and bringing my daughter along for the pure joy of it.

After all she was the one that lead me down this beautiful memory laden lane to begin with.

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Summer breaks afford my daughter and I time to just hang. Much more time than when we are scooting about to get to and from school or to and from band practice. No this time of the year allows us to be together at our own leisurely pace….

rifling through salvage yards and second-hand shops on the hunt for treasure

finishing our joint effort masterpiece that hangs above the mantel

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paddle boarding to a new location…

where as castaways, we live out adventures on our very own Crusoesque remote tropical island for an afternoon

 creating some truly yummy as well as not so tasty dishes on rainy afternoons

traveling up and back down the eastern seaboard listening to great tunes, finding quaint shops, unique eateries, and making noteworthy memories while visiting family and friends

we’ve even, although not Bella’s favorite summer activity, perfected a solution for keeping our sheets and towels bright white. (solution ingredients~ hot water, favorite detergent (ours is Tide), Oxiclean, and Mrs Stewart’s Bluing…now don’t go trying to leave out the bluing. It’s a must for whites to stay white!)

However through all the fun and perhaps not so fun summer days, we both found that regardless of the activity we are involved in, it has been our talks that seem to always take center stage when together.

Such was the case this past weekend while straddling one of our paddle boards, facing each other, chit chatting, as we floated around the ocean watching sea turtles play beneath us.

Bella, a consummate date counter to upcoming events, was plagued with the thought that summer break would be coming to an end in two weeks and two days.  Now she’d begun counting this dreaded date down from the first day school let out so her bringing it up on Saturday was not unusual. Yet on this day the question that ensued sparked memories that took me back to when I first moved to TN. She asked “what do you remembered about middle school, eighth grade…  specifically?”

She sat amazed as I shared about living in a tiny town where the middle school was also the elementary school, with each grade having its own classroom area, yet the school as a whole was housed all within one small, in retrospect, building. Went on to share that I had moved to this area right as I was beginning 6th grade. Being the new kid in school was nothing new to me, as I had grown up changing schools often.  Although, unbeknownst to me at the time, this move turned out to be a very different one in my life. For the friendships I was making would not be coming to an end, within a year or two, when my father was once again transferred to a new area. Nope these childhood friendships, for the first time in my life, would be the one that would remain and continue on till this day.

As the sea turtle swam out of sight, I shared with my gal some of the many fond memories from middle school, eighth grade… specifically. About how I was the school mascot, and got to travel to basketball games, lead pep rallies, and shine in all my ‘tiger’ glory. How it was the year I fell in love with art, reading and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was the year I learned to harmonize and began singing in the school and church choir. Also told her about my first fight, how I lost it badly, and how Nana (my mom)had to come to the school and meet with the principal. This was not a proud moment for anyone and sharing it with my daughter made it even less so, yet, it is a part of what makes up my 8th grade memories.

Then I told her about Mike. My first ever best-guy-friend. That boy! From the day I met him, I liked him. He was genuinely kind, outrageously funny, with the unique capacity to make another feel as if they were the most important person he knew. He had the keen ability to care for others, at age 11, 12, 13…, better than most learn to do throughout their entire life. He was the first one who befriended me when I arrived at Arlington Elementary and he remained my friend until the day of his death.

FullSizeRender-1Mike and I from 6th grade on were school mates, partners in crime (literally…stealing a street sign that had my last name on it. I’ll admit I was not the best influence on this lad, but he loved me in spite of it) driving partner (he taught me the fine gift of driving a truck with a stick shift on the gears) school-play mates (drama club productions with Ms. Nelson as our director), and each other’s prom date, even though we both ‘liked’ someone else at the time. Cause going together…we knew, would be one heck of a good time. And boy howdy was it ever!

Bella has heard about Mike a few times during her life, because, even though he is gone, the impact he and his life made will forever be remembered. So as she continues to count down the days till school begins again I hope some of my 8th grade memories imparted at least this…

we never know who we are going to encounter when we start something new. So go start 8th grade without a care in the world, have fun, meet the nicest boy on the school yard.  Be his friend, regardless of who thinks “y’all like each other”, for he may turn out to be the one that becomes your most favorite friend, or the one that teaches you that some friendships are meant to last a lifetime, or maybe he’ll be your just-for-the-sake-of-fun prom date five years from now…but please baby girl whatever you do, don’t wrangle that poor boy into any sign stealing crime sprees.