Monday, March 12, 2012

Bizarre Connections Reaching Up From the Past

My 4th Grade Class
Yesterday, I got a surprise. Someone from my far distant past found me on Facebook. They requested that I "friend them" and I just sat there for a moment, thrown backwards in time.

I was an awkward little girl... who wasn't awkward, right? But there were those kids who were already full of seeming confidence among those of us who were timid and quiet. It could be that older siblings helped forge stronger personalities in some. I was an older sister, though just barely. I didn't have the advantage of older siblings to make me strong and toughen my hide. I was quiet, though I had friends. We were the kids who liked to read and sit in the field at recess picking small daisies, or playing hand ball when a court was empty. 

It was actually in the 3rd grade that I met the boy who would unknowingly change me forever. He was one of those quiet kids, too, though his solitude seemed to be created by a self-made barrier of disdain. He was in my homeroom class and I was more aware of him than other boys because I had admired him. He didn't run wildly with other boys at recess, or make a lot of noise during class. I thought he was only shy like me. Then one day, when I had just walked past his desk on my way out to lunch, he stood up and made a face at me... he wrinkled up his nose and wiggled it, like Tabitha from "Bewitched". It stopped me cold. He had just mimicked my one facial tic that I wasn't even aware that I had, until that moment... it was like he had put a mirror in front of my face and I was frozen in front of it. From that point on, I was hyper-aware of what my face did, as much as I could be. I stopped wiggling my nose, out of sheer embarrassment. I also stopped biting my fingernails, though that was mostly through the efforts of my dad. This boy also pointing it out to me stiffened my resolve to stop this habit, too. In my mind, this boy was a bully. I was afraid of him and his sharp observations and avoided him completely after this. And then, some 30 years later, he sends me a friend request.

I want to point out that I didn't have him in any other classes after the 3rd grade. I had been put in a different school that one year because of admission mistakes at my own elementary school. The following years I went back to my old school with my other friends who had also gotten stuck at different schools in 3rd grade. So I didn't see him again until maybe around high school, when he came to our school briefly, and I never spoke to him. I didn't actually think that he'd know who I was anyway. I didn't bother to ask him.

It took me a couple minutes to decide to add him as a friend, mostly out of sheer curiosity. He immediately posted something on my wall. It was a heart-felt apology. He apparently remembered that he was a mean boy, and he wanted to apologize and to ask for forgiveness. That was all he wanted. To be forgiven. My eight-year-old self pondered this. My adult self did, too. In retrospect, he had done me a favor. Bad habits are hard to stop outside of childhood, and I had stopped two because of him. Yes, I was hurt and embarrassed by him, but when I remember it now, I don't recall other people even witnessing either exchange. He wasn't as malicious as he could have been, really. Certainly not nice, but not horrible, either. And he was asking for my forgiveness now. I accepted it. I hadn't really held onto any animosity towards him, after all. The memory had dimmed, and all I could tell you now is that I was shocked at finding out that anyone had noticed me at all, let alone noticed that I made funny faces. Yes, it hurts to be teased, but hadn't I done mean things to a kid or two by then? Maybe even something worse.... so who was I to hold back forgiveness? It was a relief to accept his apology. I felt a shift in my own concept of myself. My eight-year-old self smiled. My adult self did, too.
Peace is a wonderful thing.


Tina Ramchandani said...

Its amazing how such small things can change such a huge part of you! I'm glad he friend-ed you. Hope all is well!

Orion Designs said...

I read this post yesterday and needed some time to digest it. I'm not surprised that you remembered that incident with the little boy. because of the impact it had on you, but I found it extraordinary that HE remembered it.

Seems like a mean kid would have done similar things many times to many kids. The fact that he remembered you means that he remembered your reaction to it, right?

Brandi Hussey said...

Peace is a wonderful, glorious thing, and I'm glad you found it.

I was teased a little growing up. Little things like what you described, nothing overt or anything like the bullying you hear on the news. But it was enough to make me painfully self-conscious. Even now, I don't like to be teased unless I know you well, and I sure don't like attention on me in any way whatsoever.

So, I can totally understand you remembering that incident, because I remember every awful thing anyone ever said or did to me, too. But like Vicki said above, it's amazing that he remembered it, and that he *apologized*.

I have to give you credit for even accepting him as a Facebook friend. I don't know that I could have done it; I've turned down the friend requests I've gotten from those way-back people because I just don't want to remember them at all.

shari said...

Thanks, Friends. Well, here's the scoop: he didn't remember the specific teasing, though he remembered who I was. He said that our mutual friend told him that he was mean to me back in the 3rd grade, and so he had made a point of apologizing to me if he ever got the opportunity. And so he did. When I mentioned to him that he stopped me having some goofy tics, he said he didn't remember me even having any. So it wasn't as though he was mean enough in these instances to really remember what he'd said and done... he was just lucky to have a friend who remembered for him.

(It's not that strange to me that he remembered me, though. There are lots of kids who might remember me only because I was one of a very few "happa" kids. Back then, it wasn't that normal to see kids like me and I was always getting asked what my "nationality" was. My answer varied, depending on my mood.)

It was still nice to get that closure. As I said, I've never forgotten it, and I was afraid of his sharp tongue after that. But now we joke about his being "My 3rd Grade Bully" ha ha. And I don't regret adding him as a friend for a minute.

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