|Quick - pick out the cool kids . . .|
At the bottom of the hill, at the edge of the playground, halfway between the elementary and junior/senior high schools was a rock.
A big rock.
It didn't belong to anyone.
It was just there.
Doing rock stuff.
It had 'sit' down pretty well.
It was the gathering place for the 'cool' kids in grade five.
I was in grade five.
I wasn't cool.
Every recess, the group of boys and girls who were the most popular would scurry down and claim the rock. For the entire 15 minutes, they would clamber (real word) about, or sit and talk.
And look cool.
I wanted to be with them more than anything.
I wanted to be cool.
I, too, had a group of friends.
Like me, my friends were not considered the 'popular' group.
But they were good friends. Loyal. Fun.
Would let me boss them around all of the time.
Ahem . . .
Often I would catch them casting longing looks towards the rock.
And the cool kids thereon.
I knew what they were thinking.
Sometimes, our disappointment and frustration would boil over into something more proactive.
One occasion stands out . . .
We 'seconds' as we had begun to think of ourselves, were grouped around the monkey bars.
Okay, we called it talking.
We were making great sport of tearing the distant cool kids apart.
Everything was fodder for our nasty little grist mill. Their looks, their clothes, their personalities, their classroom standing, even their pets.
Yep. We were grinding at a pretty feverish pace.
I said, in a loud voice, "Well, I wouldn't go with them, even if they begged me."
The others nodded in agreement.
Than another voice broke in. "Diane?"
We all turned. Two of the popular girls were standing there.
"Um . . . yeah?"
"We wanted to invite you to join us. Paul really likes you."
I'd like to tell you that I simply smiled and refused. Or that I turned a slightly disdainful shoulder and stuck with my friends.
I did neither.
Faster than you can blink, I was one of them. They put their arms around my waist and I did the same and the three of us headed off to the rock.
I didn't even look back.
For many weeks, I lived as a cool kid.
Hung out at Danny's like everyone else but, because I did it, it was cool. Wore the same clothes as everyone else, purchased at Robinson's, but because I did it . . . you get the picture.
And I loved it.
Every minute of it.
No longer did I have to worry about what I said.
Because I was cool, everyone laughed and forgave me.
I didn't have to worry about what I did.
I was in heaven.
Then . . .
Paul decided he liked someone else.
And, just like that, I wasn't cool anymore.
The rest of them dropped me like a hot . . . rock.
It was my very first lesson on relationships.
It wouldn't be the last.
But it was the most painful.
Because when I tried to go back to my old circle of friends, I found that they were afraid of me.
Afraid to trust me.
Now, I was truly alone.
Oh, my solitary state didn't last long.
Only the eternity of about a week.
Fifth graders have short memories.
But I did a lot of growing in that week.
I realized that I had learned four things:
1. True friends are important.
2. Don't burn your bridges.
3. The rock is really hard and uncomfortable to sit on.
4. Even if you're a cool kid.