Category: Growing Up

Braces & Burlington with Mom

I covered the last two class periods of the day for my friend and colleague a couple of weeks ago. She needed to take her teen daughter to the orthodontist, a little over an hour from campus. I asked her daughter if that meant a trip to the leggings store while they were out. She said it did, nodding her head vigorously. It reminded me of the times my mom and I would take monthly trips to the orthodontist when I was in eighth grade. We’d visit Dr. Trottier in Burlington, Vermont, ninety minutes away from our home on the other side of Lake Champlain. Those days were special and wonderful. I had Mom to myself. I enjoyed those day-long trips for a fifteen minute appointment, checking out Church Street, consignment shops, bookstores, record stores, and the malls afterwards. And definitely lunch out.  I am the oldest of four, with twin siblings in the middle; my youngest sister six years my junior. My parents were always renovating our farmhouse, the lone home on a long, rural road three miles from town. They did piecemeal construction projects. How did they swing it? They worked on the place when they could—summers mostly and vacations, weekends. Four of us, three dogs, several goats, a horse, dinner, firewood, snow removal, landscaping, vegetable gardens, teaching, groceries, dentists, doctors, sports, homework help, the bank. Add in the guests, church, and volunteering. Seriously, how?!! No wonder my mom wanted a day nearly to herself. I’m guessing the…

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Tiger Beat

My dad reminded me that after I failed to win the 1983 Avon/Flare Young Adult Novel competition, I set my sights on Tiger Beat magazine. They put a call out for teens “who’d done something interesting” or something like that. I pitched my tale: I wrote a novel, it didn’t win, but hey, I wrote something. They called and my dad remembers my phone conversation and then…I sent off a photo and Tiger Beat published my picture along with a blurb about the YA novel that didn’t get published. I remember looking at myself next to a very made-up and much blonder, likely taller, spelling bee WINNER.  Now that I am a teacher and former school counselor, I realize how far ahead of the game Tiger Beat was for their time. To celebrate someone for the journey and not first place?  How progressive and how kind they were to recognize that effort and drive, giving me a little glossy space.

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I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. Apple country. I lived in a North Country fixer-upper on a long and lonely road. My siblings and I would ride our bikes to the big tree or the big pipe, a drainage pipe for the big cornfield, for excitement. We built a lot of forts. We had goats, pigs, and a horse. When I wasn’t riding my bike or building forts, I was reading a lot of Judy Blume and I wanted to be a writer.  When I was 13 and Avon/Flare announced their novel competition for people 13 to 18-years-old, I had to enter. I wrote the story by hand and my mom TYPED it for me on a typewriter. 104 tidy pages. My dad, a high school English teacher, tried to give me pointers about dialogue and character development and plot. I did not listen to a single thing he said. I thought the book was brilliant. It was not. It was about a young girl beat up by her older brother. I was/am the oldest and didn’t know what I was talking about. I dreamed of winning the $5,000 prize, getting my novel published and becoming an instant celebrity in my little hometown. Every afternoon I scouted out places where I’d have my author photo taken- with a goat in my arms? Next to one of our dogs? On the split rail fence with the horse in the background? Or, forget animals and go with…

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