Drink 21: Birthday Cake

The Date: September 25

The Friend: Karen (Bohan) Wright and Ginny (Vallee) Jones

The Place: Pasquale’s, Candia, NH

The Drink: Birthday Cake

Karen &Amp; GinnyThe Story: It’s interesting that this post comes right after the story of Tony and Dave because these two are probably the only other set of people whose names became a single word: KarenAndGinny.

I met Karen in second grade. Ginny moved to town in fourth grade. As far as I can remember, we did almost everything together until I moved out of town after seventh grade.

I reconnected with Karen and Ginny again at Central and we remained good friends all the way through high school. After that, I saw Ginny occasionally because she went to Boston College, right up the hill from Northeastern. Karen, I mostly only saw at high school reunions. When I started this project, though, I knew they had to be on the list. They are – literally – my oldest friends. I can only think of one or two other people I’m not related to whom I’ve known as long.

Growing up, we lived in Candia, a small town outside Manchester. At the time Henry J. Moore School was SMALL. I’m talking two or three classes per grade. You knew everyone.

My mother likes to tell the story of the time when I was in second grade that she was called into the principal’s office to discuss my behavior issues. Apparently, I was bored with class and decided to go around the room helping my classmates with their work. This was not taken by the teacher for the helpful and supportive gesture it really was and, next thing you know, there was a gifted and talented program that they sent me to in some closet in the hallway to keep me occupied. (My mother is not particularly prone to aggrandizing, either, so I believe her.)

This does not surprise me. One of my favorite stories my dad tells about when I was little was the first day of Kindergarten when I came home and said to him, “Oh, dad. You should see all those little kids. They are so cute.”

It’s not a huge leap to make to think that a mere two years later, I would have decided I was an adult – and a teacher to boot.

When we were in sixth grade, Karen and Ginny and I came up with a fantastic idea. I have no idea where it came from or why we decided it would be fantastic, other than we were total brats.

We were now old enough to be changing classrooms for different classes and, before Betty Stimpson’s class, we decided to “trip” over each other, throw ourselves at the floor with dramatic flair and fling books, book bags, shoes, papers and whatever else wasn’t attached to our persons all over the hallway. Then we would crawl around on hands and knees to reassemble our possessions before going into class. We thought this was hilarious. I have no idea why. (I’ll bet it actually WAS pretty funny, though. As long as you weren’t Betty Stimpson.)

As I remember, the process of changing classrooms was such that you lined up against a wall outside the classroom you were heading into and waited to be called into the room, so the plausibility of us tripping over anything was suspect at best. After we pulled this stunt a couple days in a row, Ms. Stimpson (whose sense of humor was limited to begin with as I recall) howled at us that if we ever tripped, dropped anything or pulled this nonsense again, there would be hell to pay.

I can just imagine our fake-innocent faces as we walked by her into class that day. Brats. (But probably really funny brats.)

That was the same year we developed a bit of a mean-girls streak for a short while. Out of nowhere, a group of the girls in our class would ignore one girl for a day or so. The girl to be targeted would be chosen at random. She would be completely ostracized for no good reason. We’d all just simply ignore her. There were a couple of actual mean girls in our class and I think this must have been something they came up with and the rest of us just played along. We thought it was fun.  I vaguely remember bringing one of the girls to tears, though I can’t remember who it was. I also remember wondering what the big deal was.

I learned just how much “fun” it really was the day it was my turn to be ignored. With the logic processing skills of a sixth grader, I had absolutely no idea the game would turn on me. I remember being absolutely floored at just how horrible it was. And realizing exactly what the big deal actually was. I’m glad – for most of us – the mean girl thing lasted only a couple weeks.

(Why my mother wasn’t called back to school for these behavior issues, I’ll never understand. Maybe they were more “normal.”)

For the most part, we were pretty good kids, though. Ginny and I had EPIC sticker collections. We had binders filled with magnetic photo pages of stickers and we would trade them back and forth. I remember going to Faneuil Hall with my grandparents one summer and buying something ridiculous like $50 worth of stickers at one shop. These things sold for between $.25 and $1.00 each so that was a LOT of stickers, but they were ones we didn’t have in the shops at home, so it was worth it. Plus, I had to buy doubles of most everything so I had ones to trade. (I think there’s a box with my sticker collection still in it in the closet of my bedroom at my parents’ house.)

Karen tried to get me into cross-country ski racing one year with some team she was on. I showed up for one race and remember getting lost, getting told to get out of the way (a lot) and coming in dead last.  That was the extent of my ski-racing career.

In fact, my entire sports career took place during these years. Those who know me now will be surprised to learn that I played both basketball and softball in addition to dancing. I wasn’t horrible at either sport, either (for a sixth grader).

Over our drinks, I asked Karen and Ginny what they remembered of us as kids.

Karen said she remembered the time she came over to play after school and the two of us went tromping off into the woods behind my house. For hours, apparently. When we emerged, Karen remembers seeing her mom and my mom standing on the hill behind my house, hands on hips, faces red with anger. She says she remembers thinking “uh oh. This can’t be good.” Meanwhile, I was probably thinking “what’s the big deal?”

Ginny said she remembered the first day she met me. I assumed it was at school but she said it wasn’t. Apparently, I was walking our dog up in front of her house, saw her outside and said hello.

My jaw dropped when she said this. Remember, this was just before fourth grade. Ginny lived about a mile up the road from me. Who knows what I was doing that far from home or whether my mother was hollering at the woods out back for me to come in for dinner.

As an adult, I’ve often been challenged by doing what I’m “supposed to” be doing or fitting into all the “shoulds” it takes to be a grownup.  I just don’t play by other people’s rules very well. These two particular stories were interesting to hear. They illustrated an interesting point I’m not sure I knew: I guess I always did my own thing. (My poor mom.)

Birthday Cake ShotsThe Drink: I met Karen and Ginny at the only restaurant in Candia, Pasquale’s, a nice Italian place in the plaza where my dentist office used to be. It took us a while to figure out what we were going to drink but that’s ok because we had plenty to catch up on. What we decided upon was absolutely appropriate: a birthday cake shot.

For all the years we went to each other’s birthday parties, this was a fantastic choice. Plus, it being a birthday celebration in itself, it worked on many levels.

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