High School Graduation
When I had completed third grade, my parents announced we'd be moving from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to a rural town in Arkansas called Pocahontas. I was devastated.
Thus far, I'd attended a private Catholic school, and even though we weren't Catholic, I adored the atmosphere. I went to mass once a week where I was comforted by the holy water fonts. I loved the kneeling and praying, the beautiful statues, and most of the Sisters that taught me. I appreciated how we colored in a different candle on our color pages during Advent each week, and I loved lugging around my cardboard suitcase of things to sell for fundraisers. I enthusiastically peddled Weebles each year, and once my family had purchased them, I'd harass them to give them to me. I was always in trouble in Catholic school. I went to the office to see the Principal, and my mother was called more times than I'd care to admit. Yes, I was a problem child from kindergarten to third grade. I was smart though, and I read at the top of my class. As in, myself and one other boy were the only ones in the group, and we were given the task of assisting with teaching the lower groups along with Sister Hanneke. We mostly went to a smaller sanctuary for mass, but a few times we to memorized and recited verses in our larger church which was/is was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. It was built in 1898 by Slovakian Catholics.
I grew up surrounded by diversity, and I loved that. I was my Mom's date to glamorous parties thrown by her friends where the guests spoke to me respectfully, as a fellow individual, never a child. I paddled around the hot tub with doctors with heavy accents with skin as beautiful and dark as mine was translucent and pale. I was convinced I would marry one named Sayid who tickled me, and I knew I wanted to have a life like my Mom's best friend. She had a wall to tall tank of Oscars behind her couch, and I was allowed to play in her lab at the med school and deliver babies from obstetrical manikins or give breast and prostate exams while she and Mom worked.
We moved over the summer, and that upcoming Fall, I started school at M.D. Williams Middle School. At my new school, we would change classes seven times throughout the day. At Most Holy Trinity, we had never changed classes. There were so many more students than in Catholic School, and I was a 4th grade child with the anxiety level of 10 adults combined. On my first day, I couldn't find my class. There were tons of papers taped up with lists of names so you could find your homeroom class. I was completely overwhelmed. It had started from the time I came to the tiny town and saw the cover of the local paper, The Star Herald. This was certainly no St. Louis Post Dispatch. There were society pages detailing who had visited whom that week. On the cover of the first edition I read was that Bessie Lou had the first tomato crop of the season. There she was, photographed center cover, displaying a ripe red tomato proudly. I wondered where in the Hell Mom and Dad had moved me. As I struggled to find my class on the list, hot tears began to roll down my face. I was near sobbing when I heard a voice behind me, "Hey, is there something I can help you with?" I turned to see a girl with long, silky blonde hair and a welcoming smile. "I can't find my class," I manged to get out. "Well, I don't know you, but I can help you," she responded. She went on to ask me my name, and then she determined that we were in the same class. I felt like she was my angel. I followed along behind her, and it was the beginning of our friendship.
I spent summers with Paige in the shed her Mom had set up for us to play in with our American Girls. We played "Olden Days" and pretended to churn butter. We spent nights snuggled up with her cat Gizmo and her rottweiler, Tigger. We made mud pies, and I pet her bunnies through the squares of their cage. Paige was friends with everyone, and she was readily accepted into the popular clique in school, however, she never socialized with them at the expense of anyone else. She would be a rare one who could move effortlessly through all the social realms. I was kind of an oddball outsider/loner, and she was my closest friend for years. Later, we both went to college at Arkansas State University, and we remained dear friends.
As often happens, we lost contact over the years after college, and we eventually reconnected on Facebook. I noticed over the next few months that we had significant differences in politics. I let those differences anger me, and I unfriended Paige frequently. She reached out to me, and explained that she still cared about me and that I had hurt her feelings. I convinced myself I never had known her and that maybe we had grown apart. Yes, in some ways we had, but I wasn't giving nearly enough importance to the many years we had together, our history. I was nasty in my responses to her, edgy and angry. She was honest and calm and kind. Many times she moved past my anger with grace and forgiveness. She continually sought me out.
Recently, Paige shared a photo of several beautiful brooches and tagged me, "You need these, Sarah." It struck me because I had recently bought a similar one on a trip Kelly and I had taken. My eyes were immediately drawn to a beautiful peacock one, and I laughed when she posted a comment, "I'm going to try to find you the peacock one. It reminds me of you and all of your sparkle!" It made me smile down to my bones, and it made me sad about how I had treated Paige. She hadn't seen me in years, and yet, she knew me as if we had sat side by side in class yesterday. A few weeks went by, and I received updates from her that the peacock brooch was sold out, but she was still on the hunt for it. Then, "I have your brooch!" I told her where to find me in my office on campus, but I cautioned her it was hard to find. In truth, I was nervous. What if we had nothing to talk about? What if I didn't know her anymore.
Today at work, I walked down the hall to run a quick errand to the ATM. As I rounded the corner, there in the sunlight was a mini version of Paige. I couldn't have missed him for the world. Her youngest son Abram has her exact eyes, lashes, and skin. Paige stood there with her back to me, and I was able to surprise her. We quickly hugged, and we were able to share a quick chat. They presented me with my beautiful gift to me proudly, and I adore it. It was as if no time had passed, and we laughed so much, as we always had. I was charmed by her funny little boy, and we finally reluctantly parted with promises to get together soon. We hugged, and she smelled good as she always had when we were kids.
It was the highlight of my week. I am grateful for Paige's friendship even when I don't deserve it. It was a special deep down to my bones feeling, timely reminder (Ash Wednesday), and moment.
Beautiful brooch Paige gave me! I love it.