• Courtney Kirschaum

Tales of a sixth-grade bus stop smoker

In the sixth grade, at a 4-H club meeting in a church fellowship hall that smelled like a school and displayed art made out of macaroni beside pictures of Jesus holding a little lamb, we learned how to candle eggs.

In case you're not familiar, "candling" is when you assess a farm egg by shining a light through it.

The usual group of kids showed up for these meetings, but on this spring afternoon, there was a new face.

One of my classmates.

She was rough.

Smoking at the bus stop in the sixth grade rough.

In our sixth grade class, everyone called her by her given name, which was straight out of an Edith Wharton novel.

By the time we got to the seventh grade, everyone called her by her nickname, which was straight out of a Texas bar with an electric bull.

All the well-behaved, non-smoking veterans of these 4-H club events seemed semi-bored or showed polite interest, but this girl with a delicate name and a pack of Marlboro reds hidden somewhere nearby was... enraptured.

She took to the lesson the way I imagine Taylor Swift took to singing and songwriting.

Discovering she liked this and wanted to learn more about it seemed to shine a light through her.

For the first time, she not only seemed like the rest of us, she seemed like a better version of us.

Looking back, I think she had experiences that found no place to go in the sixth grade.

This seemed to give them a place to go.

Witnessing that change, even as a goofy-as-hell sixth grader, was, well, memorable.

You can't always predict when new information is going to open a door you didn't even know was there (to cop Joe Campbell).

There’s something out there for you. When you meet it, a light will shine right where you need it.

If you want to increase your chances of encountering that light, you can learn more here.


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