This is a column for all the kids who didn't get to stand up at their school award ceremony. Who weren't the best in math. Who didn't place second in science. Whose choir teacher didn't single him or her out.
It's for those who didn't run the fastest, jump the farthest or write the best essay. For the ones who aren't necessarily called popular. For all the kids who hoped to hear their names over the announcement system, but didn't.
The award makers probably just don't know you like the rest of us do. They didn't know your friends adore you. That the neighbors secretly wish you were theirs. That dogs follow you home. That strange babies in grocery carts smile at you.
They didn't realize, for your parents, the sun rises and sets in your eyes.
Awards or no, you're one heck of a kid -- just ask your Uncle Louie. The same light burns in you that lighted the fire in the award winners. Your light may shine brighter away from school than in it. It's OK. It's still shining, I assure you.
Take heart: It's wonderful to be recognized for being wonderful. But here's the thing -- just because you aren't recognized, doesn't mean you aren't.
The truth is, very few of us are remembered for our awards anyway. Oh, we're remembered for our achievements, all right, but that's regardless of whether we receive awards for them.
Don't give short shrift to kindness, one of the greatest achievements of all. Or honesty. Or respectfulness. Or enthusiasm. Or being a hard worker or friend.
After the years pass, the memory just leaves you with life's highlights, and, perhaps surprisingly, it's not the awards that linger. It's the laughter and encouragement someone like my buddy Sue gave, the craziness Sally bestowed. It's Margaret's calmness, Phyllis' quietness, and Jerri's earthiness. The small gestures, the quiet stands, the essence of YOU, remain long after the awards have been relegated to someone else's attic.
The best times: I recall Tony Dugas at the pizza parlor with all his friends, and a wise guy repeatedly shoving him across the shoulders.
& quot;What, are you chicken? Fight me. & quot;
And Tony calmly ignored him.
I remember Becky Ludwig balancing, on her head, a pizza box containing a pizza we'd waited an hour for. I remember her saying, & quot;I'm a little village girl, & quot; as the pizza promptly fell onto the pavement. All of us laughed so hard we doubled over onto the pavement along with the pizza.
I remember Sally Tezzie's sage advice about shaving your toes, instructions on how to go to the bathroom without splashing, and insights into men's anatomy she'd gleaned from magazines.
I recall Pat Aiello's ability to karate chop a board in half. And Patty Ritley's three-point play in basketball, in which she flung her game glasses off her head whenever an opponent got within a foot. The glasses always shed a lens, and the unsuspecting refs awarded her a foul shout.
I remember Rita Markunis pulling me aside and teaching me to catch after I'd dropped four consecutive fly balls in my first softball tryout.
I remember Beth Kihn telling me guys were checking me out at the carnival.
I remember Judy Zellis sitting next to me singing magnificently, at my begging, all the songs from "Cabaret" as my civics class bus bounced to Washington, D.C.
Slipped my mind: For the life of me, however, I can't remember just one award any of them did or didn't receive in middle or high school.
To paraphrase a very wise 14-year-old I know, your day will come. Maybe it already has.
Muhammad Ali said all he cared about was his "audience of one." You're probably racking up awards with God -- not to mention those who know you best -- every day.