Do you remember how kindergarten was? Everyone would play together. Sometimes you didn't even know the person's name, but if she was in the sandbox too, you were friends. I don't know when, but somewhere along the way we begin to change. We start noticing each other's differences. People react to the varying personalities and upbringings they encounter in others. Some don't notice them; some notice them but accept them. Others fear them and some ridicule them. I think most children ridicule because it's easy and instinctive. Whatever the reason, when it starts to happen, that happy classroom full of bubbly little kindergartners playing together is destroyed, and the magic doesn't come back. . .
The old rust from the porch swing rubbed steadily as we sat there, motionless. I didn't know what to say and neither did he. It was a long, sultry day in the middle of May and the irritating gnats were buzzing, while my long brown ponytail stuck to the nape of my neck. But as far as we were concerned, our worlds had come to an end. And it wasn't the gnats, nor was it my brown ponytail. "Can't you think of anything reasonable to say?" I thought to myself, "You've been best friends forever, and you knew her death was inevitable. She'd been battling the cancer for two years." But, of course, no words formed on my tongue, so nothing came out. And he just sat there, void of any facial expression or emotion -- I couldn't blame him. She wasn't just his mother; she was also mine. She read me Goodnight Moon when I slept over, and she made me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just the way I like them -- with chunky peanut butter, not smooth. So, we sat there, the two of us, for the rest of the afternoon and into the night listening to our silence -- the loudest sound of all. Just like it had always been -- Sarah and Michael.
"Saraaaaah. . .," he whined into the receiver, "I'm sorry, but I really can't. She asked me out," he stated, as though she having asked him somehow made the blow less severe.
"Listen," I replied, "it's fine, really. I'll just find someone else to give the ticket to. Everyone is dying to see the concert. I'm sure it'll be cake finding someone else to go. Have a good time with her," I said as I hung up the receiver. I stood there, shocked. I couldn't believe that he was ditching me and the Counting Crows for a date with some bimbo who spends her time shopping, weighing herself and having deep, intellectual conversations about Prada purses and Steve Madden shoes. The real issue at hand, though, was that these girls knew who I was: "Miss I-Have-An-Opinion-About-Everything." I had beliefs and was never afraid to voice them. No, not opinions on the ideal weight for a 5'7" model, but opinions on abortion, our role in the Middle East and why Sylvia Plath's literature far supercedes that of Ernest Hemingway. As one can see, this slight disparity between ideal weights and Israel was enough for "the girls" and myself to never really converse -- which was precisely why I had no idea what they wanted from Michael. He and I shared this love for all issues regarding the world. We spent countless nights on his rooftop drinking vanilla milkshakes and arguing over the validity of religion, not the validity of Kate Spade purses. So what were these girls plotting? I didn't know it at the time, partly because I was so young and na?ve, and partly because I was late for the Counting Crows, but this was only the beginning.
Less than a month later, everything had changed. Michael had dated every girl in that clique and got "cooler" as each day went by, but he drifted farther and farther away from me.
"Eww . . .look who it is; it's the book-worm!" they would shout, with Michael standing right beside them, his head down looking at the ground, his hands fidgeting in his pockets. One day when the routine teasing had stopped, one girl turned to Michael and said, "She is a loser! Don't you think, Michael?" And without looking up at me, he mumbled, "Yes."
Of course, as time progressed, the hassling dwindled. They realized it wasn't bothering me, and I wasn't submitting to their pettiness. But never again did Michael and I get to add another page to our book of life-altering moments. He wasn't the Michael who sat on my porch. He wasn't the Michael who shared my childhood. He had become someone I no longer knew.
Now, when I pass Michael in the school hallways, we don't so much as glance at each other. That portion of our lives is long over. But if I'm working at the library, shelving books, and come upon Goodnight Moon, or if I'm babysitting and making Cameron his favorite -- a peanut butter sandwich -- or if I'm in my car listening to the Counting Crows -- still my favorite, I'll think of Michael. My memories are nothing but good -- why wouldn't they be? Here is the boy who gave me friendship, showed me fun and taught me how to be my own person and always do things for myself. Yes, people do change. Michael showed me that people value different things, and people want different things out of life. He helped me to discover my true ideas and beliefs, two things I've never had to question. I still argue over abortion, religion and politics with my own opinionated friends, but I will never live life according to anyone's rules except my own. While what he became hurts, what he once was makes me smile -- over Goodnight Moon, chunky peanut butter or the Counting Crows.
Here are a few examples of admission essays written by Hamilton's newest students.
New Canaan, Conn.
Alice Dou Wang
West Chester, Pa.