The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 

Welcome to Homecoming Week here at the Yearbook Office! This week we are sharing stories about homecoming, in its many forms, and how they have affected us. Homecoming Week means more than dress-up days and pep rallies, but at least we start with a story about a parade. - Editor

Some of us only go back home in our memories. I have an entire shelf stacked with childhood diaries. The younger version of Nicole was relentlessly accurate in what she wanted: to learn everything there was to know about musical theater (which I called “my passion in the world”), as well as math, literature, and the great big adult world that she could see glimpses of by staying quiet and eavesdropping on grown-up conversations.

She was that kid who shows up in movies—and yes, she’s seen all those movies—the one who’s always hanging around the door hoping the teacher will say “You’re smart. Here’s a book that’s way above your grade level. Let’s discuss it together soon.” Much of her adolescence was spent waiting for, and writing about, those moments: every crumb of information cataloged and analyzed in the hopes that it would help her get where she wanted to go.

The names are changed, but the spelling errors are left extant. Here we go.

October 16, 1995

I was in eighth grade, 20 days away from turning 14.

Dear Miranda,

On Saturday (10-14-95) our wonderful band marched in Kirkland College’s Homecoming parade. The parade was also a competition, and our JH Band took second place out of three bands (yes! sarcastically)!

South Lincoln was third. Perry Middle School was first. Poor Mr. South Lincoln.

How do I even face my thirteen-year-old self? Okay. Yes, I named my diary Miranda, and yes, it was because of Anne Frank, and please don’t ever ask me to share any of the entries I wrote during the First Gulf War. She’s also Miranda from The Tempest, because of course I would name my diary after Miranda from The Tempest. Oh brave new world, etc.

I underlined those three letters because they initialized PMS. Everyone made that joke. Every year, a new group of eighth graders discovered that joke.

And yes, poor Mr. South Lincoln, the subject of a matchmaking campaign led by thirteen-year-olds. We were determined that our single, female choir director should fall in love with the single, male choir director at the nearby South Lincoln school. We were going to make this happen out of sheer will and continual reminders that Mr. South Lincoln existed. This has never worked as a romantic strategy.

After our band marched and we were free to do whatever we wanted, Danielle, Brian, and I went to the gas station for our complimentary band member soda.

Danielle was my best friend and Brian was her boyfriend. At this point in the diary entry, I drew their names with a heart around them.

As we came out of the gas station, I saw Kim. I had been watching for certain people, such as Anna Redman/Miss Perry County, Miss Hauser (though why would she be there!), anyone from “The King and I” (especially Kim, Andy, or Macavity), or any friend, etc.

And here come the teachers. Anna Redman was a teacher. Miss Hauser was the teacher we were trying to set up with Mr. South Lincoln.

Kim was not a teacher, but she was a college student, which was good enough. This was the year that Kirkland College staged The King and I, which meant I got to spend six weeks playing a Siamese child in the company of college students and theater professors. I wrote about every rehearsal in detail. I wrote about acting technique. I got Anna and the King of Siam on inter-library loan so I could build additional character background for my supernumerary role.

So Kim, Andy, and Macavity are all college students who are also in the play, and I think they’re my friends.

And OH MY GOOD GRAVY yes. Macavity. The Mystery Cat. Any time thirteen-year-old Nicole didn’t know someone’s name, she substituted the name of a character from one of her favorite musicals. I spent months writing about “Macavity” because I had no idea what his name actually was. Later, I’d go to my senior prom with someone I initially called “Gavroche”.

Kim was with a group of her college friends, and I walked in front of the group, to get her attention without interupting anything they might be doing. She recognized me instantly and immediatly hugged me (?). I hugged back, lamely. I did not expect a hug. Then she practically ditched her other friends as she spoke with me about the parade and such, even given me candy (Tangaroos).

That oh-so-clever strategy of walking in front of people in the hopes that they might notice you and invite you into their conversation. I still use that strategy. No — it might be fairer to say that I try very hard to avoid using that strategy.

Also, I have no idea what a Tangaroo is, and can’t find any mention of it online.

Of course I had ditched my other friends too, and Danielle might have been jealous, because as Kim turned her attention to a float that her friends were on, Danielle started asking me who she was, and why was her hair dyed black.

As they say on Tumblr: content warning: yellowface.

Kim had died her hair black for her role as Lady Thiang. It was really blonde. Of course, as soon as she figured out that we were talking about her, Kim turned around and showed off her hair to Danielle. Then she had to leave.

So let’s recap the series of interactions here: I was walking to a gas station with my best friend and her boyfriend. We passed by a group of college students. I made an excuse to walk in front of them so they would know I was there. As soon as one of them began talking to me, I left my best friend to — let’s be honest — revel in Kim’s attention. Then, I naturally assumed my best friend was jealous of this attention, when she probably just wanted to know WTF I was doing. And then Kim indulged a couple of thirteen-year-old girls who thought her hair was cool.

Dang it, thirteen-year-old Nicole. You want to be older so badly.

I also saw Tami (another Siamese child who is an excellent actress) and chatted with Miss Redman. So I was happy because I had seen my friends.

Nicole

And isn’t that still the thing. When I was even younger than thirteen, adults would make jokes that I was the child who acted 35. Now, my therapist tells me that I’ll probably be happiest when I’m in my 40s. Thirteen-year-old Nicole wanted to be older, and I don’t necessarily want to be older anymore, but I still share her ache to get at what’s next. I know that there are people doing better, realer work than I am, in every sense of the word — career, relationship, friendship, family — and even though they’re not teachers anymore, they’ve got the secret books that are above my grade level. I still want to walk in front of them, so they’ll notice me and invite me into that world.

I didn’t Facebook friend Tami, when she asked. She went to another school, and I only really knew her for the six weeks we did this play. I should Facebook friend her. I’ll go do it right now.