From Left: Me, Sarah, Chelsea
Sixth grade is awkward. Perhaps it's the racing hormones, inconsistent growth amongst peers, embarrassing orthodontic gear, or, maybe, it's just a glorious combination of a multitude of discomforts.
For me, it was the last year of elementary school. My best friends Chelsea, Sarah, and I alternated between relishing two-square games and rolling our eyes at the “ughhhh, children” who populated our precious school. (Never mind that we were, you know, 11.) Our status as elementary school students unfairly associated our oh-so-important selves with those sniveling sub-humans. The world had to know that we were no longer babies.
Early in fall 2000 — somewhere between quoting Clueless and hiding our love for Beanie Babies — we noticed that our annual school fundraiser, The Harvest Festival, was coming up. In previous years, Chelsea, Sarah, and I used the festival as an opportunity to run amok and win prizes at carnival-themed games. This year, however, our sights were focused on the silent auction.
The silent auction stood amidst a chalk outline of the United States in the corner of our middle playground. The glow of the booth’s tiki lights lured our awkward, adolescent frames to its unrivaled prize: four tickets to a Christina Aguilera concert.
Now, we were serious fans. We had performed “Genie in a Bottle” just a year prior at a talent show, OK? These tickets had to be ours.
As soon as we shed our parents and pesky siblings, we schemed.
I, the instigator, planned our attack. As the tallest in our clique (not to mention one of the tallest students in the whole school), my gangly limbs and I were sure to blow our cover. My talents were best served behind the scenes; I would direct, assign roles, and think quickly. As the top writer and logic-puzzle-solver in my class, I had a certain talent with planning and executing.
Sarah, the crafty one, would sign her mom’s name. It was safest for Sarah to commit the actual act. I swear, that pint-sized kid would pout that stupid-cute little Cupid's bow of hers and get out of anything. "But — but — but, I just thought . . . " she would start, her eyes glistening with fake tears. No adult liked upsetting Sarah, and they (almost) always caved. Little did teachers know, Sarah was mischievous. Oh, she put on a good face alright — right before passing a note, excusing herself from P.E., and the like. Time to put those talents to use.
Chelsea, the practical, would stand guard — after all, what we were doing was illegal. Though Sarah had a way of making teachers cave, adults genuinely liked talking to Chelsea. When she came over for sleepovers, my parents fawned over her ability to clean a dinner plate. Chelsea would shout in class, and teachers praised her "spunk." When the three of us got in fights at daycare, the grownups took Chelsea's side. I don't know what it was — maybe she was just naturally cooler than the rest of us. If we needed someone to run interference against an authority figure, it was Chelsea.
We made our first bid at $30, and ran away giggling.
Will this work? Are we crazy? What if we win?
An hour later, the mother of a classmate placed a bid.
How dare she! Couldn’t she see that we were Christina’s biggest fans?
So we placed another bid.
She followed suit.
Suddenly, a maniac bidding war began between three 11-year-old girls and a grown woman. We hid in the shadows under a nearby awning, and staked out her every move. When she walked towards the booth, we froze and prepared to strike. Her permed blonde hair would bob threateningly as she placed her bids. With every bounce of curls, our tension heightened. At these moments, we'd cluster with bated breath: Who would win?
She bid $80. We agreed beforehand to split the cost three ways — which meant that we’d each owe close to $30 if we decided to bid again.
We contemplated the extra chores we’d have to do. For me, that involved some pool maintenance and litter box duties. Whatever — pool stuff would teach me chemistry, and my kitten left tiny messes. In Chelsea's case, she'd have to spend more Sunday mornings doing yard work. As for Sarah, well, I honestly don't know what she did for chores.
Alas, we had no time to argue. The silent auction was about to end! The three of us emerged from the shadows, thus revealing our ages, and bid $85. At this point, we had stopped caring about the original plan.
Of course, the woman came back, with a motherly vengeance, and bid $90. Chores, shmores — we had it. We placed a bid for $95.
Then she put down $100.
“That’s as high as I’ll go,” she said, walking away.
One hundred dollars? That was the money of kings! Did grownup jobs pay that much? The three digits were daunting — maybe it was time to give up our dreams of seeing Christina.
We waited until there was one minute left in the auction, so no one would outbid. Shaking, Sarah wrote our bid ($105) and signed her mom’s name.
Several tense minutes passed before the winners were announced.
“And the winner of four Christina Aguilera tickets goes to . . . ”
Upon hearing her own name, Sarah's mom winced and replied: “Whaaaaat?”
Sarah, Chelsea, and I were too busy shrieking and hugging to notice the world around us. We won! We were going to see the best singer in the history of the universe! We would see “Genie in a Bottle” live! We would breathe the same air as Christina! We would bask in her holiness! The pain and confusion of adolescence evaporated at our feet, evanescent in the glorious night. Maybe we didn't believe in Santa Claus any more, but our faith in miracles strengthened. If we could win these tickets, anything was possible.
Reality interrupted our joy.
“Umm, what did our daughters do?” my mom said, signaling a parental powwow. Sarah, Chelsea, and I watched their six heads group together to discuss the night's events. After what felt like a century-long discussion, our overlords let us go to the concert. The extra chores and lectures we endured were worth it.
We were the princesses of school. Students were jealous. Teachers were astounded by our recklessness. When we saw Christina, we thought she was more beautiful in person; her voice even more angelic. Adorned with glitter and everything Claire's, we waved our handmade posters and chanted. Christina responded to one of our chants. (The three of us nearly fainted. How did we, mere mortals, handle an interaction with a living goddess?) Our chaperone, Sarah’s father, likely lost his hearing. All four members of Destiny’s Child opened the show — it was the most exciting night of our childhood.
As we walked back to Sarah’s dad’s minivan, we celebrated. We laughed at our success — this really should not have worked. Before dozing off at Sarah's later that night, we discussed how lucky we were to have had our parents place us in the same school. We always had the best adventures, funniest inside jokes, and silliest talks about our crushes together. Geez. Our lives would suck without each other.
I’m happy to say that, though it’s been 15 years since that night, Chelsea, Sarah, and I are still best friends. Over the years, we've added a few special friends to our tribe; it's strengthened our ever-growing clique. In many ways, we're still the same girls we were that night: I instigate everything from work projects to (off-the-clock) flirtations, Sarah is still crafty when achieving her goals, and Chelsea remains that ever-practical friend who gives awesome advice. The trouble we’ve gotten into over the years, the hardships we’ve endured, and the fights we’ve ensued were all worthwhile. I wouldn’t trade that night, or our friendship, for anything. Right now, we’re in different places in life: Sarah just got her Master's in psychology, Chelsea is a school nurse, and I helped found the very site you're visiting right now. When we're together, none of our differences matter. Our bond is one I wish for each and every set of friends.
Deep down, we’re the same feisty little girls from that night — determined, smart, and a bit sneaky. Many aspects of our lives will change, but I never want us to lose the strange qualities that helped us win those tickets on that warm fall night.