The sixth grade had finally come to a close. Actually, the year hadn’t been too long or hard. The last day dragged by so slowly. Yet here it was, the end of the year, and it seemed it had all passed by in the wink of an eye. Ellen went to the end-of-the-year pool party that afternoon. The whole class was there. Twelve of the twenty-seven were leaving for other junior high schools. Ellen was staying, since she’d only been accepted to one school and she didn’t really like it. That night she lay in bed thinking about all the people who would be gone next year, and about those staying. Most of the girls leaving had been mean to her and all year she’d been happy that they wouldn’t be returning in the fall. But now she would only remember all the nice things they’d done, the funny things they’d said, and how they had changed since she met them all six years ago. Now they really felt like her family, and any past resentment drifted away. She would never see almost half of her family again. Ellen rubbed her eyes to stop the tears, but her breath was already coming up shorter so she knew she wouldn’t be able to resist the crying fit in store for her. Trying to console herself, she thought of all the people staying. Most of them were her friends, but could she really call them that anymore? They had changed so much this year; they became interested in boys and makeovers and pop singers, and Laura had started dating. Ellen recalled that in fifth grade she had always felt a little uncomfortable because she and her friends were such geeks. She had thought that it was they who were keeping her from becoming cool. Yet now, she was a little girl playing with toy horses, and they were out at the mall. Now she started to cry. Whimpers and snuffles and tears grew into uncontrollable wailing until her mother came in and threw her arms around her. Ellen knew her mother understood so she made no effort to speak. She just cried and cried in her mother’s embrace till her tears would come no more. And she slept.
At about one in the morning, she reawoke. Her thoughts were muddled now. She had dreamed of the first day in seventh grade. The dream began in her home. Ellen watched herself eat, dress, and walk out the door. She got on the bus, the only girl left from her grade, and rode to school. When she entered her classroom, the teacher yelled at her for being late. Her friends, Laura and Cordy, were talking about all the boys they went out with over the summer. They didn’t even acknowledge her presence. She ran to her old sixth-grade classroom. No one was there. There were just rows and rows of empty desks. She saw her own from when she’d sat in it last year. The seventh-grade teacher strode in and yelled to her to get back in her classroom. Then she woke up.
Trying to figure the dream out, she finally concluded that it was best to forget it and begin her summer. She picked up a book to read until it was lights out. She turned on the lamp and saw which book she had picked out. It was her class yearbook.
Each page of pictures brought another memory to her head. Her first day of school, her first bus ride, her first sleepover. Her friends had been there for each of these. They wouldn’t desert her because they were changing and she wasn’t, Ellen realized. She could always hang out with them. Half of her thoughts were released now, but she still worried about all those people leaving. Would she ever see them again? she wondered. With a sigh she turned off the lamp and went back to sleep.
Her father woke her up late in the morning and handed her a list of chores. “This is stuff to do so we can go to the Cape today,” he said. Ellen looked it over. “Mostly packing,” he said, “and if you get it done quick maybe you can invite a friend down with us.” Ellen’s eyes lit up. She could invite someone who was leaving for a different school! That way it wouldn’t feel as difficult not seeing her in seventh grade. Ellen hurried through the packing and called Lizzie. She was the nicest of the girls leaving. An answering machine clicked on. Ellen hung up and tried Sarah. She had other plans. Ellen called every girl leaving that she wouldn’t mind having a sleepover with, and none of them could come. She decided then that what she’d feared had come true. Those girls had all moved on and were trying to forget middle school. And so must she.
Ellen decided that the only way to move out of the past was to focus on the future. Next year Laura and Cordy would be there, so she had to think about her friendship with them. She called up Cordy. “Hi, this is Ellen. Um . . . we’re going to the Cape this weekend. Wanna come?” Cordy accepted.
The weekend was fantastic. She played games with Cordy that she had been longing to play all year, like tag and hide-and-seek, games that Laura had deemed “uncool.” And on their way back home, they passed a big green van. Inside sat Ann and Abbie, two of the girls Ellen was sure she would never see again. They waved, and she waved back. There was no sting of sadness. She had simply passed by two old friends. They had moved on and she had moved on. Her family was not ripped in half and separated. She had her family always with her, in her mind, in her yearbook, and in her heart.