Thursday, September 4, 2008

Together Again-Part 2

Our grade school reunion was a blast. We spent four hours swapping memories, slapping our knees and having a rip roaring good time. It was waaay better than our high school reunion last year. Nobody was trying to impress anybody. Nobody was sucking in his gut, and everyone ordered steak instead of pretending that he preferred salad. I haven't laughed that much in years. And look, here's the picture to prove it. Remind me to get my teeth cleaned soon. And to wax my upper lip. The evening was rich with shared memories of childhood antics and classroom hi jinks. Spending year after year in the classroom with the same forty people built strong bonds that have stood the test of time. For me, it was if we had magically stepped back in time. Everybody looked a little older but seemed to be the same as they were thirty years ago. I feel fortunate to have grown up in the country with those folks. Those truly were the Wonder Years for me. My husband and some of my friends find that unique because they didn't have that kind of experience. They grew up in larger school districts where they were shuffled around each year and didn't get a chance to make more than just a few close friends. Only recently did I realize how unique our situation really was.

After dinner Friday night, we began telling stories on each other. Like the time our fourth grade teacher tied Madd Maxx to his chair with a jump rope because Maxx wouldn't stay in his seat. Or the time several of the boys got a spanking all at the same time. Or how about when L. was bragging about her monkey bar skills and E. and I laughed our butts off when she fell face forward in the sand and was knocked out cold..and then we thought she was dead and we'd get in trouble for laughing. Story after story rolled around the crowd, causing us to laugh uncontrollably (okay, some of us were in control. Not me.), hold our aching sides and wipe tears from our eyes. Eventually, we got around to asking where is SHE now or whatever happened to HIM, the folks who were a little odd, the folks who were on the lowest rung of the grade school social ladder, which in backwoods middle America was pretty low AND pretty ridiculous. While our group was unique in that we were so close, we weren't without a class system, and we didn't escape the urge to pick on the weakest members. I've always considered it to be normal teasing and probably pretty harmless. I mean, we all got ribbed or picked on about something every now and then, right? It just made us tougher, helped to shape us into stronger people who know the world isn't always fair. Right? But in the middle of all the ha ha ho ho hee heeing and giggling about the time F. stabbed me in the chest with a pencil and how weird F. always was, M. looked at me and said, "Do you remember what we called her?"
"No."
"Flea bag."
"Oh."
And suddenly I didn't feel like laughing because I remembered. Yes, we called her "flea bag", and for the first time ever I let myself think about how awful that must have been for her. Awful, because that's such a horrible thing to call someone. Awful, because in the immediate years after grade school I learned about her mother's suicidal tendencies, her poverty and her father's sexually abusive treatment of her. It's what made her behave so oddly when we were kids. It's why her clothes were often the wrong size or downright ratty. It's why she told scary stories in the restroom about whippings with belts that left marks. It's why she tried too hard to fit in. Somehow I had forgotten the nickname the class pinned on her. Hmm. Forgotten or suppressed? Did wiping out the memory of calling her "flea bag" make it easier for me to live with the knowledge of the abuse in her family and how badly I and three dozen other children treated her all those years ago?
Another funny story jarred me out of my somber moment Friday night, and I went on laughing at the next tale. I left the restaurant reminded of many old memories, but one in particular that I can't quite shake, the memory of F. No one seemed to know where she is now or what happened to her. The last thing I heard many years ago was that she was living in a nearby college town, prostituting herself. I don't know if that was true. I hope not. I hope somewhere along the way she found hope and peace and friends who treat her well. And wherever you are F. I'm sorry, really sorry for the way we all behaved. I'm sorry I ever called you..gulp..."flea bag". Very. Very. Sorry. And F. I won't let myself forget that again.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm sorry L. for laughing when you fell off the monkey bars. And I'm especially sorry for laughing and pulling that bandanna off your head that morning on the school bus when you overslept and were trying to hide the fact that your hair was all matted up. Really, I am.
Hey, maybe we're not EXACTLY the same as we used to be.

4 comments:

swampy in nv said...

Don't you just hate it when your eyebrows start growing on your chin?
Fun. Fun. Fun.

karisma said...

Its all a part of growing up, I guess! But me thinks I may be a very old soul! Even when I was 10 and I said something innocent that hurt a friend I was mortified! I have a tendency to say what I think! At 10 I wanted to listen to my favourite song and asked my friend to please be quiet while it was on! I thought at the time it was legit! She took it as an insult! Nearly 30 years later I still remember how she cried! And never forgave myself! I would NEVER hurt someone intentionally! Its just not me!

I was the cool kid in school who befriended every misfit, just to protect them from the bitches and nasties! And yeah I was the tiny little kid with the big mouth! You want a piece of her, come see me! Hmmm I copped a few bullies in my time! LOL! But funnily enough they were usually too shocked by my little bravado that they left me alone! Right after they yanked my nice long hair down past my knees! (And the boys seemed to like to protect me! Go figure!) My mouth has not changed much! I say what I think! But like I say! No nastiness intended.

Now you got me wondering? What happened to all those kids? I hope it all worked out well for them!

Amy's Angels said...

The important lesson here is that you are human. We all did it (either out loud or silently, inside) and thankfully, we grow up!

Glad that you got to have a fun time with old friends. : )

Mia said...

We just can't take it back (I did my fair share too)can we? The fact that it hurts shows there IS hope for us! haha