It was summer and I was beyond hot, the sun felt like it was boring a hole into my head and I could feel the beginnings of prickly heat popping up around my neck. I used my sleeve to wipe my forehead and looked over at my nieces.
Christy and Ann each had a nice big pile of ragweed beside them. I was struggling. Ann looked over and tutted.
“You’re not pulling them up by the root, you’re supposed to be pulling them out by the root.” she said.
I looked down at my pile and she was right. It was all bits and pieces of ragweed and the air around me stung with the the ragweed’s strong scent. My nose began to run and when I wiped it hastily with my hand my fingers brushed my mouth. I licked my lips and my mouth became full of the weed’s strong bitter taste.
Pulling weeds was not my favorite thing to do.
“Hurry up already, if we’re done by noon grandma will give us our five cents a weed and we can buy something from the store before my dad comes for us. ” said Christy, the eldest.
I look up to them, of course I do. They stay over during the daytime in the summer because their mom hates the idea of leaving them alone all day. But they’re such a grownup thirteen and twelve. They come over every morning on their bikes all by themselves from their home across town. Something my mother would’ve never let me do.
And they know everything. They each have their own card from the video store and today they rode over there before coming to our house. They were allowed to rent anything, even PG 13 stuff.
I was in awe of them.
But they didn’t like me. I wasn’t cool enough for them. I still acted like a baby. They thought I was weird ever since that day we were going to play Barbies together two years ago and mine was half bald and had marker scratches drawn on her.
“She’s been going on missions.” I explained smiling
They looked at their in perfect condition dressed like a malibu princess Barbies and shook their heads at me.
I was a year younger then Christy. I was two months older then Ann. Our parents assumed we’d be great friends. My sister tried to push it to happen. I tried to push it to happen. My nieces resisted.
And on that day as I thought about this in the heat feeling dirty and still unable to pull up the stinking weeds by the root I let a few tears of frustration drop into the dirt alongside my sweat.
I blinked twice when I saw it not quite believing.
A fifty dollar bill half covered by grass and the weeds. I picked it up in my hands and stretched it out to look at it.
“Whoa, what’s that?” said Christy moving closer to me.
She brought the scent of the Avon honeysickle toillete she mother let her wear and the cherry lipgloss she reapllied several times a day. The girl looked spotless and I looked a mess. How did she manage that?
“No way!” said Ann snatching it from me,”Wow! where’d you find this?”
“It was in the grass and the weeds, I wonder who it belongs to?” I said looking down the street one way and then the other.
“Are you kidding me?” Ann announced with a loud pop of her Bubblicious,”This is ours now!”
“Come on get up, we’ll go clean up and the walk to the store, we’ll have a picnic, no a feast!” said Christy beaming.
And we did, we walked to the store and bought fifty dollars of junk and rigged up a tent out of bed sheets in the back yard to picnic under. And they were nice to me all afternoon. And it was lovely but bittersweet.
Because I had stopped caring so much about whether they were nice to me or not. I learned that I could buy their friendship if I was able to, and that meant I no longer wanted to.
I stopped trying so hard, but I did have the occasional slip up. There was the time they convinced me that letting them bleach my hair with peroxide would be a good idea. Or that letting them leave a rude message on my ex BFF’s answering machine was okay. It wasn’t.
And we did become closer as we grew older- shared experiences did that. But are we best of friends? No.
I realize that this is because we are different, we like completely different things- being friends should never mean bending and reshaping yourself to suit another. As I grew older I learned doing that wasn’t for me.
And although this is not my red dress prompt,because I can’t pick just one 5 minute period in my life to share with them on my death bed, this is a lesson I’d want my girls to know. It’s a lesson that I had to learn several times over.