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    The Return of the Itsy Bitsy Spider 
    by Sorcha Blaine
    
    
    Kate's graduating.
    
    High school.
    
    I'm not gonna get maudlin about this; 
    my niece Kate isn't much different 
    from other girls her age.  
    
    Except that she heard The Speech.
    
    I have four nieces and nephews.  I 
    decided early on that I would never lie 
    to them about anything.  I gave each 
    of them the same talk just before they 
    turned 13.  
    
    "You're about to be a teenager," I'd 
    begin.  "A lot of adults will say to you, 
    'This is the best time of your life!' or 
    'Enjoy it while you can!'
    
    They're wrong.  A lot of years have 
    passed and they don't remember.  So 
    listen to me.  I'll tell you the truth. 
    
    Yes, you'll have some wonderful moments.  
    You'll make friends you'll keep forever.  
    You'll be given opportunities to explore 
    and learn that will never be repeated.
    
    But mostly, though, on a day-to-day 
    basis, it's absolutely horrible being a 
    teenager.  You'll feel sadder than you've
    ever felt in your life. You'll feel happier 
    than you've ever felt in your life.  Sometimes 
    you'll experience both these emotions 
    within the same five minutes.  
    
    You will have no control over the way 
    you look.  Pimples and hair will appear 
    overnight. The parts of your body you
    want to stay small will get big and vice 
    versa.  You'll notice every change the 
    instant it happens.
    
    When you enter a room or talk in class, 
    you will feel like every eye is judging you.  
    You will be right: at school you will be 
    surrounded by 600 other human beings 
    equally desperate for acceptance and 
    looking to gauge their place against yours 
    in the pecking order. 
    
    You will be judged ruthlessly for the things 
    you own, wear, drive, say, and do.  Make 
    sure you get it right the first time: you will 
    be given no second chances.  
    
    You will be excluded from some groups 
    without explanation.   You will be included 
    in others without knowing why. 
    
    It will be an agony of self-doubt.  You will 
    have your heart broken at least once.  
    
    But that's all okay.  It's what's expected.  
    It's normal. Eventually, things will even 
    out again.  I promise. And I've never lied to 
    you."
    
    Kate got The Speech.  Like my 
    other nieces and nephews she listened hard.  
    At the end she said, "Okay, thanks" and went 
    outside to play soccer.
    
    Kate turned 18 in April.  She's pretty and 
    graceful and athletic.  She's popular and 
    never home.  She's TP'd houses on Halloween 
    and baked cookies with her friends and had a 
    crush that wasn't returned.  
    
    We haven't talked much about her life lately.  
    Teenagers enter the Tunnel of Adolescence 
    and you don't hear from them for 5 years.  
    Eventually, though, they stagger out.  They're 
    taller, usually.  More unsure than when they
    went in.  Overall a little worse for wear - like 
    suitcases sent to Denmark by mistake. 
    
    In the most important ways, however, they're 
    the same as before.
    
    Their favorite color is still blue.  They still 
    like Cap'n Crunch.  And they still know all 
    the words to Itsy Bitsy Spider 
    (even if they wouldn't sing it to you in a 
    million years.)
    
    Happy Graduation, Kate, and Welcome Back. 
    
    Welcome Back to all the Year 2000 Graduates.  
    
    We've missed you more than you'll ever know.
    
    

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