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Are You There God? It's Me, Randi...

You may think it's Practice, but you're already there

Book cover: Judy Blume, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Tween girl's face, eyes gazing heavenward.
One of the classic book's many cover designs.

One of my favorite books of all time is the Judy Blume classic, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. It's about a tween girl trying to understand life while waiting to get her first period, something I remember being highly concerned about, as well, when I was that age. But the book was about more than just Margaret, engaging character though she is. It was also about the power of writing, its ability to communicate experiences from writer to reader.

To wit, Margaret has a grandmother whom she meets at Bloomingdale's for a day of shopping (also one of my most favorite activities as a girl). Her grandmother arrives in a green pantsuit and "lots of green eyeshadow to match." That magical phrase has stuck in my mind for-evah and made me fall in love with Grandma from the first read. I can feel the creamy, mint-green eyeshadow slathered across her slightly crepey lids. In my mind she also wears a particular shade of lipstick, an almost natural-looking pink color that glows with metallic frost. Her shoulder-length hair is light blond from a box and flips up at the ends. She looks Grandma-glamorous, not farcical, in my mind, an older woman with aplomb and verve.

Blue eye with mint green eyeshadow.
Grandma's minty-green lids.

Blume's use of the word, "lots," paints a vivid picture of her character. She tells us so much with so little. I can't remember exactly what Margaret and her grandmother do on that shopping trip. It may just be a lunch date. But my image of Grandma is so clearly wrought, and Blume's phrase has never left my mind.

In the same book, Margaret, along with her schoolmates, has been assigned a year-long research project. A topic unique and personal to each student, the project is due at the end of the school year. Margaret has spent her year considering the interfaith nature of her family. One parent, her mother I think, is Christian, her father, Jewish. (I think the grandmother with the delicious eyeshadow was the dad's mother.)

Again, Blume creates an indelible image with her words. At the end of the school year, the other students lay "thick booklets" on the teacher’s desk, full of what we imagine to be deeply researched academic subjects. Margaret turns in "a letter," in which she has written her conclusions about what religion means to her. As I read the scene, I heard the crisp "T's" in the word, "letter," in contrast with the aurally heavy "thick booklets," an artful distinction that has also stuck in my brain since the first time I read the book. The words express Margaret's brittle confidence in her project, mirroring her fragile sense of self.