When I was in the 10th grade, I found a note in my locker. Kids, we used to have these things called pencils and pens. If we wanted to communicate with our friends, we would write a note. On a piece of notebook paper. With a pen or pencil. It was not instantaneous, and sometimes the passing of the note in class or in the hallways was just as exciting as opening the note itself. The advent of cell phones has, alas, ruined the good old note. I digress. I found a note in my locker.
It wasn’t locked, and yet the sender had stuffed it between the vents in the locker anyway…very polite etiquette. And, like a scene from a very bad teen movie, this is how it played out.
I found the piece of folded paper, and a girl whose locker was near mine asked the who’s-it-from/where-did-you-find-it/etc./etc. questions…and then grabbed it out of my hand to read it.
I was a private note-reader back in 1994…and I liked to delay the surprise and read notes in my next class to make it go by faster. Not today. The friend (whose name I can’t even recall now, but I do remember wanting to impress her) read the note first, and laughed. Hard. And then she handed it back to me.
“Good luck with that one,” she sniffed. “What a loser. Who is that, even?” (Okay…I’m paraphrasing and obviously can’t remember the exact dialogue from that long ago, but you get the idea. If you can’t, watch The Breakfast Club or something else by John Hughes. The impression you should be getting here is that this girl, whom I wanted to think I was cool, had found something in this note that made me, or its author, inherently uncool. Which was not cool with me.)
Sticking to my private note-reading mantra, I high-tailed it to the next class to read the mystery note. And what I found there was really sweet, albeit a little uncomfortable.
A boy named Andrew had written it. He was basically telling me about himself, confessing a crush on me, and (my cheeks burn just thinking about it) how great he thought I was. Nothing like this had never happened to me before, and my first immature reaction was to be embarrassed, though it was difficult at the time for me to explain why. Andrew was a junior, a year older than I, but I didn’t know who he was.
Andrew ended the note with a question: “Have you ever heard the Vince Gill song ‘Whenever You Come Around’? Well, that’s how I feel about you.” At the time, this wasn’t a song I was familiar with, so I did what any 10th grade girl in 1994 would do: I asked my mother to drive me to Wal-Mart where we bought the single tape version. Yep, kids, those were the good old days.
I stuck the tape in the tape deck of my mother’s minivan, and we sat and listened to the song. By the end, we were both teary-eyed as Vince Gill crooned, “When you smile that smile, the world turns upside down…whenever you come around.” Oh. My. Goodness… It was the single-most romantic thing anyone had said to me in my fifteen years.
Alas, I wish I could tell you that there was a love connection between Andrew and me. I wish I could tell you that Andrew and I became great friends, or that “Andrew” was really a euphemism for my husband Jeff, also amazingly lurking the halls of that same high school and destined, way down the road at the end of college, to be mine forever, and thankfully, staying away from the self-conscious 15-year-old me who was afraid to take a chance with someone who didn’t eat at the same lunch table. But Andrew was none of those things to me, I’m ashamed to say.
Andrew was a normal guy, except that he had a hell of a romantic streak, great talent as a guitar player, and I was too scared and immature to give him a chance. Neither one of us ever got the nerve to talk to the other…his reasons I won’t even guess at, but mine were of the 10th-grade-shallow-girl variety.
Today I, a more mature and confident Carrie, would thank Andrew for his grand romantic gesture. Even though the stars didn’t line up for us, he gave me the gift of worth: he recognized from afar that maybe here was a girl worth getting to know. I won’t get that chance…Andrew is, tragically, no longer here…and that makes me unendingly sad.
Enter, finally, the idea that I might one day have to tell this story to my daughter, who, at seven years old, is the brightest and most beautiful star on the planet. She is funny, kind, beautiful, brilliant, athletic, artistic…I could go on and on. And she will probably (most assuredly) catch the eye and heart of an Andrew someday. What should I tell her? Do as I say, not as I did? It’s a hard lesson to swallow for any teenager.
But I hope above hope that, if an Andrew sticks a note in her locker, or posts on her social media page, or whatever else teenagers will be doing ten years down the road, that she will be kind and become his friend, even if the love connection isn’t there. I hope she will have the courage that I didn’t have, to sit at the lunch table with him and learn about what he wants out of life, and thank him for noticing her.