Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Cool Place

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.
Huge.
It didn't belong to anyone.
It was just there.
Doing rock stuff.
It had 'sit' down pretty well. And 'stay'.
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.
Sigh.
I, too, had a group of friends.
Like me, my friends were not considered the 'popular' group.
But they were good friends. Loyal. Fun.
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.
Gossip.
One occasion stands out . . .
We 'seconds' as we had begun to think of ourselves, were grouped around the monkey bars.
Talking.
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. Lloyd 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 or Woolco, 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.
Ditto.
I was in heaven.
Then . . .
Lloyd 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 in 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.

17 comments:

  1. Enjoyed your 5th grade story. Can't distinguish the inner circle from those who were onlookers, but I do like the teacher's shoes. Were they green?
    Resurrected memories of territorial positioning, who was hip and who was a jerk (cool wasn't cool) and ever changing (sometimes daily) chatter of who was "going around" with whom. One day could be glorious, the next searingly painful.
    For the record, I didn't burn my bridges, I blew them up and moved on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moving on. What a nice picture that makes! :)

      Delete
  2. I'll take a guess on three of them: blonde middle of row second from back...1st and 3rd left in the second from front row. They just have that 'look' of special rock sitters to me lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, my word! You do have the radar! You picked three of the four. The only one you missed was second row from the front, far right.

      Delete
    2. What I want to know is: where's Lloyd?!

      Delete
    3. Lloyd is third from the left on the back row. A really nice guy. Passed away a few years ago. Cancer. Hard to believe when you look at this picture and these kids all have their whole lives in front of them!

      Delete
    4. Moments frozen in time - and at that moment everything was unknown to those in the pictures. There's a strange sense of awe I get sometimes, looking at old photos.

      Delete
  3. I was never a cool kid. I'm not a cool adult.

    But I have a good family and friends, and I've realized along the way that "cool" can't compete with kind and sensible. Oh, some adults wouldn't agree, but they're only adults on the outside :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kind and sensible is what counts for me, too, Jenny! I think we'd do just fine together!

      Delete
  4. P.S. Great story and lesson here :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. That age is so tough! Good lessons learned. I remember walking on rocks in the school yard like it was a special tight rope and we were all expert walkers. What is it with rocks?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know what the hardest thing is about walking on rocks? The rocks! Okay, I just couldn't resist . . .

      Delete
  6. I was never cool. I am still not cool. And here in the sweaty season I long for coolth. The real stuff, not the metaphorical ephemera.
    Such a poignant memory you drew. Such wonderful lessons.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sending a bit of the non-metaphorical ephemera your way from chilly northern Alberta, EC!
      And thank you!

      Delete
  7. In all my schooling years, I was never part of the cool crowd, and didn't want to be either, they seemed so silly most of the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it was the unreachable dream, River. Once it was achieved, I realized it really was silly . . .

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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