As I’ve mentioned before, I was a very awkward child and young adult.
Everything was fine until I switched to my third school in the middle of the fourth-grade school year. Unfortunately, there was racial tension in the area and I found myself as an unwanted minority. I was also the smallest and youngest in the class and had no group to belong to, being the new kid. There were many taunts and a few physical threats, and one physical altercation, so I retreated into a shell and never really figured out how to come out of it until I was in my late twenties. People were mean and scary and talking with them only caused anxiety. And I don’t use the word anxiety lightly.
I ended up being the kid who sat silently in the corner and was, frankly, a little weird, and certainly too much effort to be friends with.
But every now and then, someone would see through the wall and they’d be nice to me and overlook my awkwardness and I’d feel safe enough to come out for a little while when they were around. And then I could be my real self that you all know and love today, and not the shy mouse that most people saw.
Jo-Ann was one such person, as was Darling Husband.
And Jo-Ann’s sister had a friend named Bridgette.
Bridgette was consistently nice to me. Bridgette came from a troubled home and perhaps had depths of compassion that the other kids didn’t have. Bridgette has her own issues with shyness, but she didn’t handle them like I did. She didn’t retreat. No, Bridgette is one of those people who are larger than life. And tall, so she couldn’t hide like I could. She decided that rather than withdrawing into a shell, she would push herself into the fray.
When the school put on a play, the other kids stood on the stage, stiff and serious, annunciatinG the lasT consonanT of every worD, the way they’D been taughT so the sounD woulD carry. They sounded ridiculous.
But not Bridgette. When she stood on the stage, she became her character. She annunciated each word so that it reached all the way to the back of the auditorium, but it was natural and engaging and she was fascinating and beautiful and mesmerizing.
She was a year ahead of me in school, but we rode the same school bus together. Sometimes, coming from her troubled home, Bridgette would almost miss the bus. She’d run down the street, trying to catch up, and the bus driver would make a point of speeding up to make her run faster before he stopped for her. I hated that man. Really hated him. Go ahead and pick on someone who’s already down, why don’t you?
Bridgette was forced out of her home at around 15 years old or so. She got a job at the local ancient movie theater and lived in the apartment above the theater. I used to think that she was so grown up; working, living on her own, and going to high school all at the same time. Now, I look back and see that she was a baby, being tossed into the world too soon. Fifteen! And holding down a job and getting herself an education. What an inspiration.
I remember my mother saying, “I would rather you don’t go alone to Bridgette’s apartment, since I don’t know who else lives there.” I only went once, against my mother’s wishes. What a different life we led. Bridgette was forced out of her home and lived in the old rundown apartment above the aging theater, while I was still carefully sheltered at home by my mother.
Some mornings she would miss the bus and would wait outside the small grocery store and hope a mother with a child would come out of the store, so she could beg for a ride to school. Other days, she would walk the two hour long walk to school. She says the walk helped clear her head.
But the mornings that she made it to the bus, she would sit next to me and talk to me. She and her elder sister were the only two who would. And when we talked, she wouldn’t mock me or roll her eyes at my meek attempts at humor. She treated me like a normal person, and not the weird girl that everyone else saw. I loved the days when she was on the bus. She would lift my spirits.
One time, Jo-Ann, Bridgette and I went out to eat at Bob’s Big Boy, our favorite restaurant, and Bridgette wore a blonde wig and told us funny stories, flamboyantly acting out the parts, until we were sick from laughter. It’s one of my favorite memories.
And then she was gone and we were gone and life got so much better. We heard that she married a man from somewhere in the Middle East and lived in Turkey, I think. We made jokes about her crossing borders, late at night, under cover of darkness, wearing a burka.
Years and years went by, and I found Facebook and there was Bridgette! We friended each other. She reads my blog.
She’s also a writer, and much of her work is poignant and speaks of her troubled childhood and truths she’s learned throughout her life. But she does have one piece that she wrote that is humorous, and she offered me a night off from writing my blog, and told me I could post her story.
But since I’ve already written over 900 words just introducing her, I think I’ll save her story for tomorrow’s post.
To stay true to the purpose of this blog, here’s the picture of the day:
JJ’s Habachi Grill. Opened today by the owner of Li’s Buffet, on the other side of Gettysburg, in the same building that The Mayflower used to be in. They still have work they want to do on the place, (windows, stuff like that) but they opened quietly anyway.
They had the same sort of stuff on their buffet as at Li’s, but the habachi grill part is new and, oh YUM. I made it all the way to my car before I started craving it again.