Today I ran the streets of my home town. Every street. All 15 of them (I think). Puppy and I ran up and down and streets I used to know like the back of my hand. On spring nights like tonight, I used to grab my banana bike with the white basket with purple flowers and ride until almost-dark when I had to be home.
I was king. I knew every bump in the sidewalks. I would climb on the fire escapes that went to nowhere and lip synced music on the pretend stage behind the post office. I was 10, and life was good.
As I ran back in the ‘hood, most houses have new occupants, new families. Their kids were out playing where my g-friends and I used to play, where we used to lay out on the lawn on summer days, where our lives unfolded.
I’ve worked in schools of six other small towns. Elementary schools, high schools, and it really doesn’t matter where you go, small towns are the same. Different buildings and locations, but same stories. Childhood friends, playmates, ballparks, and high school proms. A constancy that never stops with time, just faces and names. 45’s, cassette tapes, or Youtube all bring Donny and Justin to the hearts and minds of young girls everywhere.
My entire childhood flooded my mind as my puppy and I ran unnoticed among the hometown streets. Learning to ride a bike while my dad ran beside me running down the hill. Walking to school so self-conscious because I wore a home-made dress by my mom even though I was so excited because it was mine and not a hand-me-down. Not wanting to wear snowboots because they were so ugly and uncool. Feeling so stupid because I had curly hair and the Dorthy Hamill haircut I wanted so bad didn’t feather like it did for my friend, the beauty queen. Wanting so bad to blend my super-different Italian name to one like every one else. Wishing, somehow, I could just fit in.
Today while I mingled with high school students in an earth science lab, I saw the same feelings on the faces of the kids I was with. Kids wanting to blend in, yearning to be significant yet go unnoticed.
As I ran through the streets tonight, I got my wish. I’m a Yoder now, so I blend. Thanks to a straightener, I now can feather with the best of them. I don’t make my kids wear boots if they don’t want to and the homemade clothes went by the wayside when my daughter was old enough to not want to match mom.
I’m so glad I don’t have to do high school again, but as a teacher and counselor, I’m thankful I can give a few words of encouragement to the curly-haired boot wearers. It may make the difference between feeling okay or completely worthless. As a child looked at me today and said, “Did I do anything wrong yet?” I just smiled and said, no, you’re just fine. He smiled.
But then a minute later some one called him stupid.