Saturday, September 5, 2009

Being the Same

My middle school was a magnet school and one of the best in Detroit. It had kids from all over the city and there were various nationalities and a large mix of kids from various socio-economic backgrounds. My mother stood in line for each of her five youngest kids to ensure our enrollment in this school. Most times I would go with her. I am the youngest of twelve.

Mom and I would arise at the crack of dawn and catch the bus, making two connections to arrive at our destination downtown, the School Center Building. Dad had left us at that point and Mom was determined that we would not be short changed. She remained incredibly self-sufficient and self-directed, even with twelve kids. I could not bear to see her get up so early and walk into the night alone. I had to go and she let me.

Since we arrived so early at the School Center Building, we would be the first or second in line, even though it didn't open for another four hours or so. But by sunrise the line would be stretched for blocks and around the corner. Mom always had interesting conversations with the other mothers as we waited. I listened in and learned lessons of responsibility, courage, endurance and love. These mothers loved their kids and would do anything for them; many were not wealthy and some most certainly were.

Moments ago, one of my dearest friends from my middle school, Andy, a super guy, found me on the Internet. Oh, I was so very happy to hear from him. His words got me thinking about how we are formed early on and how we tend to remain the same. Yes, we are constantly developing and becoming more of what we will yet be if we are wise and determined. But basically we don't change that much since we were kids. Andy wrote:

Judith!! I will write in more detail later..I just wanted to reach out to you as one of your oldest fans...I have really wondered what became of you and I am thrilled to know! You were such a strong and creative child and it looks like you are still the same. Of course you are writing a novel loosely based on your life! I feel like the last time I saw you a limo was picking you up from school. I just remember you as being so mighty and as full as smiles as I was. I am so energized by your success. Briefly, I moved to Los Angeles after high school ..went to art school, and now I work in film...I really have searched for you periodically to see if you were singing somewhere nearby, and finally the Huffington Post article surfaced. many nice memories of you and your family at church...
In school I was a leader and always upbeat. I was always trying to get the black kids to talk to the white kids and vice verse. It seemed like I was the only one bouncing from lunch table to lunch table and asking hard questions about race. The black and white kids didn't sit together at lunch and after the airing of the TV mini-series, "Roots," the gap grew even more. Most kids were afraid to discuss "Roots" or didn't know how. I just dove in.

Andy and I talked about everything and were the best of friends. We were different but that never mattered. He was male, blonde with the bluest eyes, upper middle class, and Catholic. I wasn't any of those things. Yet, we had a lot in common. He even loved my church and family and we loved him.

Exchanging emails with Andy was like we had never been a part. We began just where we left off so many years ago. What I found interesting is that we really don't change all that much. We are all basically the same people since childhood, aren't we?


septembermom said...

It's so nice that you connected with Andy again! Whenever I run into an old classmate, I'm always struck by the thought: "How did all that time fly by so quickly?" I still feel like that little girl, just with a whole bunch of gray hair sneaking in :) I remember one time thinking of my parents as children. Even if the body seems to shout "age" at the viewer, there is that same little child holding Mama's hand sitting in that senior citizen's conscience. When I think of people in this way, I feel so much more compassion, empathy and kinship. In our core, we are essentially children of innocence hoping to see a smile of recognition. I will always be that little 9 year old girl inside who played around with verse, liked to sketch and find some consolation in her books. Hope I didn't go on too long, Judith :) Thank you!

Judith Ellis said...

What beautiful words, Kelly. I love this way of seeing seniors. I have always held them dear and there is but only one way to escape this path ourselves. The alternative is grim.

This way of seeing is what I often refer to as the stepping outside of ourselves, not that we wholly do this, but it is the effort that matter most here that produces the "compassion, empathy and kinship" you wrote of so well.

Thanks, Kelly, for your words and you may go on and on and on just as you please. I appreciate your words and that you share them here.

Oh, and books are wonderful things, eh? :-)