The thing about my friend Melanie is that she’s emotional. That’s not to say she’s alone — this is college, after all, and in a first-year dorm like Barrows there’s no shortage of raging hormones and mini-dramas. But Melanie’s not like other kids. Case-in-point: When NBC aired a 30-second promo for the much-anticipated wedding episode of ‘The Office,’ it only took about 20 seconds before Melanie was in tears. She cares and empathizes on a deep level with other people, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Not long ago, Melanie had a rough week. It began on the last weekend of Fall Break, when she tore her cornea and would end up missing two days of classes. Upon her return to Oberlin on Wednesday, she thrice fell off her bike, which we had taught her how to ride the month before. That Thursday, she caught a cold and joined us for dinner at Stevenson just so she could quietly sip on peppermint tea. Her week was capped off, as it always is, with Barrows’ Sunday Night Movie Night. On this particular week, we rented a French film called “Tell No One” - the plot revolves around a husband’s search to find his wife’s murderer. Suffice to say, this did not go over well with Melanie.
But rather than watch Melanie’s cold slowly progress, we, her loyal third-floor Barrows friends, decided to take action. We were all eating lunch at Stevenson — Melanie was back at Barrows feeling ill — when the idea sprang up. We needed a holiday, a new holiday, to celebrate all things Melanie. And thus, SmileFest ’09 was born.
First things first, we decided, we’ll need an inexpensive (we are college kids after all) and meaningful gift. After much deliberation, we decided on a bike bell! It was perfect: who doesn’t love bike bells?
Second, we decided that we needed something with heart and personality — and few things say heart and personality like homemade poems written by non-poets, which, conveniently, all of us happened to be. We collaborated to create the following couplets — stanzas of poetry so profound they likely made Emily Dickinson posthumously jealous. Here’s a sample:
In thinking about the past few days, something soon came to light
Despite all your awesomeness, few things have gone right.
You fell off your bike which is never much fun,
And you wept violently after we watched “Tell No One.”
The way things are going; it wouldn’t come as a surprise
If you happened to get swine flu or choke on Stevie’s fries
Cornea tears and tears can make for a rough week.
But smile and chin up, friend — the prospects aren’t that bleak.
That night, as she worked on an essay in her room, a dozen of us paraded in. We abruptly turned off the lights, turned on the Rocky theme song and bid our friend a Happy SmileFest. She was confused at first. And then, she cried. But this time, it was the good kind of crying.