Friday, June 5, 2009

Photo Friday

I dug into some shoe boxes to find school picture gems to share today. Things started out pretty well:

My mom made this dress. It was Syndy-Brady short, so I’m not sure how we kept our undies from showing. Here’s Molly in the same dress 30+ years later:
I think this next one is from 3rd grade:

This year I chose my own picture clothes. That’s my sister’s summer sundress, my NEIGHBOR’S MOTHER’S polyester work blouse, and my mom’s neck scarf. My mom actually bit her lips to keep from saying something as I left the house that morning. Still turned out pretty well, I think.

Things got a little dicey after that:

Couldn’t find a seventh grade pic, so this is from the yearbook.

Puberty hit that summer. I grew about 5 inches, gained more than 30 lbs, and here’s the 8th grade pic:

9th or 10th?


Things got much, much better after that. I went from a mullet to an asymmetrical haircut that was actually cool. Seriously. Here are 11th and 12th grades, although I think the 11th grade one is really from the People's Drug Store photo booth instead of being my class picture:

Why am I showing you these, besides to subject myself to potential ridicule and abuse? Well, I was thinking about all of these different ages and stages, and the angst that went along with them.

I hit my awkward stage HARD in 5th grade, and it lasted until the beginning of 10th. That was a LONG time. 6th and 7th were the toughest on me emotionally as I navigated difficult friendships and hormonal surges.

I’m not sure what changed in 10th, but things just started getting easier.

I’ve been thinking of Molly, who is so stinking adorable right now, and I want her to keep that sense of spunk and style and enthusiasm even as the years go by and her outward appearance changes. She is blessed to be hilarious and tenderhearted, humble and outgoing all at the same time.

You see, even though my 8th grade picture might make you cringe, as it still does me, 8th grade wasn’t all bad. I had great friends who made going to the movies, the mall, and having sleepovers loads of fun. We rode bikes, drank Slurpees and complained about our teachers. We stood awkwardly off to the side during the 4 o’clock p.m. dances in the gym.

Those same friends were still with me when I started feeling more comfortable in my own skin in high school, and those relationships blessed me with confidence and a sense of belonging (Thanks, Lisa G!).

I was already ME in all of those photos, and although on some days I felt defined by my looks (frizzy hair, braces, eventually glasses), it wasn’t every day. Some days I was more concerned about an English presentation or having crepes in French class. Some days I felt smart, sarcastic, kind and even witty. Every day I felt secure and loved by my parents, even though I didn't value that at the time because what I really wanted was to be loved by a “boy!”

I don’t know whether Molly will have a colossal awkward stage. I know some people are lucky enough to skip it all together.

Yep, there I am with my cousin, sweet Grandma, and my sister. Only 18 months older, L seemed to leap right over the awkward stage, and that made my blood boil. I felt the injustice of it all. I wanted to cut off her long blond hair while she slept. I exulted when I could move out of the room we shared, away from her and her languid "coolness."

She might be the first person to tell you that being invited to boy/girl parties in jr. high had its own challenges and risks. Or that being objectified for having a bodacious set of boobs was NOT pleasant, but as I sat home watching “Falcon Crest” each Friday night, I wasn’t buying it.

Her friends wore matching baseball shirts with iron-on slogans, and they walked the jr. high halls as if they owned them. I found out years later that she was insecure herself during this whole time... I guess pictures don't always tell the whole story.

Anyway, what’s the point of this photographic trip down memory lane?

Well, I really want to spare Molly the "awkward stage" because I remember feeling cruddy about the way I looked a lot of the time. But, I think awkward stages offer some sense of protection from growing up too fast, flying too high.

Also, I want her to understand that looks AREN’T the most important thing. No matter how I tried to cast myself to my parents as the frizzy, frumpy, lackluster preteen during this time, living out what I saw as a dreadful life sentence of blah (a little dramatic much??)—I hope and believe that they saw me as a hardworking, spunky girl with a soft heart and a flair for hyperbole.

They had, you see, known me and loved me my whole life, and they also had the wisdom and perspective to know that jr. high and even high school do not define one’s life.

So, on this last day of the school year, to Molly and Jake-- who now can be considered TWEENS-- I will say: It does get better. Much better. You don't need EVERYONE to like you, but just a few people to like you a lot. You need to see and believe who you are in God's eyes and in Mom and Dad's eyes.

Molly and Jake, I feel stronger, happier and more confident now at 39 than I ever have before. School years may be great (like this one), or terrible, but they do not last forever.

And school pictures? They always get better:

Or almost always:


Chrisy said...

I bet that was fun for you to go through all of those pictures! I love that you have a photo of Molly in the same dress that you wore [made by your mother!]. Molly is precious and my hunch is she'll probably fly right over the awkward stage. But if she doesn't, she's got a wonderful mother who's prepared to parent through it perfectly!

Lexilooo said...

oh this is such a lovely post! I think I was most awkward from roughly 4th-7th grade, though 8th wasn't too much better...I had the bright idea to cut bangs, which just wasn't working for me at all! halfway through 9th, they were clipped to the side...

katydidnot said...

oh, how i wish i still had my horrible school photos. i have none except kindergarten when i was, indeed, stinking cute like molly.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I love your retrospects! Molly is so beautiful - I just can't imagine her having an awkward phase.

My favorite picture is you sundress/blouse & scarf creation. I went through a phase of wearing my plaid polyester school uniform jumper as a sundress in the summer. I can't BELIEVE my mother allowed that.

C. Groves said...

love that photo finish! :)

L said...

Just when I thought I'd buried all of my awkward school pics, one turned up on Facebook!

Shawn said...

Love that a-symetrical hair cut!

So chic!

Rebecca said...

I love the pictures! How fun to see you growing up right on our computer screen.


Madge said...

love the pictures. still trying to get out of the awkward stage.....

Christy said...

Love these pictures and your post - and that is so neat that Molly gets to wear that same cute dress you wore so long ago. I had a terribly long awkward stage too. Ugh. Fabulous second to last pic!

Gretchen said...

OMG I love the drape and the pearls. It must be the same set rotated among all sorority girls throughout the US. I wore the same one 4 years in a row!

Heidi said...

What a truly lovely post!

And I love the name, Molly. Molly was on our list of names before we had our girl. She's an Annie, but I still love the name Molly.

Ashley @ AshleysBusy said...

I love this post. I too went through the awkward years, for me it was 5th-7th grade. Frizzy hair, glasses, pimples, booobs that I was so embarrased by (I wore big t-shirts to cover them up). That goodness high school was such an improvement. And now, I embrace my wavy hair. And my boobs too ;)

Vodka Mom said...

that was beautiful. The shots, and the post.

I love trips down memory lane........