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,
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.”
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.