Simon & Garfunkel

Slow down, you move too fast

You got to make the morning last

Just kicking down the cobblestones

Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy

Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?

I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’

Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?

Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy

Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do

No promises to keep

I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep

Let the morning time drop all its petals on me

Life, I love you

All is groovy

This is the song, “59th Street Bridge Song” by Simon & Garfunkel, that will forever remind me of that weekend.

I was a junior in high school, miserable and eager to get out of my school in Northern Wisconsin. I grew up on an American Indian reservation and went to high school for three years in Minocqua, the next main town out of the reservation. It was like a completely different world. On the reservations, Indians ruled, but a town or two over, there was massive discrimination and put downs for Indians, or anyone living on the reservation. No, I’m not American Indian by blood, but by growing up there, I adopted a lot from the reservation. In high school, not many of the Chippewa people were encouraged to succeed, or succeeded in general. And, no matter if I was white and living in a big house – I was still from the reservation. That really isn’t this story, but it plays into my feelings of being unaccepted in high school.

Added to the mix was the fact that my best friend from childhood was going through her own changes, realizing she was probably gay or bi-sexual and was distancing herself from me – focusing on basketball and other interests. My true north star was removed.

I was the youngest of seven children, five of whom were already out of the house, leaving my sister and me – a sister who was in her own crisis, again related to the fact that she was gay and feeling completely unseen. She was about as different from me as is possible, and we were barely speaking at that point.

I drifted from group to group and didn’t feel special, seen or accepted by anyone. I did have a small circle of friends who were not exactly the popular girls and wanted, a little too desperately, to be well-liked and visible. We held each other together through those not-so-great years. But just before junior year, my good friend Laura moved to a town about three hours away.

This is the story of a visit to see her during my junior year.

I traveled to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to spend the weekend with Laura’s family – her father was a Lutheran pastor, which undoubtedly gave my parents a sense of safety and played into me being allowed to go visit. It shouldn’t have.

I got to spend Friday at Laura’s school and was thrilled to shadow her in classes. I was frustrated with my school, up north, with an English teacher who was less than encouraging and incredibly boring. That Friday in class, Laura’s teacher focused on Simon & Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song”. The conversation was focused on exactly what they were saying, with students exploring possible meanings of the lyrics. I felt like the teacher was actually interested in what I had to say, students were engaged and alive; I was delighted.

That weekend, Laura and I decided to go to a party, where two boys that we’d been flirting with the day before were going to be. We told Laura’s parents we were going somewhere else and managed to get to the big house in a field, with tons of teens packed into every possible room: beer, music and the main attraction – the boys.

We paired off and went into different bedrooms after a fair amount of flirting. The night before, I had given the one boy (I would call him by a name, but I honestly have no idea as this point) a hickey on his neck and it was getting major attention. Laura and I decided to do a hickey contest. I convinced the boy to lie back and be the willing recipient of hickeys across his chest. My project for a couple of hours? I wrote (or rather, sucked) the words “I WON” in hickeys across his chest. When I got to the last part of the “N”,’ I heard sirens. The party was being busted by a few cops, with police coming through the doors, loudly clearing rooms.

Laura and I were absolutely convinced that our parents would kill us, we’d never be able to see each other again, and disaster would ensue if we were arrested. The police opened the door with flashlights in our faces, ordering us down the stairs. One of the most priceless memories was the policeman shining the light at the boy’s chest and reading “I wo?” as the “n” settled in.

Laura and I shot a glance at each other as we came out of our respective rooms, hair in every direction, barely wearing thin cotton tops. As the guys headed down the stairs with throngs of other kids, I looked up as Laura and I said, “We can’t be taken in.” I looked at a large window behind us, that was about 2 ½ stories up. “Let’s jump.”

I headed for the window, opened the big dormer, and said, “Me first.” The cops yelled behind us, “Don’t even think about it.” I jumped, with Laura right behind me. Then we began running. We had no car since we’d hitched a ride with the guys and they were otherwise occupied. Both of us landed hard, and my ankle was sprained, since I’d gotten off of crutches only recently from a ski injury. But we ran. And ran. Miles through the biting cold Wisconsin winter, shivering in the sub zero temperatures – but still running. We couldn’t hitchhike home because it wasn’t allowed. There were no cell phones back then and we were miles in the countryside without another house in site. I think that we ran as least eight miles that night and we made it in the door before curfew. We straightened our hair and I pushed harder on my ankle to look like I wasn’t limping while I walked into Laura’s house. We told them we had had fun as the movies, or wherever we had said we were going.

We lay in bed next to each other that night, heart nearly beating out of my chest, amazed that we didn’t get seriously hurt or in trouble in any way. I left the next day to return home and we never saw each other again.

I think back on those two young girls, so afraid of getting in trouble that we’d risk our lives. I think back on our desperate need to be liked and approved of, and our willingness to do whatever we had to just to be liked by those two, not-so-hot, boys. I think back with compassion for those girls who didn’t yet realize who they were, and I wish I could have a conversation with them about everything that was to come, if they could just be patient.

I recently reconnected with Laura via facebook and we talked for hours, as though it had only been yesterday. We shared stories of how we’d weathered our self-doubt, lack of confidence, and need for approval and how that had manifested in our twenties. And we delighted in our stories of success and coming into who we are as women. We talked about that night, laughed, cried and remembered “no promises to keep and feelin’ groovy.”

One thought on “Simon & Garfunkel

  1. Katherine Sellery says:

    What a great coming of age story, so great you didn’t kill yourselves on the 2 story fall! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger they say!


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