10.15.2012

ric rac

A stack of enveloped letters
evades me, nowhere to be found--
The truth is, I haven’t read yours
since the postman brought them around.

As sweethearts when we were just kids,
you wrote to me every day--
I tied them in ric rac ribbon
for keeping, and tucked them away.

I saved them with me all my life,
never knowing exactly why--
Now that you’re gone, I can’t find them.
Your words, like your eyes, light the sky.

photo by Ellen Wilson

This weekend, Kerry challenged the Real Toads to write an envelope quatrain.

Also this weekend, my friend of many years, Don Martin, passed away, far, far too soon. This poem is for him.

I wrote the below essay a few years ago, about my experience meeting Don, and a host of other kids, at summer camp. He and they changed my life, for which I am still grateful.

I'm 14 years old and my parents have enrolled me in a week-long sleep-away "Summer Academy" for brainy kids at the local university. They unload me at the college dormitory. As I gather myself and consider what might happen next, two guys walk past my door.
             
They are wearing green hospital scrubs and red plastic Devo flowerpot hats. One of them has a giant octopus made from a garbage bag draped across his shoulder. They are skinny and are carrying an enormous boombox (yes, the kind that plays cassette tapes) that is blasting a Cheap Trick song. I am impressed.
                  
What happens next, and for the rest of the week, and for the week that I attended Summer Academy the following year is mostly a blur now. But those moments, those short days, were the best ever of my teen years. Hanging out with weird kids--although I must say I never thought weird, I only thought COOL--made me feel so very much not alone for the first time. I had found kids like me.
                  
Music was paramount to our group: Devo. The Cars. Elvis Costello. Cheap Trick. The Police. We performed the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I'm not sure for what audience. I got my FCC license, rowed a canoe, and learned target shooting. When the week was over, we barricaded ourselves in the dormitory in protest of our parents taking us away.

I remember nothing else about the academic program. But I remember all of those kids. Several are still my friends today. And I can bring up the faces and names and quirks of all the others. Emotions ran high in those weeks, and in the long-distance love and friendship maintained through the years in between. When I went back to my school in my town, I felt confident and cool. I had friends like me, who understood me.