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Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul 2
Stories About Facing Challenges, Realizing Dreams and Making a Difference
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen, Irene Dunlap
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
Someone to laugh with, perhaps to shed some tears
A person who's been with you all through the years.
Someone to shelter you from days that are cold
A shoulder to lean on, a warm hand to hold.
An arm to catch you if you slip and you fall
And an ear for your problems whenever you call.
Someone to share your giggles and your screams
A person to tell all your secrets and dreams.
Someone to hug you when you're happy or sad
To just be there in the good times or bad.
A person with whom you don't have to pretend
These are the jobs of a very best friend.
Michele Davis, fifteen
We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.
I have distant friends, neighborhood friends, basketball friends and friends online. However, I have one group of friends that has really been special to me.
In the fifth grade, my twin sister, Monica, and I transferred to a new school. Without any hesitation, I went. I didn't argue. Since my mom taught there, I would no longer have to ride the bus with a bunch of rowdy boys and worry about stuff like getting kicked in the head. No kidding—they actually accidentally kicked me in the head one day!
At my old school, I hadn't made any real friends. I was treated like a complete dork because of the way I looked. I had glasses, baggy clothes, pimples and blemishes. I rarely smiled and hardly ever laughed, wore a belt and was overweight. I was also dealing with the reality of my parents getting a divorce.
So, on the first day at my new school, I just hoped that I would make friends. For a few weeks, I was always alone. Monica ended up having a different lunch period than I did, so I would just read during recess and lunch.
Then one day, a girl in my class named Cori came up to me at lunch and asked if she could sit by me. We began to talk, and since we both are twins, it gave us a lot to talk about. Soon, Cori introduced me to friends of hers— Adriane, Hannah and Toni—and I introduced them to Monica. Then Cori's twin, Cole, and his friends Matt and Ross started hanging around with us. We became one big inseparable group. At recess we played basketball and other games. We did everything together.
Ever since we've been together, my friends have always been there for me—even the boys. They liked me, for me. Having them in my life changed the way I felt about myself. Their friendship gave me a sky-high feeling. We barely ever argued! We were really tight. They seemed to understand how hard it was to change schools and have stuck with me through the tough times, like dealing with my parents' divorce.
One time, when Monica and I couldn't go outside with our friends after school, Toni supplied us with a pair of walkie-talkies to keep us all in touch!
I began being more outgoing, like getting involved in student council and entering writing contests—some that I even won! Then came the sixth grade, our last year of elementary school and the last year for all of us to be going to the same school together. Adriane, Hannah, Toni, Matt and Ross were going to Tison. Monica and I would at least still be seeing Cori and Cole since the four of us were all going to Hall Junior High.
I'd also be seeing my "old" classmates from the other elementary school, including some I had run into recently. Boys who had teased me in my old school, stood staring at me not even knowing who I was. The girls who previously had treated me like vapor now payed attention to me and called me by name. I couldn't figure it out. I didn't know why. I thought that I was the same old me. But then when I looked in the mirror, I realized that I was a lot different than I had been before.
I wasn't short and stubby anymore. I had grown tall and slender and my complexion had cleared up. The glasses were gone and my belts were pushed to the back of my closet. I realized then that my friends had done more than just make me feel good—they had made me feel confident because they had supported me, and slowly my appearance had changed.
With their help, I had pushed my weight off. Toni helped me with that by encouraging me not to eat some of the more fattening foods and telling me that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I had been trying to lose weight since I was nine, when the doctor had said to my mom, "Michelle has a weight problem."
I learned to properly wash my face with the help of my friend Hannah and her magical beauty tips. "Just wash your face every night, it doesn't take too long!" she instructed.
With the help of Cori, my belt was gone. "Believe me, it's a lot less painful on your stomach. I used to tuck all my clothes in, even sweaters!" she exclaimed.
Adriane suggested that I wear my glasses only when I really needed them. "If you can see how many fingers I'm holding up, you are okay," she said. "Just wear them when you need to see the homework assignment on the board."
My sister, Monica, loves clothes and helped me pay attention to how I dressed. She would give me feedback about what looked good and what didn't. It really helped to hear her say, "Wow, Michelle, that looks FANTASTIC on you! Man, why couldn't I have gotten that?"
With the help of Cole, I learned a little bit more about athletics. "No! No! The receiver receives the ball! No! No! The quarterback doesn't flip the quarter! That's the referee!" he explained.
With the help of Matt, I learned to smile. "It won't hurt you," he encouraged.
With help from Ross, I learned a laugh a day keeps the frown away.
"B in math? Awesome! That's not failing—it's just not perfect," expressed my friends.
As I gaze into the mirror, I turn to the left and then to the right. I smile at my reflection, because I now realize that these people, my true friends, never saw me as a dork. They saw the beauty in me. They brought my personality out.
The best friends that anyone in the world could ever have will be missed when we go to junior high. But I will cherish the memories that we have created, and whatever happens, I'll always remember that my friends helped me become who I am. In conclusion, I have to say ... thanks, Cori, Cole, Hannah, Matt, Adriane, Ross, Toni and Monica.
Y'ALL ARE THE BEST!!!
Michelle Strauss, twelve
Right in Front of Me
A friend will not talk bad about you and will never lie. Friends are always there for you if you need to cry. Friends will be there for you through thick and through thin. When the rest of the world walks out on you, a friend will walk in.
Nicole Johnson, thirteen
When I was in the sixth grade, I met my new best friend. Her name was Courtney, and she was tall, pretty and smart. She was also one of the most popular girls in school. That same year, I met my worst enemy, this awful boy named David. Every day he would call me names and pull my hair. I couldn't stand him.
When we graduated to seventh grade, Courtney ran for student body president. One night, she invited me over to her house to make posters and buttons for her campaign.
When I arrived, I was horrified at what I saw. It was David! Apparently, Courtney and David had been friends for some time. David and I looked at each other as though we were two cowboys in an old Western movie ready for a showdown. Our eyes locked and each of us frowned at the other. After what seemed like an eternity, Courtney broke the stare by telling us to get to work on the posters. We sat in silence for a few moments, and then David said, "Hey, we haven't gotten along in the past, but let's call a truce for the sake of Courtney." I was stunned at his suggestion, and I also couldn't refuse.
Once we decided to stop being enemies, we hit it off almost immediately. David and I found out that we had the same sense of humor and laughed at the same jokes. We both loved the same music and going to the same movies. We could talk about anything. I couldn't believe that a few hours before, I couldn't stand to be near David, and now here we were, covered in glue and glitter and laughing so hard our stomachs hurt. I never even had this much fun with Courtney. But even after I realized that I had this connection with David, when I went home, I kind of dismissed it. After all, he was a boy and Courtney was my best friend.
A couple of months later, my grandfather died. A week after his funeral, my parents decided that we should move. I was terribly upset because I loved my school and my friends, especially Courtney. But she promised me she would call me at least once a week and we would get together as often as possible. There was no doubt in my mind that we would stay friends through this difficult time in my life—dealing with my grandfather's death and, on top of that, moving to a new town. I gave David my new phone number, too, and told him to call me.
A couple of weeks went by, but I never even got one phone call from Courtney. On the other hand, David had already called me several times to ask how I was doing and tell me what was happening at my old school. I was so upset that I hadn't heard from Courtney that I finally decided to call her. When she answered the phone, she apologized for not calling me and told me that she was going to be in a play and that I should come and see it with David. Courtney said we would all go out to dinner afterward. I was so excited that I was going to see my best friend again.
My mom dropped me off at the theater, and I ran into David right away. We had been talking so much on the phone that I felt like I had just seen him the day before; it was a great feeling. After the play, David and I waited for Courtney to come meet us so that we could go to dinner. But Courtney never showed up. She left without even saying hello or good-bye. I was heartbroken and I started to cry. I had wanted to see and speak with my best friend, who hadn't even called me since I had moved. I needed her to be there for me, to ask me how I was holding up, and she wasn't even interested.
After I had finished bawling my eyes out, I looked up and there was David. I realized something at that moment; my true friend wasn't at all who I had thought. During a rough transition in my life, the person that I had thought was my best friend couldn't even make time for me, and the person who was once my enemy became my closest friend in the world.
I have never spoken to Courtney again. But every week, David and I talk on the phone. To this very day, David is my best friend.
The Mysterious Book Bag
The homemade book bag was sprawled across my bed. It appeared to have taken over the entire room. I hovered in the doorway just staring at it, a little afraid to move toward it. I closed my eyes for a second, trying to imagine the large shoulder bag gone. I carefully visualized a nice, normal store-bought backpack in navy blue or black.
I opened my eyes again. It was still there. The large sack was the color of rust, and fuzzy, like a stuffed animal. I knew that my mom had spent all day happily sewing as she envisioned me proudly walking from class to class with it flung over my shoulder.
To make matters worse, I realized that the fabric was actually left over from a toy horse that my mom made for me when I was a baby. Now there was sentiment attached to it. I entered the room and picked up the gift. My mother had even quilted little running horses along each side. And, just to make certain that no one would be confused as to who owned this furry monstrosity, Mom had embroidered my name on one side.
If I had been eight and not twelve, I would have been thrilled. The book bag was huge, with numerous pockets. The thing would easily hold all of my school supplies, and it was sturdy, too. It would last, so I couldn't hope that it would soon fall apart, giving me the perfect excuse to be rid of it.
"Do you like it?" my mother asked.
"Yes," I said in a halting voice. "Thank you."
"Well, if you don't like it, you don't have to use it," Mom said sadly.
"Oh no, Mom, I love it," I lied, picking the bag up and rubbing the soft fabric against my face. The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt her feelings. "You used the same fabric from Flaming Star," I said with a smile, letting her know that I understood the connection to my childhood stuffed animal. "Thanks," I muttered again and hugged her.
After a while, I got up the nerve to load the new bag with notebooks, pens and other school supplies. It is kind of cute, I tried to convince myself.
The next day I was to start seventh grade at a new school, in a new state, in the middle of the school year. I was nervous and excited all rolled into one.
That first day at school I heard the whispers. "Have you seen the new girl? She's from California. Did you see that big furry bag?" Then there were giggles.
Because I started school in the middle of the year, all of the lockers had been assigned to other kids. There was no storage available for me, so I was forced to haul all my stuff around in the oversized fuzzy bag, making me seem suspicious.
I soon became known as "the weird girl with the huge, fluffy horse bag."
Wild stories flew back and forth about what I kept in the bag that never left my side. Drugs? some kids wondered. Clothes? Is she homeless?
There was nothing interesting in that bag, just my coat during cold weather, school books, papers and pens. Eventually, most students pretty much ignored me, but some of the kids teased me about the fuzzy horse bag. People grabbed at it, pretended to pat it like a dog and tried to toss their trash into it. My teachers didn't seem to notice, probably because I didn't ever complain or ask for help.
As the year progressed, I started to hate that bag. I blamed all my problems on it. I felt helpless and alone, miserable, and homesick for California and my old friends.
One day toward the end of the school year, my math teacher assigned each student a partner to work with on word problems. I was told to work with Debbie, a popular redheaded girl who was in several of my classes. She smiled and waved me over toward her desk, so I grabbed my notorious bag and quietly moved toward her. As I sat down, I realized that I had never spoken to her before.
"So, what's in the bag?" Debbie asked loudly with a grin. The students working at the table next to us turned to hear my answer.
"Um, just books and stuff," I stammered, caught totally off guard.
"Can I see?" she boldly asked.
Then she held out a hand for my bag. I was so shocked that I simply handed it over without a word.
By this time, numerous other kids were watching us.
"So, why do you have clothes in there sometimes?" Debbie asked.
"Just my coat or a sweater or whatever I wore to school." I replied.
"But why?" Debbie tilted her head with the question. "And, why on earth do you cart around everything, for all of your classes? Do they do that in California?"
"No, in California I had a locker!" Then I explained. "They were all out of lockers when I got here this year."
Then Debbie started to laugh—not at me, but at the situation. "You mean, you've just been carrying your stuff around all this time because the school didn't have enough lockers?"
"This happens every year. The school doesn't have enough lockers, so lots of us have to share." She started giggling again. So did I. "There's, what, a week left of school," Debbie said through spurts of laughter. "But, you can share with me if you want. That bag is kind of funky— very chic when you think about it. One of a kind."
Then Debbie stood up, still grinning. "Hey everyone. Guess what? Laura's bag is just full of school stuff!" she exclaimed. "No locker," she said with her hands up and shoulders scrunched, as if to say, "What was she supposed to do?"
"All right, Debbie, that's enough," the teacher said loudly. "I'm glad that's settled. Now get back to math!"
Debbie rolled her eyes and handed me a piece of paper with her locker combination scrawled on it. "Wish I'd asked you about that bag months ago," she whispered. Then she asked me something I never thought I'd hear. "Do you think your mom would make me one?" When I nodded, bewildered, she started laughing again. "I think we're gonna be friends," she declared, loudly enough for the whole class to hear.
And we still are.
A Friendship to Remember
For some, life lasts a short while, but the memories it holds last forever.
Her name was Emma. She was the new girl in school. I remember feeling very sorry for her because every student was staring, pointing and whispering about her. She was extremely small, very thin and, worst of all, she was a twelve-year-old girl who had no hair.
Emma ended up in my homeroom. She was introduced to everyone that first day and was then told to find an empty seat. Emma took a seat two rows away from me, one chair up. She lay her head down on her new desk, crossed her legs and put her hands over her face. She tried to conceal her embarrassment but everyone could sense it.
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul 2 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen, Irene Dunlap. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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