CHAPTER 1 – Battlefield: Middle School
Monday, January 5, 1970
You were a gift from my Dad and I think he’d be hurt if I didn’t write in you so here I go… Today stunk or stank or whatever the past tense of stink is, although maybe I should just use the future tense because tomorrow will probably stink too. Why? Because of the public nudity enforced upon Middle School children in gym locker rooms, that’s why!
While I was quietly and quickly getting changed for gym today, the lovely and obnoxious Gretchen Alder accosted me. Gretchen is Mill Middle School’s very own, self appointed queen bee. She comes complete with two worker bees, Martha Castle and Cyndi Finderbeen who have gladly accepted the honor of doing her bidding. And lucky me… all three bees are in my gym class! Back to my story. Today, Queen Gretchen walks right up to my while I’m undressing. She flat out stares at my… chest area and she goes,
“Oh, my God. You really need a bra!”
I think people in other schools heard her. Congratulations, Queen Gretchen, you have found an all-new and highly humiliating method of teasing me. My breasts aren’t that big yet, are they? I was hoping I could wait until I’m 13 or maybe 30 to wear a bra. I’m not in any hurry to grow up. Martha calls me “immature” because I still wear an undershirt. She and Gretchen got bras before they even had anything to put in them. As if getting a bra is such a grand achievement or something. Here’s your bra. It comes with this trophy. To me, it’s like going into prison for the rest of my life. I don’t even understand why we have to “develop our figure.” I mean, female dogs don’t get breasts until they have puppies. Why do human grown up ladies have to carry them around ALL THE TIME?!
I guess I should introduce myself to you, Journal. My name is Lanie Spurdle. Hello, nice to meet you. Lanie is a nickname for Elaine. My middle name is Gail. Let’s see, what other important facts should I put here, right up front?
I am in the 7th grade. I live in Williamsville, NY. near Buffalo, NY. I am a simple girl with simple goals. Tomorrow, my dream is to make it successfully through gym class without getting picked on.
After school, Lois and I are going over to the Georgetown Plaza to get the new edition of Tiger Beat. Lois is my best friend and technically my third cousin because our grandmothers are first cousins and that’s what makes you third cousins, according to our mothers who are second cousins. See how that works? Seventh graders are old enough to walk to the plaza after school as long as there’s not a blizzard.. This is Western New York or the Niagara Frontier as The weather man likes to call it which makes is sound pretty rugged. And in many ways it is. For instance, if you enjoy your weather several notches below frigid, this is the town for you. However, If you’re more like me, and you prefer to feel your toes, you’re growing up and moving to California. That’s my plan. In the meantime, 7th grade.
One fun thing about Williamsville, NY is our lovely plazas which feature a fine selection of department, grocery, gift, discount and drug stores. Lois and I love to walk over to the Georgetown Plaza near our school because it’s just the best. They have a Grant’s department store with tons of discount record bins and the Woolworth’s has a really neat candy counter where I always order a bag of malted milk balls, and then we go to the Teck Pharmacy to get our teen mags. We gotta have our teen mags. But the best part about going to the plaza with Lois is just wandering in and out of stores together and laughing at everything until it gets dark. But first… the locker room.
I don’t mind the gym part of gym class. I’m OK at sports. I mean, I’m much better at sports than I am at math, or arithmetic. And I’m even worse at spelling. In fact, one time I had the word “arithmetic” as a spelling word and I got it wrong! I even had to look it up to spell it just now. Ha ha. So, yes, I do love sports although school gym is not nearly as much fun as when we play football on my street. First of all, girls never get to play football in school gym and second, our teacher, Mrs. Mason can yell even louder than she blows her whistle. But I usually get an A on my report card in gym and I think it’s because I’m a good team player. I never laugh out loud when someone strikes out in kickball, even though I find it pretty funny that a person could actually strike out in kickball.
But let’s move back to the locker room and the three bees. All they care about is clothes and boys and make-up and boys and parties and boys and cheerleading and boys and oh, did I mention boys?
They are three silly chirpy chattery chicks and they act like they are the only ones in school who know what to wear and when to wear it and what to say and when to say it and who should be talking to who and when they should be talking to that person and when they should not be, etc. etc.! OK, Secretly, I am afraid of them. They can make you feel like a tiny bug on a rock with one withering look.
Look, please don’t think I want to be a part of their group. I most certainly do not!! A lot of the things they talk about like make-up and boys and dating and kissing are all completely terrifying to me. Nope, I’m really not jealous. I just want them to leave me alone!
OK, let’s move on to my looks and my personality. People might tell you that I’m a cute, funny, spunky tomboy. But It’s my personal opinion that I am too tall and too plump, with dirty blond hair that’s too thick and yes, kids my age are probably too hard on themselves.
Oh, I almost forgot… Today is my Dad’s birthday so I made him a card where I drew a cartoon of him reading a book with a caption that says, “Reading: Good and good for you. Builds minds 12 ways. Nine out of ten dentists recommend reading books over eating them.”
And to go along with that I bought him a book about World War II. He likes to read about the war because he fought in it. He fought in the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He fought in battles all the way across Europe and he was only 18 years old. I always ask him to tell me stories about the war and sometimes he will. Other times he won’t talk about it. He says, “Maybe later.” If my Dad had died in this war, I wouldn’t be here. I think about that sometimes. There must be a lot of almost people who aren’t here because their Fathers died in a war.
Before bed, I went to say goodnight to my father and he was reading the book I gave him.
CHAPTER 2 – The Family
Tuesday January 6, 1970
Yea, me. Today I made it through gym class without incident. It’s snowing, but just a little, so after surviving school, Lois and I skipped the bus and walked to the plaza and then we walked home. It’s just a little over a mile and I usually sing my own special versions of the Top 40 hit songs which always gets Lois singing so it’s pretty funny. We want to start a band and call it Screwy and The Bolts. Ha ha. We made up that name because we love The Bolt Brothers on Here Come The Brides which is our favorite TV show. It’s about loggers in Washington State who are lonely so they send away for brides. I don’t think I would sail around the continent to marry a lumberjack, but Jeremy Bolt is played by the very gorgeous Bobby Sherman who my sister Amy plans to grow up and marry, so maybe she would.
Lois is pretty, with dark hair and rosy cheeks. She lives on Fleetwood Terrace, the street behind mine, Tristan Lane. A rule in my house is that you have to be home by 6pm, or by dark, whichever comes first. If you’re not home by then, you’re in trouble. I have no idea why it’s so important to my mother that I’m home by dinner. It’s not like we sit around the table and discuss our day. Sometimes I try to talk and my mother, Ruth Spurdle, pretends to listen and she’ll nod and say, “Mmm hmm,” which is my first clue that she’s not listening. My second clue is that I’ll say something funny (at least I hope it’s funny) and she’ll do her fake laugh which is a ha ha ha with a blank stare. I would prefer no laugh at all to the fake laugh. I get plenty of authentic laughs from my little brother Kurt who thinks I am just hilarious. He is a pretty goofy kid, even for a little brother but I get him. On the other hand, I do not get my older sister, Annie. She is mostly silent around me. I know that she is beautiful and popular and smart and I know that she is in love with Bobby Sherman. The rest of her is still a mystery. My dad, Marvin Spurdle works late on Mondays and Thursdays and he works all day Saturday.
He has a store that sells ladies’ coats, so very often dinner is just me, my sister, my brother, my mother and my mother’s bad mood. The bad mood is what makes it feel so crowded.
When dinner is over, we kids clear the table and do the dishes and my Mom goes into her room and shuts the door because she has a headache. If we are too loud, she comes out and yells at us. If we don’t clean up the kitchen right, we get yelled at, if she finds dirty clothes in our rooms, we get yelled at, if we don’t get ourselves clean enough in the shower, we get yelled at. In this house, you really never know when you’re going to get yelled at.
When Dad comes home, he’s quiet and angry because if Mom is in a bad mood, he figures it’s our fault. It probably is our fault. I don’t know what else to think. This is my family and this is the house I live in.
Chapter 3 - The Drum Sticks
Later this day…
ArRRgh!!!! RaaaaGGH! And WHAT THE HECK??!! My mother just busted into my room and stole my drumsticks. MY drumsticks! She took them right out of my hands! And I wasn’t even doing anything! I was just sitting on my dresser listening to Herman’s Hermits (my second favorite group) and drumming QUIETLY on my empty shoebox. All of a sudden my mom comes stomping down the hall, she bashes open my door, grabs my drumsticks and yells, “You may never get these back!!”
These are my very precious and only drumsticks. They were given to me by my cousin Jeremy when I was eight years old. He has a drum set just like I hope to have one day. I treasure those sticks, I need them. I know I’m being dramatic but I don’t just LIKE to drum. I HAVE to drum. My body just drums. I’m always drumming on desks, counters, walls floors, with my hands, my fingers, my feet.
It just floats out of me, even unconsciously sometimes , until somebody yells, “Stop drumming!” The most hated words of my life are: “Lanie, stop drumming.” I despise these words for two reasons 1) I don’t want to annoy people and 2) I don’t want to stop drumming. I know I am not a great drummer yet. How could I be? I am not allowed to have a drum set. My father says they’re too loud and my mother says they’re not for girls. This is why my number 1 favorite group is The Cowsills. They are a real family band and if I were in that family, nobody would yell at me for playing the drums.
The Bible says, “Thou shalt not steal.” It’s a commandment. And, even though no one ever says thou or shalt anymore, it’s still true. You’re not supposed to take things that aren’t yours just because you’re in a bad mood, even if you are ALWAYS in a bad mood.
Hey, guess what? Right now, I’m in a bad mood. I’m in a VERY bad mood!!!
Chapter 4 - One Good Friend
Wednesday, January 7
I am wondering today where my mother put my drumsticks because my plan is to go in and rescue them. To be fair, sometimes my Mom is in a good mood. When that happens, I can usually count on her for some excellent advice because my mother is a very smart person.
Once she told me that all you really need to get through life is one good friend. and I think that is probably true, providing everyone else stops picking on you.
My best friend is Lois and she has been since birth. Well, not quite since birth. She is four months younger than me. How did I ever make it through those
four months without her?!
Lois and I can talk about just about anything. We understand each other and we always laugh and laugh and laugh together. Once we were actually kicked out of a store for laughing too loud, which only made us laugh louder.
We have a lot of things in common, but not everything. For instance, Lois started wearing a bra last year and she was really excited about it. She said it made her feel like a lady. Lois bought lipstick and eye shadow and she likes to try them on and see what shades look best. The great thing, though, is that she doesn’t mind if I don’t like those things.
When I talk about the drums, Lois doesn’t say, “That’s stupid” like my sister does. She doesn’t say, “That’s not for girls,” like my mother does. She listens.
Lois has no problem with my passion for the drums and she feels there is no reason why a girl can’t play them too.
So, yes, I know what a best friend is. A best friend is someone who doesn’t tell you who you’re supposed to be or who you’re not supposed to be. A best friend is someone who listens to you. A best friend is someone who knows who you are and likes who you are.
Chapter 5 - About Clayton Murray
Thursday, January 8, 1970
I changed in the bathroom stall today at gym. It worked out OK. Gretchen didn’t notice and I don’t care what she thinks about me anyway, as long as she doesn’t bother me. She talks about boys all the time and that’s the only reason she thinks bras are important.
It’s because she says boys like breasts, which I find weird. If they like them so much why don’t they grow their own? I told that to Lois today and we laughed for about 15 minutes.
The thing is, there is this one boy. His name is Clayton Murray and I think he’s really neat. He’s very smart. He’s not much into sports but he’s popular. I think it says a lot about a boy to not be into sports and still be popular.
I don’t want to say I actually like him though because I don’t quite completely know him. We just sort of nod at each other. I’m only going to say that I think he’s intriguing. (new vocabulary word) Oh and two more things. He has a really nice face and he plays the stand-up bass in the stage band.
Later This Day…
Just now, my dad caught me up late and knocked on my door. He asked me if I was writing in my journal. I said I was and I think that made him happy. He told me that he used to keep a journal when he was fighting in World War II. I asked him if he still has the journal and he says he does have it somewhere, but I’m too young to read it. There are things in there that I’m not ready to know about yet.
Nothing I write in my journal will ever be as important as what a soldier would write in a war journal. I’m not trying to save the world. I’m just trying to survive Middle School. But I think I’ll keep writing in here because maybe my father saved the world so that one day, he could have a little girl, who would write in her journal.