In Overdue Apologies, the follow-up to her early childhood memoir, Through Eyes Like Mine, Noriko Nakada explores the world of middle school where an adolescent Nori continues the story of her evolving family. She enters a new world where teenage friendships and coming-of-age shift her developing sense of identity. Nori's sharp perspective captures universal teen moments and takes the reader back to the excitement and challenges of growing up. Now available in @ Powell's and Amazon.
Overdue Apologies mixtapes: Sixth Grade, Seventh Grade, Eighth Grade
I never thought I'd become the kind of girl I became. It happened little by little, kind of like growing. You don't notice how tall you've gotten until your jeans hover several inches above your shoes. But that's how it happened. I woke up one morning and hardly recognized myself: a stranger struggling to understand the girl I'd become.
Every morning in the house on Jones Road we execute a carefully choreographed dance. Dad starts a fire in the woodstove, and Mom turns on the heater to take the chill off the rooms upstairs. Dad showers and leaves for work before the rest of us race through the shower. Mom makes breakfast and packs lunches. We scarf down pancakes, waffles, or cold cereal. Chet and Laura eat first, and then Mitch and me. We move near one another, through the kitchen, and around the breakfast table. It's a silent dance except for Morning Edition coming through the radio. We brush teeth, and then Chet and Laura rush out to the old Datsun 210 and drive to Mountain View. Mitch and I walk up to Pilot Butte, but we never walk together.
Mornings in Bend are always cold. Even when the sky is clear, the sun's rays can't penetrate the cold of the high desert. In fall, yellow, brown, and red leaves litter the ground and the first snow paints the Cascades a gleaming white. Soon ice will form a slick crust along the roads. Every morning, I leave the quiet chaos of home and wait along the side of Jones Road to walk to school with Robin Crank.
Robin lives across the street with her new-age-mom, step-dad, and two sisters. Her mom buys organic chips and natural sodas. A couple summers ago Robin and I played makeovers with her Fresh 'N Fancy makeup kit, and when I came home wearing pink blush and blue eye shadow Laura said I looked like a clown. Robin has a tetherball pole in her backyard and an indoor pool where we play Marco Polo and Sharks and Minnows. Robin's older sister, Heather, is nothing like Laura. Heather wears thick black eyeliner and lipstick. She's into music and film. Laura never wears make-up, and she's into sports. Robin and I have way more in common than our older sisters do, but since we went to different schools we've never become close.
Once I start Pilot Butte though, I see a completely different side of Robin. At school she is popular. She's tall and has an asymmetrical haircut streaked from the summer sun. She has braces and so many cool clothes that she can go three or four weeks without repeating an outfit. Her best friend is Bianca Weston. Bianca and Robin went to Juniper Elementary together. Bianca is skinny with straight light brown hair. She lives in a huge house on Revere. Bianca has great clothes too, and she doesn't repeat outfits forever. Kim Mitchell is their other friend. She went to Buckingham, and she's tiny (even shorter than me). She has shoulder length, wavy blonde hair, and she's a spaz.
I don't know how everyone knows in the first week of school, but already Robin, Bianca, and Kim are popular. Maybe it's the clothes and jewelry that only kids with money can afford, or where their dads work, or the size of their houses. I don't know exactly what it is, but the differences between the popular girls and the rest of us are clear.
Popular girls have Polo shirts, Guess jeans, Swatch watches, Trapper Keepers, rubber jelly bracelets, and Lip Smackers. Popular girls have a different attitude. They smile and laugh as they walk through the sixth grade hall. At lunch, they sit with the cool boys and ignore the rest of us. They are in the best class with teachers who are young and cool too.
Not-so-popular girls have Levis, hand-me down t-shirts, bare arms, plain blue three ring binders, and chapped lips. We walk nervously through the halls to our lockers. We grab brown bag lunches and sit with girls from lame teachers' classes.
Still, Robin waits for me every morning for the walk to school. Even though my family isn't rich, even though I don't wear exactly the right things or carry the right supplies, I think maybe, just maybe, I could be popular too.