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Inspirational Friendship Kids

Eight years old and I never knew I had ADHD. Neither did my parents. It hadn’t been invented yet. Skipping. I skipped everywhere, my poor parents yanked by my hand, my life bobbling to a beat I only knew. I never saw other children, faces all blurry.

Then I grew up, like a dandelion, gangly and free. Not too much on the ball, still remember that grade 5 pitch, the only time my bat was my friend. Sailing, sailing so high over second base, past mean Kevin and jughead Derek. Around I went, not skipping, too out of breath to make home plate.

“Got you, fatso!” Kevin said.

Mrs. Fox was impressed. She praised everyone, even me. Popsicles, our treasure so she didn’t have to teach the rest of the afternoon. Poor Derek! His head is a giant lantern, so close to summer vacation when water on the brain breeds bullying even a teacher can’t see.

I think that in my small comfortable brain, I imagined that life even for Derek might not be worth living. I didn’t know the vocabulary; it was not possible for me to be a five-and-dime philosopher. Ten years old and hardly fit for anything, I thought that if I was Derek, I would bury my head forever.

But what goes through ten-year-olds, except pizza and giggles and leftover thoughts? Until I read my grade 5 reader from start to finish. Yes, I did that. Every story, several times. The one that made me cry inconsolably with tears that I would hide. The Christmas tree that gave away everything, its life, its ornaments, and died on the garbage heap, finally free.

This will be my life. There was no discussion, no reprieve. To discuss the story, I made every word, and every emotion, my own. Wrung from me the knowledge, the secret that Mrs. Fox would skip so quickly through. I was shocked, my favorite story, a ten-minute lesson. Oh, it’s for the best, I thought. A bawling 10-year-old boy, in class? Sent to see the nurse? A story for the whole school?

***

I told my mother about Derek. “Mom, why are some kids so different?”

“What do you mean?”

“Derek. His head is so big! He looks like an alien!”

“Don’t talk that way.”

That was supposed to end it. She was busy, making seven ingredient casserole. We’d beg for that. Econo-meals for up-and-coming middle-class people, who let the 99-cent-a-pound T-bone specials slide to save pennies and nickels for a house. At least we didn’t have to eat dime-a-box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese anymore! Now that my dad had a job, things were much better. But still, one income didn’t stretch far.  Mom at home, cleaning in circles around the TV, only to drop from exhaustion, and exclaim “Poor me!” Of course, I never concerned myself with anything that really mattered. Except for Derek.

I didn’t know what to do. I had no friends. Derek had no friends. We should be buddies. But no one knows how grade 5 works. Really, they don’t. Buddies? Even adults didn’t suggest it like water on the brain was a contagious disease.

This will be our life. Derek battled his tormentors on one side of the playground, while I battled my own on the other side. Curious now that I look back on it. No one ever complained to the teacher. Not once, never.

***

So, I decided I would strike out on my own one day. My birthday party was what I wanted for a change. Invite everyone, even Derek. I got special clothes, psychedelic sixties pants, and red crimson trousers. Which to wear? Red crimson was my favorite, but what boy would wear that? If you had girls coming, but no one ever had girls at parties except teenagers maybe. We would laugh my sister and I, thinking about what they might do together, those stupid teenagers. None of that for us! Psychedelic blue stripes became my choice.

This was not my life! The invitations, what a surprise! Me, handing out invitations! Shocked Mrs. Fox said, “Yes.” Then she buried herself in her marking. All the kids stared as I traipsed about the classroom, the power to confer life or death.

***

Ten kids all accepted, even Derek! The birthday of a lifetime would be soon. Derek and I could be tormented on the same side of the playground, what an improvement! Of course, I prattled and lied and talked about the party. Dad getting pop in cases! Mom made the first loot bags on the planet! Give gifts to the people who give you a gift, unheard of!

Decorations on decorations, the party in the basement, barn board décor, a fiddler for square dances? Heaven to come down, upon our heads, what are the chances? No girls the problem.

“Mom, can I invite girls?”

“What?”

“Girls. Invite girls.”

She turned to face me, a wooden spoon, covered in spaghetti sauce. It made me think of the time she chased me around the house, hitting whatever part of me was handy for something I don’t remember.

“For your birthday party?” She sighed. “More kids?”

“Twenty!”

“Fifteen!”

“Ten girls? Pretty please?” I could go no lower.

“Fine. But I want a cleanup crew! I’m not doing it!”

***

Girls, they’re so fussy. “Jimmy, how could you?” They all say, giggling and whispering at recess. I knew Mrs. Fox wouldn’t let me hand out invitations in class again.  And I didn’t want to hear what she would think of ten-year-olds having a mixed party.

The boys were all talking. They sounded so tough. Girls? A question that could not have an answer, but secretly pleased, excited even. So that was it. Done. Friday couldn’t come soon enough.

***

My parents could put on a spread. Why they did it, I will never know. Ten-year-olds don’t ask questions like that. Maybe they felt sorry for me. How is it that you think your parents don’t notice anything? You think the ripped clothes, the bruises don’t matter but that doesn’t mean adults can’t see.

It was the best party I ever went to. No fiddler, no square dance, my tall tales getting the better of me. But the games! Bob for the apple, pin the tail on the donkey, Marco Polo all over the house, loud music. And the treats! Soda pop, candy apple, hot chicken dogs, barbecue, popcorn, hard candy. I promised chocolate bars, those didn’t show up, but no one cared. Dad put on a show, telling funny stories when we were too tired to dance. It was a blast!

After everyone left, Derek came up to me. His parents were late, some trouble or another that I never found out about. He was crying.

“What’s the matter, Derek?”

“I can’t find my stuff.”

“Let’s look.”

I found his loot bag stuffed under the couch. Someone must have been bored for a moment and forgotten themselves. I walked him to our front door; a car was pulling into our gravel driveway. He saw his parents, then turned to look at me, his eyes pleading.

“Will you be my friend Jimmy?”

“Of course!” I said out loud, surprising myself. But later I thought, why not me? I would make a difference. I could do that. That’s everyone’s life.

May 07, 2023 20:03

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10 comments

Andrea Doig
14:08 May 14, 2023

What a refreshing story! Wow I enjoyed that. Such a sweet kid. Well written, great flow. Engaging characters. And a lovely Sunday afternoon read. Thank you!

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Joe Smallwood
19:47 May 14, 2023

Thank you so much Andrea! You made my day!

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Kate Winchester
17:22 May 18, 2023

This was sweet. I enjoyed it!

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Joe Smallwood
20:58 May 18, 2023

Thank you for the encouragement!

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Kate Winchester
23:26 May 18, 2023

Welcome 🤗

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Dao Huy Kien
09:32 May 10, 2023

"Why not me?". That's a really good question. Enjoyed this lovely story and your engaging narrative. Perhaps, life of a child is way more exciting than an adult.

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Joe Smallwood
12:36 May 10, 2023

Thanks a lot!

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Mary Bendickson
22:04 May 07, 2023

Love this ten year-old you! Today is my granddaughter's 11th. You should be there:)

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Joe Smallwood
22:12 May 07, 2023

Thanks, Mary. Say happy birthday to your granddaughter for me!

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Mary Bendickson
22:23 May 07, 2023

Will do. Will let her read this story, too. She is becoming quite the writer. Have a couple of other older granddaughters that also write.

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