Stargirl's Quirks and My Memories

In Jerry Spinelli's charming young adult novel, Stargirl, the main subject, Stargirl Caraway, comes to school, after years of homeschooling, wearing a pioneer dress, strumming a ukulele and singing "Happy Birthday" in the lunchroom to her fellow students. She begins to get her apathetic high school revved for something other than insipid vapidity.

I was never as crazy as Stargirl--showing up in the middle of football games and dancing on the field during the halftime show, whether the band was playing or not--but I did some funny things that re-reading the novel is reminding me of.

First, I started a "Corduroy Club" in tandem with my then-boyfriend who lived in the town next door. This was my junior year and his senior year. We loved corduroy pants, so we decided to make membership cards to anyone who wore corduroy to our respective high schools. I even made my surly chemistry teachers and honorary member based on his penchant for Cosby Sweaters. The first day you wore corduroy, you got your card. Every day after, you got a star on the back. You got prizes like stickers or wallets made of duct tape once you got 5, 20, 50, etc stars. Silly, but fun.

Freshman year of college, I met friends by approaching them to ask for their Fresh Samantha bottle stickers. (Fresh Samantha was purchased by coca-Cola and now fall under the label of "Odwalla.") I kept them in a notebook (still have the notebook). The labels were sweet little cartoon pieces of art and it was a good way to introduce myself to strangers, since everyone at UMaine was a stranger, in the beginning. (Hard to believe, considering what happened in the ensuing years.)

As a high school teacher, I had a prize drawer like the ones the elementary school teachers have. You could pick something from it on your birthday or other special day. We also played vocabulary games, and if you won, you could pick something from it. The male athletes were the ones who loved the jewel stickers and plastic heart-shaped rings ("bling" for their ears and pinkies).

I think what is so great about those things is that they bring back the feeling of pure joy you had as a kid when you had things like cute prizes, fun songs, interesting collections and precocious clubs. Of course things like that and people who enact them always have their nattering naybobs of negativity to knock them down. How do they continue the movement after such incidents occur is the question. That is the major feature of "Stargirl" and the perpetual dilemma of my life.