Sam’s love of newsprint clashes with her love for the planet—and her BFF—in a Dear Know-It-All conflict of newsworthy proportions!
When Sam hears Cherry Valley Middle School is “going green,” she is delighted. Saving the Earth is very important to Sam, plus, she knows she can get a great story out of it. But that’s before she finds out one of the environmentally friendly suggestions is to stop printing The Cherry Valley Voice! Who would dare to suggest that the school newspaper be published only online? When she discovers the idea came from her BFF, Hailey, Sam gets even more upset. How will Dear Know-It-All solve this total disagreement?
SPRING BREAK FAILS TO GARNER EXCITEMENT AT MARTONE HOUSEHOLD
Have you ever gotten up close and personal with a piece of paper? Like when you’re writing a report for school, or working on some problems in your math book, do you stop for a moment and hold the page up to the light, examining it in all its glorious papery beauty? Sometimes you can see tiny bits of pulp or fibers and it’s really pretty. Or sometimes the paper shines so much that the words look like they’re vibrating on the page. Sometimes it’s so thin that you can almost see right through it and it’s almost like a magic trick that there are words on the page. I love the way it smells, too—sometimes new, like when you crack open a notebook for the first time in the fall; and sometimes it smells musty, like it’s been sitting in a supply closet all summer.
Okay, okay, I’m sorry for rambling. I know what you’re probably thinking. And I promise that I have not lost my mind because of the insomnia I’ve been having. I’ve been following my new sleep hygiene plan pretty closely, and it’s working. Well, maybe not so closely on the nights when my best friend, Hailey Jones, sleeps over, but definitely during the school week. It’s been lights out and eyes closed until my alarm clock (turned away from me so the light doesn’t shine in my face) goes off.
But let’s get back to paper. I’ve always loved to write—and read—but it wasn’t until my date—er, field trip—to see our newspaper’s print run with Michael Lawrence that I began to fully appreciate the unique beauty of the printed page. We took a tour of FlyPrint, the company that prints the Cherry Valley Voice, and Mr. Dunleavy, our sales rep, showed us the enormous rolls of paper, the printing plates, and the presses in action. It was, like, the coolest thing ever. I mean, I love the rush of writing a story for the paper on a deadline, but actually seeing the story being printed? Totally cool. Even better, I witnessed it all side by side with my writing partner and future fantastic boyfriend. It was truly a magical moment.
Since the trip, though, I’ve been looking around and noticing that not a lot of my friends seem to feel the same way I do about the whole paper experience. It seems like everyone’s always wrapped up in some electronic device. Take my sister, Allie, for instance. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in my room when I hear my phone chime and see that there’s a text message from her. That’s odd, I think. Allie was home five minutes ago. Did she leave the house in spy mode? I didn’t even hear her go. And you know what? It always turns out that she never even left the house. She is texting me from her bedroom, which is right next to my bedroom. Would it really be so difficult for her to walk across the hall and talk to me in person? Do you find me that repulsive, Big Sister, that you can’t even look at me?
Allie isn’t alone, though. I was reading a study (and I admit, I was reading it on my computer), and it said that 63 percent of teenagers use text messages to communicate with their friends every day. Meanwhile, only 35 percent said that they talk face-to-face with their friends outside of school on a daily basis. That seems like a pretty sad statistic to me. I mean, I love, love talking to Hailey. I can’t imagine just texting or e-mailing her. Mrs. Osborne, our school librarian, says that as long as we’re reading, it doesn’t matter if it’s on a screen or a printed page, but I still feel a little sad when I see a big pile of yesterday’s unsold daily newspapers sitting outside the door of the local store, waiting to be picked up. There’s even a Website devoted to chronicling the death of metropolitan dailies, which is what they call the daily newspapers. It’s called “Newspaper Death Watch.” How tragic is that?
You want to know what’s even more tragic? I haven’t heard from Michael Lawrence in five whole days. Not a face-to-face conversation, not a phone call, not even a “Hey, what’s up, Pasty?” text. I’m starting to have Crush Withdrawal Syndrome. I mean, I’m not sure I remember the exact shade of blue that his incredibly blue eyes truly are because I have not been able to stare deeply into them. It’s reaching crisis level, for sure.
I was kind of in a grouchy mood, since on top of my not seeing Michael, my mom suggested that Allie and I clean out our bedrooms. Allie and I don’t have much in common except we both are kind of pack rats. I like to keep books, newspapers, and magazines. Allie likes to keep every bit of clothing she’s ever worn. And she remembers them, too. If I borrow something she hasn’t worn in three years without asking her, the minute she sees it on me she’ll say something like, “What are you doing wearing that sweater? I bought it to wear to Kim’s birthday party (in 2010!). I love that sweater.” It’s crazy. Anyway, Mom said a thorough cleaning out of both our rooms was long overdue. I’m not a happy camper. I like my room the way it is and I hate change. So you can see the problem.
I heard my mom rustling around in her room, so I decided to go and see what she was doing and maybe torture her a little by whining about how bored I was. But instead of finding her buried in a pile of receipts and bank statements, I caught her looking in a big, flowery hatbox.
“What are you doing, Mom?” I asked. “Looking for an old tax form?”
Mom jumped when she heard my voice, obviously not expecting either Allie or me to barge in on her.
“Oh no.” She chuckled nervously. “It’s just some old stuff. I thought that since I’ve been making you girls clean out your rooms, I should take a break from the numbers crunching and clean out some things too.”
“Can I see what’s in it?” I asked.
“Sure,” Mom said. “I’ll probably throw most of it out anyway. I don’t know why I’ve been keeping it up there. It’s just taking up space.”
Mom and I plopped on the bed and started taking things out of the box. There were some reasonably interesting items in there, like a hospital bracelet from the time Mom had her appendix removed and a dried corsage from her high school prom. But to me, the most fascinating thing was a stack of papers—of course!—tied up in a red ribbon. The paper itself wasn’t so special; it looked mostly like loose-leaf that had been crumpled up and had turned slightly yellow with age. There may have even been some splashes of sauce on a few of the pages. I could tell from the ribbon that even though they looked pretty ordinary, this pile was not a collection of Mom’s middle school reports.
“What are these?” I asked as I held up the pile.
“Oh, you can put those in the recycling bin,” Mom said. “They’re just some letters from a boy I used to be friends with in eighth grade.”
Friends. That’s a good one, Mom. That’s what I always say about Michael Lawrence. We’ve been friends since kindergarten.
“So you don’t mind if I read them, then?” I asked.
I had Mom cornered. If she said no, she was admitting that they were special and private.
“Um, sure, if you want,” Mom answered. “You’re just going to think they’re boring and silly.”
I almost laughed out loud when I read the first one. It was sooooo middle school.
I’m glad that we’re friends. I’d really like to be more than friends. Do you feel the same way? If you do, check yes. If not, check no. Don’t worry. We’ll still be friends either way.
“MOM!” I screamed. “Why didn’t you ever give this to him?”
Mom’s cheeks actually started to turn red. She was blushing about a boy she’d known eons ago!
“I thought I would just tell him how I felt,” she replied.
“And how did that go?” I wondered, thinking I knew the answer: not well.
“Pretty well,” she said, and I looked up. “We were kind of a thing until the middle of high school.”
“Kind of a thing?” I laughed. “What kind of a thing is that?” It was weird talking to Mom about boys she dated, like, when she was my age.
“A boyfriend/girlfriend kind of thing,” Mom said.
“Are you kidding?” I yelled. “My mother had a boyfriend in eighth grade and I don’t? I am hopeless!”
“Sam, please,” Mom said, still blushing a little. “He wasn’t really my boyfriend then. He just had a crush on me . . . and I had a little crush on him, too. You know, kind of like you and that Michael Lawrence boy.”
I decided to ignore her. I didn’t want to talk about Michael Lawrence just then. And besides, I don’t think Michael and I are just a thing. I mean, he’s the love of my life.
I started flipping through the letters. The first few weren’t very interesting, just regular stuff like “Meet me at the library today,” or “Do you have time to study for the English test?” But then I thought about the pictures of Mom I had seen from that time and I thought about myself and sighed. We weren’t that different, me and that girl Mom used to be. If Michael handed me a note saying, “Meet me at the library today,” my heart would be doing little leaps of joy. And I would probably try to save the letter.
I started digging deeper into the pile, and the letters got juicier. I gasped when I read this one:
I feel like the whole world disappears when I’m with you. I don’t have anything to worry about. It’s just you and your beautiful smile, and nothing else matters. You make me really happy, and I had an awesome time just talking to you last night. I feel like I could sit and talk with you for hours and hours.
Now, that kind of writing could cause some heart palpitations! I sighed and leaned back on Mom’s pillow. I couldn’t even imagine how I would feel if Michael wrote me a note like that. Blown away, I guess.
“Mom, was John your first love?” I asked.
“I guess you could say that,” Mom answered.
“So why haven’t I ever heard anything about him before?” I asked. “And what happened to him anyway?”
“Oh, we just, um, we just kind of grew apart,” Mom said.
Mom isn’t usually the stammering type, so I knew I would have to use my reporter’s instinct and dig deeper.
“Why did you grow apart?” I asked. “Did he move? Did you go to different high schools? Did your parents forbid you to see each other?”
“No, Sam. We went to the same high school,” replied Mom. “That was part of the problem. . . . There was someone else there. . . .”
“Oh, I’m really sorry, Mom. Did he drop you for another girl?” I asked, wanting to kick myself for prying and bringing up painful memories. “What a jerk!”
Or maybe not so painful—Mom was laughing.
“Hardly,” she said. “There was another boy that I liked, and well, it kind of got complicated.”
I was shocked. Who knew Mom had such a complicated love life when she was young? I’d always figured she was just some mathlete who was too busy doing equations to even notice boys.
“It was a fun time, Sam,” Mom said. “I hope you enjoy your teen years as much as I did.”
“Yeah, me too, I guess.” I giggled.
“Speaking of fun,” Mom continued. “I had an idea that I wanted to run by you.”
“Okay, I’m all ears,” I said. “You know, I feel like I could sit and talk with you for hours.” Mom and I both burst out laughing at that one.
“Okay, we’ll return to the topic of young love at another time,” Mom said. “Right now I want to talk to you about the new bedroom project you and Allie have been working on.”
“That’s ‘speaking of fun’?” I snarked. “Mom, this could be serious. You might need to go to the doctor to get your fun meter adjusted.”
“Clever, Sam,” Mom replied. “I am well aware that cleaning out your rooms hasn’t been fun for you two. So here’s my proposal. I’m not going to be able to dig out from the pile of papers I’ve been buried under for a while. But once this project is finished, I’ll have a lot more free time on my hands. And that’s where these come in. . . .”
Mom opened up her night table, pulled out a stack of magazines, and spread them out on the bed. They were all glossy and printed on really beautiful paper (sorry, I just can’t let it go)—magazines like Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and Home and Design.
“Are you giving me an assignment?” I asked. “Write an article about the horrors of cleaning your room to pitch to one of these magazines?”
“No, but that’s not a bad idea, if you’re up for it,” Mom said. “I am giving you a different kind of assignment. It’s a redesign partnership. These magazines are just a start. You and Allie should use them as a springboard to build a plan for redesigning your rooms. You know, cut out pictures of furniture you like, collect swatches of colors and patterns that we could use, stuff like that. When you’ve got a good idea of what you want, we’ll work together after school and on the weekends to make it come to life.”
“A new bedroom?” I cried. “Thanks, Mom. That would be awesome.” I love my room, but it’s probably time to get rid of the curtains that have little bows on them. I started thinking about bedrooms I’ve seen on TV or in the movies that were really cool and looked like you’d want your friends to hang out there with you. “So,” I said, “do you think maybe in the next few months we could do this?”
Mom gave me a hug and kissed the top of my head.
“Oh, Sam, I’m sorry you’ve been at the mercy of my schedule,” she said. “I really am. I promise it will be within the next month. First things first: Clean them out so we have a fresh space to work with. Maybe you and Allie can spend some time together this weekend working on this project. You know, some big-sister-little-sister bonding?”
Rachel Wiseloves to give advice. When she’s not editing or writing children’s books, which she does full-time at a publisher in New York, she’s reading advice columns in newspapers, magazines, and blogs—and is always sure her advice would be better! Her dream is to someday have her own talk show, where she could share her wisdom with millions of people at once, but for now she’s happy to dole out advice in small portions in Dear Know-It-All books.
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