How Short Time Is

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

 Naara Turner died yesterday. I suppose it has been Naara Toole for quite a while. A few days ago I told my husband an old classmate was going to die (based on photos of her with friends on Facebook, with her seated and wrapped in a blanket). It was such a weird feeling. To lose a classmate is such a reminder of the how fleeting and fragile life is. Our bodies will give out. Whether to illness or old age, one day we each will draw our last breath, and our time of influence-our time to leave an imprint-will be done.

To me, Naara is just a few memories. When she first came to Springfield (from Georgia, I believe), explaining how to pronounce her name. She smiled politely at teachers when they remarked on her lack of a Southern accent. Naara had a big smile and teachers seemed to warm to her quickly. To me, Naara is a cabbage patch kid, a beautiful song. When Nichole Tummons had a Halloween (sleepover?) party, Naara was the other girl (besides me) who wet her pants when Nichole's older sibling knocked on the garage window, scaring us 10-year-olds. I feel somewhat of a solidarity with her as a fellow weak-bladdered gal. I remember trying out for the solo/duet for our Christmas program at North Town Mall. I went up with Debbie Barnes, despite neither of us having a spectacular voice), and we giggled through the audition. Then Naara came forward and sang, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," with such beautiful sincerity (she even closed her eyes at times), I wondered why the rest of us even bothered. I don't know if we performed or not. It might have been snowed out. Naara is the girl who would sneak in her tight jeans to change in the bathroom before school in 5th grade because her mom didn't approve. She is the 6th grader who supported my short romance writing efforts. I would bring in thick Writer's Market books to determine where to send my gems, and Naara would smile and offer to edit them for me before I sent them off. I was first runner-up in the school spelling bee in 6th grade, second to Naara. My disappointment was evident, I am sure, when I congratulated her, and Naara reassured me she wasn't feeling great and maybe couldn't go. Everyone was mad at her that week (we were a petty, petty group of kids), so they congratulated me instead. She did go, of course.

After we changed to junior high, I didn't see Naara much. We didn't seem to fall into the same classes anymore. Naara was in theatre and though I longed to be, I was shy. Naara could sing, and I wasn't interested. And that's okay. Naara was more mature than me, falling into different crowds with her brilliant smile, while I still had many years of work to bring myself up on my own. 

Naara brings to mind lessons I wish I had understood decades ago. She is a symbol of power to me: who has it and who doesn't. When I was with Naara's group, I was a hanger-on. My words, no matter how carefully crafted, were never quite right. I could never understand why, when I used the same tone, said the same words, they weren't received in the same light. It wasn't until my late 20s, when I realized, I have an underlying pettiness, a chip on my shoulder, an immaturity, which makes my most sincere responses questioned. It wasn't until my 40s when I realized power within a group also played a strong role. I grew up in a world without role models. I watched the girls I admired closely and strived to be more like them. I watched how they dressed and how they talked. I listened to how they handled themselves with others. I remember sitting in French IV, realizing with shock, that this girl I admired so much (Lynnette Pember), might not get slapped for being bratty. All my life I just assumed every family was somewhat the same, and then --I realized--some people don't get slapped. Some girls may never have had their hair pulled by someone else's frustration. It really blew my mind. I couldn't help but think of this amusing scene in As Good as it Gets. There is a kernel of truth  in it. 

Click the link  --->Good times, noodle salad. <----Click the link

The world's loss of Naara is likely great. Some lights shine brighter than others, and Naara appeared to be such a light. Not perfect, no one is, but a shining light reminding us we can do better. We can be more. We can smile at anyone. Not only are the days we have to create something amazing and long-lasting numbered, but the days we have to brighten someone else's world are finite. The time we are given to change a life is so short. I hope to never take each moment for granted. 

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