your stories

Mandy’s Story

Mandy and Diana went to Rippowam Cisqua together. They weren’t particularly friends, but their proximity made an impact on each of them, unbeknownst to the other. Among other things, Diana remembers Mandy as that girl who was cool enough, as a sixth grader, to sleep in class like a teenager. Mandy remembers Diana this way:

“After I read this book I was talking to my sister about it.  I asked her if she remembered Diana.  She didn’t quite know what I was talking about and said she couldn’t really remember.  All of a sudden she looked up from the magazine she was reading and said ‘You mean this book?’ and I realized she was staring at a full page book summary describing exactly what I was talking about.  She kept reading, and realized she did know the story.  She said surprised, ‘I have heard this story my whole life.’  I said ‘I know, but everything we heard about it was wrong.  You have to read the book.’

When I first ordered the book my husband asked if I was in the book, and I explained that I wasn’t.  I was next to the book.  I went to preschool with Diana and left shortly after she did.  I came back to the school in 4th grade; the same year Diana did.  I was standing right behind her when she was greeted in the hallway by her old teachers.  My mom whispered to me.  ‘That’s Diana.  Don’t you remember her; she’s the one whose parents died.  You went to her birthday party.  They had horses.’  I didn’t remember, but I was already jealous because it was a much better story than mine. Right after the teachers greeted Diana they saw me and started describing things they had known about me also.  Like Diana, I couldn’t remember what they were talking about.  I couldn’t help wondering if they were making it all up and didn’t remember us either.

I sat at the same table as Diana in 6th grade but we weren’t friends and almost never talked.  I wasn’t aware of most of the things that were happening in her life, and what I was aware of I misunderstood.  In fact while Diana was living with the Chamberlains, there was nobody I wanted to be more.  She was tall and thin and had red hair like my sister.  She was good at sports and full of self-confidence.  She was best friends with B, who I wanted to be best friends with.  She ‘went out with’ Harry, who I wanted to go out with.  I used to try to copy what she and B were doing, like reading the same books they were reading.  Once my mother asked me if I talked to Diana and if she talked about her mother or was sad.  I said I doubted it.  I pointed out that she had changed her name, and probably didn’t even remember her parents.  My mother said, ‘But her mother loved her so much.’  She said it like it was the saddest thing in the whole world, but at the time I didn’t really understand why.

Reading this book was an amazing experience for me.  You don’t often get to look back at your life and see things you failed to notice the first time.  I keep trying to figure out how to use this book someday to teach my children about the parts of people they can’t see and the things that are going on right next to them.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to read this story and to learn about the Welch’s family and their history.  I don’t think I’ll ever look at the people sitting next to me in quite the same way.

2 Comments

  1. Alex says:

    My sister Mandy’s right, it was a wonderful book. And it’s true that it reminds us that no matter how self-assured or enviable people might appear, we can’t know what other people are going through, especially in adolescence. It was amazing reading about all the places and teachers I remembered and somehow made me feel less alone with what we’d gone through as kids, which though not as tragic, was isolating. Seeing how attractive, brave and successful the Welches are now made me proud of them and all they’ve come through. I admire their honesty and resilience and most of all that they’ve preserved the love their parents had for them in their enduring relationships with one another.

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