiting for one of the sessions to start. I was a giant nerd (ha, as if that is past tense. We all know I’m still a giant nerd.) and had arrived early. It was one of those big lecture halls with stadium seating so I was seated in a row by myself, waiting for some of my friends to arrive and there was a group of guys seated in front of me.

I was off in my own little world when two of the guys turned around to talk to me. The first guy said,

Hey Abigail, smile at him.

as he motioned to the guy sitting next to him.

Obviously my first response was,

“Um, huh?!”

But he just repeated his request. So, I kind of awkwardly smiled at the second guy. The first guy turned to the second guy and just said,

“See, I told you.”

then turned around and started to go back about his business.

I sat there in confusion for a few seconds. I of course did a quick check of my face, teeth and clothing to see if there was something wrong there. When I couldn’t find anything and it had been long enough for me to realize they had no plans on explaining themselves, I tapped them on the shoulder and asked what the heck that was all about.

The first guy kind of glanced sheepishly at the second one, who at this point wouldn’t make eye contact anymore. The first guy finally shrugged and said,

“He said none of the pretty girls ever smiled at him. I wanted to prove him wrong.”

::swoon::

I’ve gotten many compliments and insults in my life. Some stand out and others don’t. Those contrasting incidences will always be crystal clear to me. Both were such simple statements. I wonder if the people even remember saying them. Did that boy have any idea how giddy he made me? How even at this moment almost ten years later it makes me grin?

Little words that turned into little treasures. Moments I’ll keep with me for a lifetime.

*No offense if your name is Amber. I have met many cool Ambers since and I like the name just fine now.

Wasn’t me

I am the oldest of six kids. I have two older half brothers as well but they’re much older so we didn’t grow up together. I was an only child for almost the first three years of my life so I can remember what it was like to have 100% of my parents’ attention on me.

I kind of like attention… a lot.

As you can imagine, once my sister was born I was a little jealous. I loved her and I eventually had a lot of fun playing with all my sisters. Now I can’t imagine my life without a single one of them. As a kid I didn’t always have that perspective though. It seemed like the only reason I ever got in trouble was because of fighting with my siblings. I used to tell my mom if it wasn’t for my sisters I’d have a perfect life.

Now I obviously know I was enough of a trouble maker that only child or not I would have been in my share of trouble. I still blame my siblings for a little bit of my evil though. It was because of my sister Elizabeth that I told my very first lie.

I don’t remember how old I was exactly, but it was only me and Liz so I couldn’t have been older than 4. She was old enough to sit on her own so I imagine she was probably around 1. Our living room was connected to the kitchen so my mom was cooking dinner while I played with Liz on our living room couch.

She was bugging me.

I don’t remember what she was doing exactly. Probably just being a normal baby. Whatever it was I’d had enough. I pushed her. And she fell off the couch.

Crap.

I froze there not knowing what to do. I knew I was in big trouble. I’d just pushed my baby sister off the couch and now she was crying.

My mom rushed in from the kitchen,

“What happened?”

And a little light bulb went off in my head. Oh, she doesn’t know…. and suddenly I blurted out,

She just, uh…. fell….all by herself.”

My mom raised her eyebrows,

“Really? She just fell? She didn’t have any help?

I can still feel the heat that went to my face as I denied any part in the matter once again. The very first realization that my mom couldn’t see everything and wasn’t everywhere felt empowering. I can still feel how my breath got quicker and more shallow and I can imagine that my eyes were wide and tilted up in a way that screamed guilt to my mom. She’s not dumb.

Now I know, she knew. My mom knew before she asked. My 3 or 4 year old self thought I was really clever though. I totally got away with it. But I was a sensitive little kid. From the moment the words escaped my mouth I felt guilty. By the time it was bed time and she was tucking me in I confessed. I burst into tears and said how sorry I was.

She didn’t punish me. I think she knew that the guilt I felt the whole day was punishment enough.

My sisters and I still had plenty more fights. I’m sure I pushed her down too many more times to count. I know I told more lies over the course of my childhood. Some I got away with, some I didn’t. For some reason that first one and the feelings that went with it have always stuck with me.

And don’t worry, my sister? Got even with me as soon as she was big enough to push back. Love you, Sis.

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