This picture is from a full moon ceremony we did a few days ago here, where we cleaned, cleared and paired all the crystals with their cards. It felt like community and connection to me, and that’s what this story is about.
On day 29 I shared an ode to my virginity, in which I shared the very unsacred way and forgettable way I gave away my virginity to a man who didn’t seem to care much about the gift he was receiving. And the fact that I had such low standards around my virginity showed how little the topic of males, sexuality or life were discussed in my family or anywhere in my life at all; as in never. But that didn’t mean we weren’t getting curious about sexual energy or talking amongst each other and watching shows and movies like dirty dancing, 16 candles or saved by the bell.
In Sex Ed class around the time of 4th grade we first learned about the anatomy of boys and girls’ bodies. Then later came the lesson about what happens when those anatomy parts come together; we learned there’s an exchange and a baby happens. I also learned that the way to prevent a baby is either to abstain from sex, use a condom or get on birth control pills, which I started in 7th grade, after I discovered red in my underwear one day before leaving for school. My period had arrived; and I didn’t even tell my parents, I was embarrassed. So I stole maxi pads from my sisters bathroom. It would be another year before I had the courage to try a tampon. I was told in class that at some point blood would come from my vagina and that meant I could create a baby, but it was still surprising.
During that time I was living in Dallas, Texas attending a co-ed Episcopal school called St. Michaels and I went to church every school day, sang in the church choir and went to Sunday school. Life was simple in that there was no internet or social media, so what you had before you was your reality and social life, and so you had less opportunity to compare your life with others. But during that time I was obsessed with finding love & connection, trying to fit in, wanting to be popular and wanting to be thought of as pretty. I wanted Noxema and Clearasil to fix my acne as the commercials suggested, and since best friend charms were all the rage, I just wanted someone to offer me a half a heart from the jewelry store, James Avery. It seemed every girl at my school was pairing off with someone and wearing a split heart that had “Be Fri” on one half of the heart and “st end” on the other. It was a sign that you’d fit in somewhere, with someone. I only ever got a half heart from 1 girlfriend during that time. I don't know what happened to it. But those necklaces stopped being popular by 5th grade or so.
Our school operated much like a big family and I’d been going to school with a lot of the other kids in my 6th grade class since pre-kindergarten, and I had a big crush on one particular boy between 2nd grade and 6th grade. His name was Presley. In elementary school, a crush meant that you’d think someone was cute, so you stare at them in class, you sit near them at lunch, you notice where they are at recess, you play jump rope together, you tell your friend about your crush, they tell the crush about your feelings and the crush either ignores you or asks you to “go” with him. Presley never asked me to "go" with him but I always hoped he would. He had a twin sister named Julie and I wanted to be friends with her not only because she was interesting and different to be around, but also because I’d get to be around Presley. Julie was so perfect it was intimidating. She had smooth, pale, & clear skin, dark brown wavy hair, bright blue eyes, long slender muscular legs and she was athletic. It didn't seem fair. She and Presley had been popular for the entire time I’d known them, which was a long time since we were tiny humans together. We explored our young life and its activities together, like gymnastics, soccer, basketball, volleyball, learning to swim, learning to ride bikes, learning to shoot guns while on a retreat with Indian Princesses, camping, piercing our ears and the confusion of me having a lifetime crush on her twin brother. Presley and Julie seemed like a close family, and they had an older brother and a mom who wasn’t single, but was alone a lot. Their dad was some sort of a traveling artist or musician, and so they had a lot of freedom, and a lot of money and influence to express who they were; so I loved being around that because I felt quite unsettled during that time regarding who I was becoming in the world. My family was an entity, but not a collective unit, so we went through a lot of the motions during that time of a what a healthy family did, but I didn’t feel like I was getting the information for my personal growth from my family space.
I was so sensitive and thus often overwhelmed by all the energetic power plays between kids, adults and people engaged in life around me. There felt like so much going on that I often forgot to be a kid who was supposed to be having a fun, joyful and meaningful experience of my own. So watching Julie express herself so openly was helpful as she seemed to have herself figured out in a new and different way that I’d only seen thus far on tv shows Like Mickey Mouse Club or Kids Incorporated. And though we had a uniform at school, Julie still expressed her unique style through her hair, earrings and necklace choices. Not everyone had pierced ears at that age but she did, and she showed them off with her mom’s jewelry collection. And when we were off campus at birthday parties, pool parties and hangouts, Julie’s clothing choices and expression were fluid, flawless, and fun to be around. She’d pair exotic clothing and jewelry together from her mom’s collection and every time we saw Julie it seemed she was ready for a fashion show.
Julie and Presley were close friends as well as siblings, so time with her meant I’d often have time with him and I’d often feel instantly shy when Presley was around. For their birthday party in 6th grade, Presley and Julie hosted a co-ed sleepover and it was a big deal to be invited. Both she and Presley picked 4 friends from our class to have over and I was one of Julie’s picks, which was a big deal. We received the invitations by mail from her mom and though the birthday celebration was the party, the invite indicated we could still bring a gift. What do you gift a 12 year old who seems to have everything? I don’t remember what I chose, but I remember wanting it to be unforgettable.
My mom dropped me off at their house which was about a 20 min drive from our house, and I was immediately taken upstairs to Julie’s room so that I could unpack my bag of sleepover supplies. All the furniture in Julie’s room had been pushed to one side of the room creating a large central space for all of us girl attendees to convene and lay out all of our sleeping bags. Her mom had ordered pizza for us, so we sat in the floor, played music, tried to watch a scary movie like the Lost Boys and gossiped about boys, gossiped about other students, gossiped about our teachers and complained about our parents, all while wondering what the guys were doing so quietly in Presley’s room down the hall. They hadn’t made a sound and there was plenty of sound coming from us in Julie’s room. So after sending a spy to listen in on Presley’s door, we discovered the room was empty. Where were they? Finding them became the new mission. It wasn’t too late yet into the evening and we still had birthday cakes to consume for both Presley and Julie, so upon going downstairs and seeing the dining room table missing and the back porch door open, we knew where to look. The back yard.
It was a clear & cool night at their house on the outskirts of Dallas, so Presley and his crew had 2 tents set up out on the lawn as well as a fort of blankets and pillows around the dining room table and chairs. And with the help of Presley’s Cub Scout older brother they’d also built a little campfire and they’d roasted hot dogs on sticks and were preparing to roast marshmallows for their s’mores. It was such an awesome scene to walk into and it was so different than our gathering upstairs. Their sleeping bags were scattered in the tents, in the fort and around the campfire so they could easily peer up at the bright starry sky. We could also hear faint music playing from a battery operated jam box sitting near the campfire.
I could tell Julie was surprised by this unique scene her brothers had created, but what I loved most is that she didn’t get jealous or angry; instead she informed us that we'd be shifting our bedroom pajama party downstairs so that we could join the guys outside. So that’s what we did.
We gathered as a group of 10 awkward pre-teens and there was such a sense of camaraderie, community, friendship and gratitude present. I’d never experienced anything like that before with siblings or friends. Could they create this vibe easily because they were twins? Was it because we were outside? Was it because of the campfire? I wasn’t sure, but I did notice the enormous shift of focus. The gossip and complaining that was present upstairs shifted into talk of mutual interests, curiosities and things we wanted to do or be in the world. All things I never thought people talked about. And when two birthday cakes appeared in their mother’s arms as she emerged from the kitchen, we got to sing happy birthday twice.
I loved that night with Presley & Julie but I knew our lives were and circles were about to change. Our little school St. Michael’s ended in the 6th grade, so all of us who had been navigating our youth together, dispersed to other middle schools in the area and we only saw each other occasionally at larger gatherings, when a brave mom would try to bring some of the crew back together. Julie & Presley transferred to a co-ed middle school across town.
I transferred to an all girls school in Dallas called Hockaday, where I began a 3 year journey into darkness characterized by jealousy, loneliness, backstabbing, sneaking around, learning about sexuality late nights on the golf course with boys from the public school, trying alcohol, and just generally being confused and angry. It was no surprise why my parents wanted to uproot our family from Dallas to Utah.
But what I learned from Jamie and Presley that night at their birthday party is that you don’t need much to make a night magical. You just need the outdoors, some tunes, and a desire to connect and relax. All things that are still true almost 30 years later. And I’m excited to do my best to provide the energy of that kind of night we had with Julie & Presley for Aurora May someday. Hopefully she’ll read this at some point and smile understanding where the desire come from.