My husband loves to tell me stories of friends from school, even as far back as kindergarten. I am always amazed he can remember so much from so long ago.
I don’t recall much of my grade school years. Except in second grade, my older brother David had a hearing issue and was held back the prior year, so he was now in second grade with me. He hated that, especially when people would ask if we were twins.
The first day of sixth grade stands out clearly. It was a month after our mom died, and I think I was nervous about getting ready for school without Mom’s help. I’m not sure if my sister fixed my hair, of if I did. I don’t recall what I was wearing.
What I do remember was my classmates and I were mingling around and all of a sudden Jerry Snider was talking to me. Jerry Snider! In my mind, he was one of the popular kids. And I was not.
He came up to me and said, “I saw in the paper that your mom died. I’m sorry.” I just looked at him and couldn’t really speak. Then he said, “You sure have a lot of brothers.” He smiled at me and then just acted like we had always been friends. It was a wonderful way to start sixth grade.
The other memory of that school year wasn’t such a good one. I was doing the best I could to feel normal, even though things weren’t “normal” in my world. We were already the poor family. Now we were the poor kids without a mom. Making friends was challenging for me.
I was getting close to one girl and, honestly I don’t remember her name now. We would play together on the playground, and chat at lunchtime. In my mind, she was my best friend. Until one day in gym class.
We were playing some kind of ball game, and she got mad at me for something I did wrong. She started yelling at me to do it right, and I probably said something stupid back like, “I am!”. That’s when the words came out of her mouth that I will always remember.
She yelled, “You are the reason your mom is dead”. I stood there frozen. How did she know? How did she know I was supposed to be taking care of my mom the week before she died, and I complained about it?
Of course she didn’t know any of those things. Those are just the thoughts that ran through my head. She also didn’t mean it, they were just words that flew from her mouth to get my attention.
But that day changed my feelings about friendships. I know I had a few close girlfriends, but I also kept a distance. I think that made me seem like I wasn’t friendly.
Looking back at old high school photos, most of my friends were guys. Jerry Snider was one of them. It’s interesting to me how experiences from our childhood shape the things to come.