Last week was my niece J's graduation from 8th grade. If you didn't go to Catholic school you probably didn't have one of these. It's all pretty goofy and pointless but it makes the kids feel important as they are about to head to high school. Over the past few months, J and I have grown a lot closer since she chose me to be her Confirmation sponsor. She is so much like me, in both good and bad ways, it's kind of freakish. She looks exactly how I looked at 14 years old. She's sensitive and has anxiety like I do. She's smart and she likes to write. She digs vampires. She loves animals and has a huge heart. Where we differ is how athletic she is. She plays soccer, basketball, softball. I never did any of those things.
She's a great kid, all around. But for some reason, she never, in 9 years at that school (she also went to kindergarten there) made a friend. She's a bit shy but for some reason the kids at her school never accepted her and with only about 11 girls in her whole class, once friendships were established that was that. Those friendships were established in kindergarten. She has, at times, eaten lunch in the office because she has no one to sit with. When she does venture the cafeteria, she is ignored. She was never included in any way. The stupid ass school did nothing about this disgusting treatment. Of course what you expect from a Catholic school. They sweep everything under the rug.
A few weeks ago it was her birthday. And at her school, on a students birthday the kids decorate the birthday kids locker and desk. J went to school that morning and was greeted with nothing. No decorations anywhere. The only kid in her class who did not receive this special treatment for her birthday. And she was devastated. Being a 14 year old girl already sucks, but being one with such friend problems is even worse. I didn't have this kind of problem when I was in school. It did take me awhile to find my way, be who I was and not worry about what anyone else thought, but I got there around the age J is now. I think she may have gotten there too.
She's come to the end of her time at that school and cannot wait to get out. A new school, potential new friends, and some of the bitches are going to a different school. A new beginning for her. The school had the graduation ceremony and a reception following. She didn't want to go, she owed these kids nothing. But her mom and dad didn't want her to miss out on it so she was made to go. With only 23 students graduating, the parents were to bring their child up to the church altar to be presented as a graduate. One parent could speak and then the graduate got to speak. I watched as one by one, the girls that turned this beautiful girl into a sad and lonely child went up to the altar and said similar things, "My time at this school has strengthened my relationship with God and has made me the person I am today." Sitting there in the back of the church with my dad, which is another tale for another day, my mind wandered ... "made you the person you are today? And what would that be? A mean spirited little bitch?" I had brief glimmers of feeling bad for thinking that way while in church, but my love for J is more powerful than thinking a curse word in church.
And then it was time for J to go up. My brother and sister in law went up to the altar with her and presented her. And then J took the mic. What came out of her was stunning and beautiful and in essence a big fat fuck you to every one of those girls. She started out with one of my all time favorite quotes by Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” From there she went on to say how her time at that school has taught her what a true friend is, and a true friend is not someone who cares how you look or what you wear, but is someone you can tell all you secrets to and they will never judge you. With tears rolling down my face, it was all I could do to restrain myself from jumping up and down and screaming from the back of the church, "you tell them J!!!"
I made sure to tell her how proud I was of her. How much I loved what she said and how no matter what, her auntie will always be there for her. She's beautiful, inside and out. And while I'm not a fan of this particular singer, I leave you with this song today because it conveys the emotions I feel and my love for J.