The summer I was 11 was spent in one of two ways: I would wake up, have a bowl of cereal, walk over to my best friend Sarah’s house and play house/Barbies/Wild Forest People (this included running around screaming like banshees and annoying her father); or, I would wake up, put on my Speedo one piece bathing suit, eat an ice-pop even though I wasn’t really allowed to, then head outside and float around my pool in an inner-tube and read.
However, I didn’t just read. I devoured. My mom would have to take me to our local library three times a week to keep up with my unruly habit. There was one author in particular I just could not get enough of. Her name is Judy Blume. You might have heard of her.
Thankfully, Ms. Blume has written over 20 books that are geared toward girls and boys
between the ages of 9 and 87, so the reading well never ran dry. I just couldn’t get enough. From “Deenie” to “Superfudge” to “Tiger Eyes.” I was unable to stop. There was a point where I was so obsessed I was reading a book a day, and my mom told me I had to slow down. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was addicted.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea. I needed an intervention. The girls Judy wrote about became my friends. When I was having issues with my weight, so was Linda from “Blubber.” Instead of feeling like I had no place to turn, I was able to just fall into the pages and the stories that Judy gave me. I was not alone with my desire to be a grown up, the feelings I had for boys, my premature need to wear a bra. There were 20 other girls just like me. I wasn’t as weird as the boys at school made me out to be.
In retrospect, I totally was a complete weirdo. I mean, I spent a summer running around screaming or reading Judy Blume books. But you know what? I learned more that summer than I have in my college career. From a library card, and a woman I have known my entire life, but I have never met.
I learned from these girls, lessons I still keep in mind. Like, first loves don’t always work out – and to always use protection – from “Forever.” I learned that true beauty lies within from Deenie and Margaret. That a kid can survive divorce and that it can tear apart a family, but it can also make you strong. I learned to be accepting of all people- that race just means color and color means nothing. That the death of a parent is the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone – but there is a way to accept it. I learned that sometimes you lose God but it is possible to find faith again. I learned it’s okay to be freaked out by tampons sometimes, and that yeah- some of us just aren’t ever going to get boobs. I learned much later that some guys prefer us a little on the flat-chested side.
Most importantly, I learned that every girl deserves to be loved – despite all the quirks that come with being one of us. And that it is totally okay to start a conversation with “Are you there God? It’s me… Chelsea.”
Photos from randomhouse.com