Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: NOTEBOOK

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This month's prompts are notebook, October, office, pajamas, paper, party, pencil, perfume, phone book, photograph, pictures.


When I first moved to Birmingham, I soon made friends with Michelle, who lived near me and rode the same bus. Because we didn't share many classes, we started a notebook to help us survive the school days – she would write in it, and I would write back. Our letters to each other would go for pages and pages, and they are full of all the angsty stuff you expect from 9th graders... lots of girl drama, like who said “hi” and who didn't, and “how could she do that” incidents, and how we didn't understand, and who we had crushes on, and what we were going to do that weekend, and how we were feeling, etc. 

The notebook that survives is a 3 subject notebook, 120 pages of wide ruled paper with a blue cover. It chronicles just one week in our lives, after a fall-out with two other girls. (This totally sounds like a novel!) The title “Michelle & Irene's book” is emblazoned on the front with red marker in my handwriting, along with black-ink (in Michelle's handwriting) “Shell - - Rie: V/B/F/F/A/A (very best friends forever and always) and “David Lee Roth” and “4 our eyes only!” (the “eyes” are a drawing of actual eyes, not the word) and “me & Ken!” (Michelle dated my brother Ken for a time... I should write a blog post about all my crazy mixed up feelings about that!) and “I hate Shonda & Angie! X-friends forever!” (“forever” is underlined a few times for emphasis).

I kind of don't like the girl with my name writing in this notebook. But I have a lot of compassion for her, too. That was a tough time for me. 13/almost 14 year old me was in a lot of pain. I had just moved and was trying to find a place to fit in. I was confused and unsure about so many things. I didn't know where I belonged or who I wanted to become... so the notebook is pretty painful to read. What strikes me most is how deep the feelings about the tiniest interactions... a good reminder to take great care in speaking with kids in this age (or any age!) bracket. Important to acknowledge their feelings and to remember they may be confused and suffering, as I was. They need lots of smiles and patience and encouragement. Mostly I just want to give 9th grade notebook-writing me a big hug and these words: Hang in there. It will get better.

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