This is the prompt I chose for Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop this week because it brings back many happy memories. I can’t say Rebel was my “neighborhood” best friend because when you live way out in the middle of nowhere “neighborhoods” don’t exist. Or they didn’t back then, anyway!
But I remember Rebel from the first day of First Grade! Our birthdays are close together, so I’m sure she started the day in Kindergarten and ended it as a first-grader, just like I did. I wish I could find a class picture or a picture of when she went camping with us, but I can’t. So this will have to do, and I totally stole if from her FB page!
By the date, she was 4 1/2 here, so we hadn’t quite met yet. The baby is her little sister, and the dog is one of the gorgeous St. Bernards her family bred. I suspect that’s where I got my love of BIG dogs. Big, slobbery, furry dogs are just the best!
You can see her gorgeous strawberry-blonde hair here, but not her sweet smile or the perfect scattering of freckles she had across her nose. Much like my beautiful daughter-in-law. I’m hoping for freckles on my grandkids, but their parents actually have to let them out in the sun for more than 30 seconds at a time without SPF 100 to see if that will happen. They may not get freckles until they are teens. But that’s OK, too. Healthy skin is a priority.
Rebel was the most amazing natural artist I’ve ever met. Her dad was quite creative and built custom storage-underneath bunks for Rebel and her sister (coolest bedroom ever!) and a treehouse.
I’m not talking spare pieces of wood nailed up as a ladder and an iffy platform here. I’m talking house with walls, roof, windows, door, table and chairs, and serious decor. Supported by huge pillars. Rebel herself designed and painted the exterior (huge, colorful flowers) and her treehouse was the envy of every girl in school!
We had sleepovers as often as our parents would let us, and were part of a close-knit group of friends at our little country elementary school. But then I had to move away for a year. Not far, just to the next county over. I hated that year, though. I made a couple of friends, but they weren’t like my since-day-one friends. And I was starting that gangly, awkward stage every kid hits at least briefly. Mine wasn’t brief, and I was pretty much tortured on the bus on the way to and from school. And when you live in the country (as we always did) bus rides are long and drivers are deaf.
So I was thrilled to find out we were moving back close to my original elementary school. But dynamics had changed during the year I’d been gone, and for whatever reason one of the girls saw me as a threat. I was a scrawny nerd in hand-me-downs with huge glasses and a home perm. A cardboard cutout would have been more threatening. But Christina decided to pull each and every girl aside (maybe all the boys, too – I was too shy to talk to boys) and told each of them I’d said something incredibly personally insulting about them. That was my first experience with bullying that wasn’t a bigger boy picking on a smaller boy at recess. I had no clue what was happening or why.
They joined hands and danced around me in a circle, chanting nasty things. No one would play with me at recess or speak to me at lunch. My self-esteem was completely crushed. I begged my mom not to make me go to my elementary school graduation, but she didn’t understand. I didn’t even have the words to explain it.
I was eleven, my parents had recently separated, and there was a sexual predator living next door. It was a bad time in my life.
Years later (in high school) Rebel finally told me what Christina had done and said. It was actually a relief. All those years I’d thought there was something I’d done to make all my friends not only hate me, but want to hurt me. We were never close again, never more than a smile or wave in the hallway, and I haven’t seen her since high school graduation. But we’re FB friends (I was terrified she’d ignore my request) and she’s obviously become even more beautiful and talented as the years have passed.
The innocence of childhood friendships is so incredibly precious. Those opportunities never come around again.