Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Memoir: Fast Forward

We're remembering games at the Red Dress Club this week...

Jess and I scurried to the back seat of the bus, our backpacks bumping our backsides with each step.

She wrinkled her nose at the end-of-the-school day blending--spoiled milk and fourth-grade boy.  I caught a quick glance at her rubber bracelets, stacked up her arms just right, then looked away.

"Hey," she said, "Let's play MASH." She grabbed a piece of paper from her Trapper Keeper and wrote the familiar letters atop a box.

I smiled, and watched her set up the pattern. Her handwriting had taken on a decidedly bubbly quality, all soft arches and rainbows. All the girls wrote like that now. I wonder if they had a Secret Handwriting Meeting in the bathroom one day.

I had tried to mimic it, but everything I scrawled was childish. Decidedly not cool.

Jess finished, and began the game. "Four cars."

I knew what I was supposed to say, "Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bug, and--"

Jess squealed, and lifted up a finger. "Wait! Let me choose the last one!" She smiled to herself, and scribbled her choice on the sheet.

"Okay," she said, "Jobs. Same thing. You pick three and I'll pick one."

This was by far my favorite part of the game. I thought about jobs, no careers, all the time. "Doctor, Veterinarian, or Movie Director."

She wrote each down. Her pen poised in the air, she gazed from my lanky ponytail to my K-Mart sneakers. "Perfect," she mumbled as she wrote down her pick.

"Now the best part," she grinned. "BOYS!"

I blushed. I cleared my throat, and said the names from the script, "Tom Cruise, Michael J. Fox, and Kirk Cameron."

She frowned. "Nancy, don't you like any real boys?"

I forced myself to meet her gaze. I wanted to tell her the truth--No. Not yet. Instead, I whispered the safe bet, the scripted response, "Jason." Everybody liked Jason.

She sighed, perhaps in the sheer dreaminess of his name. "Good choice." Her eyes narrowed, "I'm going to tell him you like him!"

My face flooded with red shame. "Noooooooo! Ohmygosh, PLEASE don't! I'll do anything."

She laughed, "You're so predictable." She giggled, and wrote down her selection. "This is so funny."

"Yeah," I said, "So funny." I watched the landscape, morphing into blurs of brown and green between bus stops. We stopped and started as if on fast forward.

We did the normal numbers of children: 1, 2,3, and a ludicrous number. She starting drawing a spiral: "Say stop."

"Stop." She counted the lines to make the magic number, then began the process of counting and deleting.

She cackled to herself and she planned my future. "Oh, this is totally perfect."

I nodded and turned back to the window. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Her scratching on the paper was like mice, gnawing, nibbling away.

I loved her and hated her.

"Okay, here we go." Jess beamed. I squinted.  "You live in a house, you have two kids, your job's being a mom, and you drive a station wagon!"

I sighed. Not a life I would choose. But at least I wasn't living in a shack with 200 children with Kirk Cameron. While driving a Lamborghini.

Jess shook with laughter, "Do you know who you married?"

I shook my head, waiting. Dreading.

"Mr. Baker!" She snorted, "You and Mr. Baker luuuuuuuuv each other!"

My insides curdled, thick and pungent. "No way!" Mr. Baker, the music teacher. He of the dandruff and ever-present ukelele? "Gross!"

The bus screeched to the next stop. My stop. I picked up my backpack and hissed, "That will never, ever happen!"

She laughed, "We'll see!"

It wasn't until the bus pulled away that I let the tears fall. I didn't need MASH to see my future. Jess would not be my friend much longer. She was pulling away, fast-forwarding to a new life.

PS--I'm at stay-at-home-mom, with two children. I live in a house, and yes, I drive a wagon. An Outback, but still, it's a wagon. MASH is terrifyingly accurate. 


Anonymous said...

Not familiar with this MASH game but I don't think I would have liked it at all. We did have "Slam" books back then. Those were notebooks with each page slamming someone and for some usually 'made up' reason. I never liked those books, but participated. I don't know why. I was really happy to grow out of that stage.
Nicely done, always!

CDG @ Move Over Mary Poppins! said...

Wistful and nostalgic... and heartachey. I got left behind by a few friends like that.

All for the best but it took some time and perspective to see that.

I loved this. Loved.

And MASH? Loved and hated for reasons just like this post.

Anonymous said...

Oh this is so perfect. Wonderful voice.

Love. xo

Jackie said...

I forgot about MASH. I had equal love and hate for that game!

Erin said...

This took me right back to the 6th grade when the sorting began. Whatever group one landed in was fixed all the way through high school. I love what you did with the prompt.

Formerly known as Frau said...

Omg I remember that dreadful game! But are you married to a music teacher with dandruff?

Carrie said...

I loved MASH. So much stupid fun :)

That is hilarious...however, I assume your last name isn't Baker so you've got that ;)

Cheryl said...

I'm sure you and Mr. Baker are VERY happy together! ;)

This actually hurt my heart a little. I was so you, so the girl who just wasn't quite as sophisticated (bless my heart).

It's actually one of the reasons I held Sage from starting kindergarten last year. I was the youngest in my class, and stuff like you describe happen a lot.


Yuliya said...

This was wonderful! Took me right back to my MASH playing days. And the handwriting detail? Perfect.

Joann Mannix said...

So poignant. And you brought back memories of those kinds of girls. Perfect description, you loved and hated her. I think of some of those girls, sometimes and I wonder if they ever got it, or if their meanness was something innate, living inside of them, like the Real Housewives.

And I loved Mash. I have 3 sisters, so there was always someone around to play the game. I'm a mite older, so my number one husband was always Sylvester Stallone. I didn't marry him sadly, but I did marry a short Italian and i Have a house and 3 kids, so I think that Mash might have something there.

And you know ukelele's are sexy. Just ask Eddie Vedder.

Frume Sarah said...

Oh God, that familiar pit in my stomach as I read this, recalling my own awful experiences with MASH. And with the girls who would teach me that anything that garners a "just kidding" right after it aren't really kidding. Or your friends.

Galit Breen said...

Oh Nancy- LOVE! From trapper keepers to MASH I so remember this!

You really captured the small moment and FUN of this!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Nice job!

We played MASH as kids but that's not what we called it-- I'm too old to remember the name but it was a hoot. Thanks for the reminder.

Cheers, jj

Anonymous said...

I think we played this, too but I can't remember what we called it...Loved what you did with this prompt. It brought me right back to those angsty young years. My heart aches at the thought of my own boys ever feeling as left out as I did.

Julie said...

Oh we played this endlessly.

You'd think, in hindsight, we would have tired of the same limited outcomes...

Mansion; Apartment; Shack; House.

Rather insensitive, too.

But we loved it. And I loved that glimmer of insight your narrator has - that she and her "fast" friend won't be playmates much longer.

The divergence of that age. It was both heartbreaking and necessary to survival.

Loved this, Nancy. Your details are always spot-on.

StarTraci said...

MASH! I love it. Thank you for the trip down memory lane! I always had Rick Springfield on my boy list. And my handwriting never got properly bubbly so I understand!!!


Cat said...

Loved MASH! It was like a do it yourself magic 8 ball.

Kim said...

How did I miss this little piece of brilliance? Yes, this also happened to me. I can't believe I've friended some of those popular kids on FB. Our social scene in grade school was based on how much our parents made. WE were a family of eight and little money. Your details are frighteningly spot on. It made me think - oh yeah, that's exactly what it was like. So good.

Yuliya said...

Wait wait wait, I read this, I COMMENTED on this, where is my comment? Has it been eaten? GAH!

Okay anyway now that I've read it twice, I still love it and it takes me right back to 4th grade!