This was a post I wrote almost a year ago, and decided to publish now. Just a walk down memory lane.
Remember when I got news that rocked my world.
There are few things that happened in my youth (like, early youth) that stand out to me, that really altered things for me. I remember Sally Ride, ’cause I really wanted to be an astronaut like her. I remember the Challenger exploding. I think I remember “Hands Across America,” that was a thing, right? I remember the Berlin Wall coming down. I remember the first Persian Gulf war starting – I was reading Johnny Tremain the night I had first heard it started.
But the news that really changed things for me was waking up on my 14th birthday and learning I was alone in the house. Mom had to work, and my real father had been home that weekend (a rarity); I thought he would be there Sunday. He was not. He left a note that he didn’t think I wanted him around, given the way I had treated him over the weekend, so he was going to give me “my wish,” or whatever kind of passive aggressive bullshit he could generate. His absence, though not unusual, really stung, and I cried most of the morning, alternating between sadness and self-doubt.
Since it was a Sunday morning, the Top 40 was on, I had a chance to tape my favorite songs. I spent the day curled up on my bed under the window with the radio and a hand-held Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game that I had beaten only twice. I still have the cassette, and when I listen to it now, I think of that day. I talked to my best friend, and she rode her bike over to my house with a birthday cake on her handlebars, the first time a friend had ever done something like that.
The thing that really helped me that Sunday was a book I had found the Friday before, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton.
As I walked into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I only had two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.
I read the book twice that day, and then several more times over the next several weeks. I never took the book back to the library, and it’s sitting on my shelf right now. The story was so engaging to me, and so different from the other kinds of books I read at the time. I was impressed that the author was 17 at the time she wrote that, and entertained daydreams about doing the same thing. I felt like the book was a life preserver for that day; I had never felt that way about a book before. I was tougher after that day (or tuff, as the book would say) and I say that in a good way.