I wrote a blog yesterday in which I mentioned an old friend, Anna Klepczynski. I have wanted to write about her for quite a long time but had not yet found the voice – until now.
I remember the first time I felt pretty.
It was at my birthday party in the seventh grade. Seventh grade felt awkward for me. It was pre-braces, pre- having any understanding of how to ease out of that awkward stage and feel comfortable in my own skin.
While my friends focused on their tans, I had to hide from the sun as I had the palest skin of anyone I knew (except for Corrie Jentz but she was a future model and she was beautiful, so that didn’t count). I had red hair before the idea of red hair being sexy meant anything to me. I wore my T-shirts baggy (as was the style back then, in my defense), and most of my wardrobe consisted of hand-me-downs (which I loved, for the record.)
Enter my birthday party and enter Anna Klepczynski, who was pretty and fun and ever-confident in her skin even during those awkward years. Somehow the fact that she was also pale-skinned and red-haired alluded me; I didn’t even notice it on her. Everyone loved Anna, and I was no exception.
So at my birthday party, surrounded by my friends and family, when Anna offered to give me a makeover I jumped at the chance. Of course, she was 12 too and in hindsight I doubt she knew too much more than I did, but I felt fully confident in her hands and I let her do her thing.
She spread out all the makeup available (as we all toted Caboodles everywhere), she sat me down, she plugged in a curling iron, and she sized me up. She barked orders to our other friends who gladly stepped in to assist, and she decided to play up my green eyes, which she called amazing, with green eyeliner and shadow (yes, cringing is perfectly acceptable here), and my long hair, which she called beautiful.
Little did I know that a transformation was taking place in her hands – one we were both fully unaware of. I was starting to see myself differently; not the awkward, clumsy pre-teen that I had been, but someone with beautiful hair and amazing eyes. And I loved that darn green eyeliner after that – wore it as much as I possibly could.
She did my hair and makeup one other time after that – for the eighth-grade dance. I was dateless (and no longer pre-braces) but she put me in one of her sexy black dresses (at least, we thought it was sexy at age 13), curled my hair into big, bouncy rings, and played up my “amazing” eyes. I walked into that dance with more confidence than I’d had all through middle school – and the boys must have noticed, because a few of them even asked me to dance.
I kept that memory in a special place for a long time after that. I had yet to know what a positive impact Anna was having on my life, then and in the high school years to come (which I will write about at a later time). I had yet to know that she was almost single-handedly responsible for me finding my place among the awkward halls of middle school, that she set an example that I knew automatically I should follow.
Her heart was huge and she was wise beyond her years, and we all knew it. What we didn’t know was how few years she had. The world lost Anna in 2000, after she fought a losing battle with leukemia, but she would not leave the world unnoticed. Not even close.