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My Writer's Journal

The Most Useful Girl

I first met Janey in kindergarten. She was a beautiful child with a winning smile and pretty curls, and her mother dressed her in nice dresses with big bows in the back. Janey was taking music lessons and learning to tap-dance. At Halloween she appeared costumed as a fairy princess with a sparkly crown and a wand with a star at the end of it. Our teacher, Miss Keller, chose Janey to lead the parade through the parlor and the dining room and back to our schoolroom. I was a shy little girl with thick glasses, buck teeth, and no discernible talents, and my mother had put me in a clown costume. I could bring up the rear, Miss Keller decided.

I didn't see much of Janey until we were both in junior high. By then she was a classic beauty in expensive clothes. She'd become a fine pianist and she could dance to anything. I had progressed to braces, bad perms, and clothes my mother was misguidedly convinced were "smart." Despite such profound differences, Janey and I were friends.

The Awards Assembly was coming up at the end of ninth grade, and I was convinced that I would be chosen The Most Useful Girl. I participated in all kinds of activities, wrote for the newspaper, sang in the chorus, took part in assemblies, and got almost all A's except in gym. When the principal called me to his office a few days before the Awards Assembly, along with Janey and a few other kids, I expected to hear that I'd been picked The Most Useful Girl. Why else would I have been summoned? When I heard that Janey was to get the award, I was crushed, so upset that I almost didn't hear what I WAS to get: the Math Award. I hated math, even though I got A's! Almost as much as I hated gym class! How could this be happening?

Janey got her award, we remained friends, high school life went on. But there's more to the story, and I'll continue it next week.
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