Writing this blog is very cathartic for me. As one dear friend has said, "a private journal made public." Over the weekend I gave a great deal of thought about the things I've been writing and how they effected me then, and how revisiting them now effects me. It was an interesting study in contrasts, that's for sure. These days when someone tells me I'm weird, I usually agree and laugh or say "yeah, so what!" and go on. Then, not so much. It crushed me deeply and dearly to be thought weird and shunted off to the side by peers.
Back to the story about the family reunions and meeting Cousin's Kids who also heard and saw people and things that no one else admitted to seeing and hearing. That was a huge blessing to a young girl who was routinely made fun of when she mentioned that she saw and heard ghosts and spirits. It was like heaven on earth. If my folks would have let me, I would have stayed right there in the mouth of that cave and lived out the rest of my formative years in a place where other kids understood and knew what I was talking about and where no one thought I was weird - including the adults.
The same year as the family reunion, I was invited to the first and only birthday party I would be invited to by a girl named Linda in my fourth grade class. It was a huge deal to me especially since I had never been invited to anyone else's birthday party ever, except for my cousins. So, on the appointed day, I walked the 7 blocks to Linda's house with the present I had personally picked out and wrapped. Wore my best dress - the one usually reserved for Sunday School and Church. Mom did my hair so that it was pretty and shiny. I felt like a pretty little girl going to a swell party. It was the top of the world to be invited to that party. When I arrived, Linda's mother opened the door and said, "Oh, you came! Well, come in." That should have been a clue, but, to an excited fourth grader, clues like that go over their heads. Party games ensued as they do at birthday parties. Couldn't help but notice that I was always the last kid to get chosen for teams and the first one to do things that had the potential for getting dirty and/or embarassed. But, hey, I was at a birthday party and Linda wasn't a cousin. It was still fun, sorta. Until Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey. I got to be the first person to play - not a good sign that even I couldn't ignore. Blindfolded, spun around so rapidly and so long that I nearly barfed and then told to find the donkey and pin on the tail. Yep, it was a disaster of epic proportions! First, was directed toward the punch bowl which I proceeded to knock over and spill on my dress. Then, guided by the rest of the guests' words, fell over a hassock and busted my lip. Still foolishly game and wanting so much to fit in, I ventured on to where I was guided to jab that donkey's tail into the target. It ended up being the backside of Linda's mother! Not funny to her. Not funny to me. And definitely one of the earliest total humiliations of my young life, not to mention the now ruined church dress and my now fat lip that I would have to explain when I got home.
After she yowled in pain from me sticking a straight pin in her butt, Linda's mother took me upstairs to doctor my lip and wash my tear stained face. I screwed up all my young girl courage and asked her why she had said, "Oh, you came." when she opened the door. Reluctantly, she told me that she had told Linda she had to invite everyone in our grade to her birthday party - even the unpopular kids, of which I was one. Linda told her she didn't think any of the unpopular kids would come, so, it surprised her when I showed up. There weren't then, nor are there now, any words for how crushed, embarassed, humiliated, and just generally despressed I was at that news. But, I decided to find out why Linda didn't like me, so, I asked her mom that very question. Not knowing the answer herself, she called Linda upstairs for a quick chat.
I wished afterward that she had stayed downstairs and that I had never, ever, ever shared with Linda a her gaggle of giggling friends that I could see dead people and hear them talk in my head and all the other parts of my "gift" that I knew about. When asked why she and the other more popular kids didn't like me, Linda replied, "She's weird. She thinks she can see ghosts. She talks to them in her head. Well, we thinks she's crazy and we don't like her because she's just too weird!" Prompted for a better explanation by her mother, Linda went on to say that the fact I always knew the answers to the teachers' questions in school, was always trying to be nice to everyone, even the Negro kids that were new to the school (don't get all politically correct on me, it was the 50s and that was the language of the time) and that I thought I could talk to dead people was just too much and that the whole group took a vote and decided which of us should be voted the person who needed to be stayed away from the most - and that I was the person that won that vote. Lucky me. (Anyone want to know why I hate politics?)
Monday at school my life became a living hell, even after the teachers and the principal took my tormentors aside and told them to knock it off. "Hey weirdo, who do you see today?" "Pinned the tail on any donkeys lately?" Being pushed and shoved on the playground was nothing new, but, it did reach a new level of intensity and deliberateness. The other 6 or 7 girls who were also among the unpopular even stayed away from me because they were afraid of what delicious hell would be visited upon them should they be foolish enough to have me as a friend. Fourth grade recess sucked and it sucked big time until...
"Hey weirdo, who do you see standing behind me today?" screamed Angela. Taking about 2 seconds to really look, I saw her grandmother standing there frowning and crying. She was tall, plump, had her hair in a bun on the back of her head and was wearing a calf-length dress with lots of pintuck pleats on the front of it - and I could see through her so I knew she was dead. So, I screamed back, "I see your dead, tall, fat Grandma and she's crying and frowning." "Lot you know, my Grandma is alive, you jerk!" Only thing was, she wasn't. She had died that morning just about the time we were all at recess. Angela's mom came to school to get her about half an hour after the end of recess and told her her Grandma was dead. Angela turned pale as paste, looked at me and asked, "How did you know that you weirdo?" "I told you I saw her, didn't I! Maybe now you guys will believe me."
Whether the group ever believed me or not, I learned that having my gift could sometimes shut people up when they were tormenting me. But, most of the time, it was that "weirdo thing" that kept me from having popular friends and I was really starting to not like it at all.