My Beloved Daughter,
I had a good summer after my freshman year of high school. I hung around with my cousin’s brothers-in-law and sister-in-law, along with our friend, Bridget. We’d converge on the Clardy homestead and spend the entire day playing D&D. This worked out well, as your Grandma Pat started working at the beginning of that summer at an onion ring factory in Piedmont. She car-pooled with the Clardys’ mother, Laurette. I’d just get up early, ride with her and stay at their house while the two of them were at work.
Bridget was a fun person to be around. She was a tiny, cute girl with freckles and pretty much every guy in the group had a crush on her, something of which she seemed totally oblivious. But, as she was three years younger than me, I just tried to look at her like a little sister. She wasn’t afraid to ham it up with the guys, either. She could come up with some of the most grotesque jokes and we would be rolling. She had a rough home life, so getting her away from her house was our little way of helping her.
I started my sophomore year of high school in the fall of 1990. I had resolved to go into this year with a better attitude than I had shown the previous year. No matter how much I was bullied, I did not let myself miss school. In fact, I only missed a week that year and that was because I got the flu. My grades improved.
Also, my first full summer without cable television had a better effect on me. I lost quite a bit of weight. I remember having to go clothes shopping just before going back to school. I actually got compliments on my weight loss. I felt better than I had in a long time.
Sophomore year was the year that I first had a class with the English teacher who would teach that particular subject for the rest of my time in high school. I won’t mention her name here, as she has threatened, through second-hand sources, to sue me if I ever mention her in anything that I write. I even had to remove her name from the acknowledgements of my first book before the publisher sent it to press.
You see, all throughout high school, she taught us certain rules of grammar. And, being the Word Nazi that I’ve always been, I latched on to every lesson. While Mr. Hager and Mr. Freeman were my favorite teachers, this woman was something more. I idolized her to an almost unhealthy extent. Her views were more in line with those that I thought that I, at the time a bleeding-heart liberal, felt that I should have. So anything that she taught me in high school, I ingested like a starving man. What brought everything crashing down didn’t happen until I was in college, so I’ll not go into it here. We’ll save that for a later entry.
The best part of my tenth grade year was meeting new friends. Through Bridget, I met Eric Hall, J.D. Hall, Josh King, and Jesse King. Also, I started hanging out with Travis Hanger, whose parents were friends with my parents. I didn’t get to hang out with him in school, however, as he was in Elementary School. So, along with your Uncle Evan, our little group just kind of worked. We all had the same interests and it was us against the world.
Eric was probably the most intelligent boy I had ever met. A “straight-A” student, he graduated at the top of his class in 1995. You now know him as the man who owns Annie Moon Trading Company, the comic book store.
Josh was the silliest kid I had ever met. He would come up with some of the most off-the-wall things and make jokes of them. He used to brag that he was the reincarnation of Robin Hood. Well, technically, he never said that he was the reincarnation of Robin Hood. He just said that he was Robin Hood.
Jesse, Josh’s little brother, was an adorable kid who I think looked up to Josh more than either of them cared to admit. J.D., Eric’s little brother, was the most gifted master of the insult that I’ve ever known. Nobody could insult him without getting a sharp comeback. Together, the two little brothers referred to themselves as “Jade and Jessifer” . . . and I have no idea what they meant by that or why they did it.
Josh now travels around, working at Renaissance Faires and pretty much living his fantasy. I caught up with him on Facebook long enough to find out that his technical home is in Colorado, even though he doesn’t stay still for long. He also told me that Jesse lives in the Kansas City area and doesn’t have a Facebook page, as of this writing. Then, he inexplicably dropped me as a Facebook friend and broke off all contact with me. I never figured out why.
And you’ve met J.D., as well. He now goes by Jack and teaches elementary school. We’ve played Pathfinder with him. He’s certainly mellowed out since his younger years. You’ll hear much more about Eric and J.D. as this blog continues because they were the friends that I was around the most during the summer. Your Uncle Evan, living on the far side of town, didn’t start coming out to visit during the summer until after he had gotten his driver’s license the summer after we had graduated.
My best memories of this time were the nights when my Uncle Junior would host the Penny Ante Poker game at his house. Travis Hanger’s dad and Eric and J.D.’s stepdad would go. Since Uncle Junior lived right up the road from us, Eric and J.D. would ride with their stepdad and Travis would ride with his father. Sometimes, Josh and Jesse would ride along with Eric and J.D. and William Clardy would come, too. They would all come down to my house and we’d spend the hours fighting monsters in dungeons around my makeshift gaming table, which was a large trunk that took up the majority of the center of my room. I treasure these memories and miss them a great deal.
The summer after my tenth grade year, Bridget’s mother took her children and moved away from Van Buren. For years, we wondered where they had gone but, knowing the kind of home life that she had with her stepfather, we hoped that she was having a better life, wherever she may be. Now, also due to the wonder called Facebook, I’ve found her again, too. She lives near St. Charles, of all places, and I hope to introduce you to her soon.