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I Close My Eyes and Memories Take Me Home

01/02/12 5:00AM

Henry Lang of Norwich, Vermont is in 7th grade at the Francis C. Richmond Middle School in Hanover, New Hampshire. Looking ahead, Henry would like to study English/journalism in college and minor in musical theater as he has been involved in both professional and community musical theater for several years. He says he is prompted to write by the hope that "someday I could be the mastermind behind an amazing book like classics I have read in the past."

          When it's your first year in middle school, everything changes. Suddenly, some of your closest friends you've known since kindergarten decide that you're not cool enough to "chill" with them anymore. Or maybe you're teased because of the new braces you got over the summer. People make fun of you if you don't understand "obvious" sexual jokes or if you don't have a girlfriend. All of a sudden, every element of your life is about being cool and living up to your friends' expectations. Kids really start to judge you, but not by who you are inside or how nice you are. It's all about what you do, what you wear, and whether you're hot or not.

          Say that there's a school contra dance and barbeque on Friday night. In the past you've always looked forward to dances with your friends and family, so of course you're excited to go! When you leave class and walk down the hall with your friends, they ask each other, "So, are you going to the contra dance tonight?" As you start to speak, you're interrupted.

          "Dude, of course none of us are going...All the kids who go to that stuff are losers!" Your heart sinks because you know that if you go, you'll never live it down. Sighing, you arrive at your next class and flop into your seat with a disappointed frown spread across your face.

          Occasionally, I have great days at school. Other times, my school days are horrid. Sometimes you just want to run away and never show your face again!     But something that helps me think positive is the arts. I love to play the piano, euphonium, sing, dance, act, and most of all strum my ukulele. Whenever I've had a tough afternoon, I take the bus home, race up the stairs to my room and shut the door. Smiling a little, I grab my ukulele from my highest closet shelf and begin to tune it. The beautiful music soothes my soul. Grinning, I strum a soft chord. C chord, G chord, A minor chord, F chord; each one helping my spirit rise higher and higher until I'm confident enough to sing.

          While humming and playing Hallelujah, I close my eyes and my memories take me home to many magical places. Summer camp, where on Sundays we attend chapel and sing songs while standing with our arms around each other in a big circle. Perhaps I'll imagine the forest behind our house. Smiling and sitting around a campfire with my family roasting marshmallows, the light flickering and casting off warmth to us on a chilly fall evening. Or maybe I'll visit the humid yet calming atmosphere of the New London stage. Here I perform single act plays and musicals for younger children with my closest friends over the summer.

          All of these places give me hope and courage, so that I can return to school each day with a smile on my face. I'll always treasure my ukulele, the way it feels to pluck each string or strum a chord. Music is my passion, as it is my guide to seeing the world in a positive way. These places I travel to when I close my eyes are extremely special. My ukulele helps me understand that life itself is a gift, and we should treasure it while we can, for our friends and family are what make it so special.

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