my best gifts received, part one
In high school, my friend Sue gave me an ornament for Christmas. I remember being a bit disappointed. It wasn’t much of a gift in my 15-year-old estimation.
At a time when I was awkward and insecure, she made me feel important. The first time I met her was as the new kid in sixth grade. I huddled alone in the corner of the playground, the only girl wearing a dress, waiting for class to start.
Shaking, my back against the brick wall, hands clasped tightly together, I was wishing I’d worn jeans as my mom suggested. All these kids had gone to school together since kindergarten, I was sure of it. I’d never fit in.
Sue with her pigtails & bows and another girl, Nada, approached me.
“Are you new?” they asked in unison. We all giggled.
“Yes!” I said, incredibly happy someone had noticed me.
Turned out we were in the same class, with the same scary teacher. They gave me the scoop. She was fat (apparently important information for sixth-graders) and this was her first teaching job.
I don’t know if I was the friend to her she never stopped being to me.
The next summer Sue’s mom was killed in a plane accident. Her father remarried soon after, and certainly the adjustment must have been hard for her. I don’t know if I was the friend to her she never stopped being to me.
A seventh-grade diary entry early in the school year noted she seemed okay. At least I wondered how she was doing. I hope I asked her about it, gave her a chance to talk. I don’t remember.
In high school, my mental health problems arose. As I started to lose confidence, gain weight and sink into a series of deep depressions, she did her best to make me feel better. “You look real nice today,” she’d tell me on days when my dirty hair was held back with a scarf or my outfit played up the extra pounds. I saw through it and appreciated her thoughtfulness. It meant I had a friend.
Every Christmas I think of her and cry a little, missing our friendship and how much it meant to me.
The last time I saw her was about a year after we graduated. I was walking around a lake near my home and she came from the opposite direction, with a boyfriend, I think.
She was genuinely happy to see me. We had an enthusiastic and chatty catch-up conversation, then moved on in our separate walks. I haven’t seen her since.
I’ve tried to look her up, with no success. Every Christmas I see that ornament, think of her and cry a little, missing our friendship and the opportunity to tell her how much it meant to me.
Still means to me.
Photo Credit: (background) © Diana Rich; (ornament) © Stuart Monk, both — DollarPhotoClub.com