When I was teaching the kids loved for me to tell stories about myself, my childhood or tell them about what I thought heaven was like. I didn’t mind stopping a lesson to tell a story because in my opinion our lives are not made up of atoms or equations but of stories.
Yesterday I shared about how I met God on the beach and as I was talking to one of my friends online about it I offered to tell her about how I met my best friend, who happens to be her sister. So, here it is, J.
Most of my childhood stories begin with this sentence: My mother died when I was 3. The reason is because that event impacted my life in so many ways. And, this story, too starts the same way.
My mother died when I was 3. I was raised by my father who was a very silent man. My best friend named him “Stoneface” which she never called him to his face. My dad was a Navy man. “Yes, sir!” was the proper response anytime he called my name or asked me a question.
When I was in 5th grade the city I lived in decided to desegregate our schools. That meant that I couldn’t go to the school that was within walking distance from my house, I had to be bused across town to a school in a black neighborhood.
I’ll never forget riding the bus to school that first day of 5th grade. Black families lined the streets and some people threw rocks at our bus. I did not feel welcomed.
Me and a skinny, annoying white girl named Angel who wore dresses everyday, smelled like Play-doh and nervously picked a wart on her knee all day long were the only white kids in our class. I did not feel we were a good representation of our people which made me embarrassed for all white people in America. And even though there were only 2 scrawny white girls in the whole class, the teacher, an elegant, tall, mocha-skinned queen, gave the class a lecture on the proper way to address black people.I knew the lesson was just for Angel and me. I listened with my whole being while Angel nervously picked her wart.
Needless to say, that year was not a happy one. There was tension all over the city. There was tension in my school and in my class. I couldn’t talk to my father about it because, one, he didn’t like to talk and, two, because whenever the subject of busing would come up he’d fly into a cussing rage. He used all the inappropriate names that my teacher told us not to.
One day, feeling particularly lonely and depressed about the whole state of affairs, I got off my school bus and began to walk home. I noticed a girl I had never seen before walking on the other side of the road. I wondered who she was but I just didn’t feel particularly friendly so I kept my head down and plodded along.
Almost home, I heard the familiar, screeching call of my arch nemesis. I’ll call her A (you can assign any name you want to her, I can think of a few choice ones that start with A). She was my arch nemesis because when I first moved into the neighborhood she decided she’d be the boss of me. And because I didn’t have any other friends I had to play with her. She had a whole playroom with a real dollhouse and a Barbie townhouse with working elevator. She also had a Malibu Barbie while I only had Barbie’s awkward friend, Francie who drove Barbie’s RV. Francie eventually got her leg chewed off by my dad’s dog, Alex and so that made her even more marginalized. A always pointed out that my toys were not as good as hers and I should be thankful that she let me play at her house at all.
Well, A, screeched at me to “Come over to my house right now!” I mumbled a response that I didn’t want to or something like that. That sent A into a rage and she started marching toward me on the sidewalk with her finger pointed at me like I’d seen her mother do to her.
A continued to berate me as she approached and as I continued to refuse to do what she wanted, her scoldings became more and more biting and cruel until finally she said,
“Why should I even play with you, you don’t even have a mother!”
Everything got quiet and then suddenly I heard a voice from across the street, “Hey! You leave her alone!”
I looked and I saw that unfamiliar girl coming across the street toward A. She bent down and picked up some rocks and threw them at A as she said, “That was mean! You can’t say things like that! You better go home before I hit you in the head!”
Well, A, being the superior, stubborn girl she was, gave it right back to her. “You can’t tell me what to do! I’ll tell my parents!”
The girl continued to throw rocks at A and yell at her until A finally retreated, terrified into her father’s car. The girl put her fist into the hood of the car and walked over to me, put her arm around my shoulder.
We walked to 7-Eleven, got some Now-or-laters, ate them in the park and we were best friends from then on out.
We had some of the best times. My friend was the type of person who collected strays. Stray people, stray animals like Barney the “corn face dog.” She loved the hurting back to life. She made us, the strays, laugh like life was good. She would feed us and tuck us into safe beds with clean feet. Music and laughter surrounded her.
Looking back, she was probably hurting as much or more than I was but she never told me or talked about it. She was always cheerful around me. She was strong and brave and even as a kid she knew how to help and clean and cook and make gravy for the biscuits her mom, Pearl, would make for us. I thought she could do anything.
She saved my life and I’m thankful that she came to my rescue.
That’s my story.