Metro-East Living

Those who start out as ugly ducklings are determined to become beautiful swans

Michelle Meehan Schrader, right, poses for a photo with her best friend Lydia Kachigian.
Michelle Meehan Schrader, right, poses for a photo with her best friend Lydia Kachigian. Provided

I was not a good looking child. Oh, my mother thought I was beautiful. But the rest of the world? Not so much. I was tall and gangly and really bad at sports. My school uniform hung on me like a gunny sack, and my knee socks never stayed up.

And then, there was my grade school friend, a Hopscotch queen with perfect skin. That girl’s knee socks always stayed up. And her hair? Banana curls on steroids.

“Why can’t I look more like her?” I’d ask my mother, as she trimmed my crooked bangs.

“You’ll grow into your looks, Shelly, eventually,” she’d say.

“Eventually” took 20 years.

In the meantime, I traded in my grade school pal for a new bestie I met the first day of high school. Her name was Lydia, and her hair was wild. She cracked a joke, and I felt I’d come home.

Like ugly ducklings determined to become beautiful swans, we battled our zits and our frizzies side by side. These days, we battle our wrinkles and we like to think we’re winning. At least we tell each other that.

“If we started out perfect, there’d be nowhere else to go but down,” I tell Lydia.

“Yeah, isn’t it great we got to start at the bottom and crawl our way up?” she says, rolling her eyes.

If you met Lydia today, I swear you’d be impressed. A corporate lawyer with a knockout smile, she is the mother of three amazing daughters, who range in age from 14 to 24. It’s weird watching them go through all the stages we went through. You’d think we’d tell them, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But instead, we sweat alongside them.

Will Renny get that job? Will Gabby dump that boyfriend? Will Ellie win that tennis tournament?

Tune in tomorrow.

If Lydia’s girls had a crystal ball, I’m pretty sure they’d use it. As for their mother and me? We use the past to predict the future. We turned out OK, so we figure they will too. That doesn’t stop us from worrying but, hey, that’s what mothers do.

“I think being dorks made us better in the long run,” I tell Lydia. “We developed more character than your average blonde cheerleader.”

“Are you serious?” she asks.

“What? You think we weren’t dorks?”

“Oh, there’s no question about that,” she says and smiles. “I just have my doubts about our character.”