Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Fourth Grade Remembrance

It's been many years. Lives have changed. I've changed. Good things and bad have happened. But I found her again.

It was my fourth grade year in a Catholic school. Times at home were a little rough for me. My mom had some issues and was hospitalized several times. As an only child, I felt the pangs of loneliness. Fear and worry consumed me at a tender age.

She was so pretty. A "regular" teacher amidst all the nuns. Her name was Miss Clark and I'll never forget her. Soft-spoken and kind, she took to me, knowing I had difficulty at home. Her gentle manner and sweet ways were such a stable to me amidst life's turmoil. Though I wasn't sure what might happen each day, the certainty at that time was an eager smile and warm words from a young teacher to all of us children in her class.

I remember writing to her at one point in my life. Our cards and letters went back and forth, the exchange of words between old friends. Then we lost touch. Years separated us. My own life took many turns, marriage at an early age, then the tragedy of divorce when he found someone else. A son born, and life fulfilled. Dad's heart issues and the closeness and love of a good family. So many things I wished I could tell her.

I found her once again after searching for the longest time. Internet search engines turned up facts here and there when one day I saw that lovely face on Facebook. Try though I might, it wasn't as easy as I'd thought to contact her. A year later and several attempts, I was rewarded by her friendship once again. I think I wanted to tell her how much she'd meant to me as a child. I think I wanted to say my life turned out okay and it was she who helped push me in the right direction.

I pray her life has been good. I hope there's been laughter, love and great memories. Thank you from my heart dear friend, mentor and teacher. May the Lord reward you for the kindness you've shown.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Peace, not bullying

     I chose a picture of my father's Peace rose to begin today's blog. Peace at all cost. Choose peace. Make love not war. Peace be with you. Sounds good and simple doesn't it? But for many of today's young people it isn't easy to keep the peace. Young kids on a bus minding their own business. Something you say, or maybe what you're wearing that particular day sparks another child to hurl insult after insult upon you. Perhaps even hitting you, or spitting on you. How does one keep peace in such a situation?
     I share my own tale with you. One that is very painful for me to remember. I was in sixth grade in a newer school. My grandmother had a border, Phil, who lived with her who was more like an uncle to me. He asked my friend Patty and I if we'd like to go to the playground at another school I'd attended. Well, of course, we wanted to.
     When we arrived, my friend went off to the swings, while I chose to climb a set of monkey bars that resembled a space ship, I believe. All of a sudden, at least three older children came over to me and began taunting me with lewd suggestions. Looking frantically around, I could see Phil way across the playground talking with some people, my friend Patty completely oblivious to me. My heart pounded, my palms grew sweaty. I wanted to run, but found myself rooted to the spot. After several torturous moments which may have felt much longer than they were, Patty sauntered over to me and said, "Phil says we're leaving." The most welcome words I'd ever heard.
     It didn't end there however. For the girl who was with this group located me in school. Her words to me on a daily basis were, "I'm gonna beat you up." One time while swimming in a children's pool in Patty's side yard, the girl and her horrid gang walked by noticing us innocently playing in the pool. Once again, she accosted me with her terrible words and insults.
     I was a peace lover. I knew nothing of fights and bullying, angry words or quick retorts. I endured best I could daily this barrage of malice. I dreaded school, my stomach clenched and heaved and I wished myself dead many a time.
     As fortune would have it, a very tough girl heard the taunting one day. We weren't friends, but something about me must have touched a soft side of her. She warned the other girl to leave me alone and said "She's alright," referring to me. Time passed as it does, and I never was hit. Though it didn't make it any easier, I retreated into myself and my shyness even more. My mom was hospitalized at that time, so I was unable to talk with her about all that had been going on. I found my solace in make-believe: Books, television and pretend; a vivid imagination which carried me through. And the peace remained.
     Choose peace. Don't start trouble. Endure and carry on. Ignore if you can, report if you need to. I wish I'd been brave enough, or known enough to report this girl to the authorities in my school. Without my mom's guidance at the time, I was unsure of what to do. But now I do know, and it wouldn't be to shamefully carry the weight and burden of torturous insult day after day. Seek a trusted guidance counselor or other family member. But do it. Talk to them. They may have gone through it as well.