This week I got a couple of reminders of how you can make an impact on somebody. Childhood is a unique time of life. Little things mean a lot. I had a friend from my childhood contact me via Facebook. We were best friends in fourth grade. She lived two blocks away. The summer when I was nine, she and her sister talked me into joining swim team with them. They taught me to swim the four strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle) in a weekend. Until then, I had only swam dog paddle. I had been afraid of deep water. I had not been a swimmer. They taught me to swim and I swam and swam, on a swim team that summer, winning ribbons at swim meets. I went on to be a great swimmer. As an adult, I even got certified as a scuba diver, which required me to dive to 15 feet without an air tank and rescue someone else ( who was holding their breath too) in the cold, Pacific ocean. A very big deal for someone who at age six and seven, was terrified of the deep end of the pool.
This friend and I lost touch when we were in High School. Her parents had moved to Louisiana and she resisted, stubbornly, refusing to go. My last image of her was with a cigarette and her moped, tough and refusing to do something she did not want to do. She squatted at her parents' old house as it moved through escrow. Sleeping on the beach when the house was no longer available. Her parents were important to me. Her dad was sweet, giving his daughters pretty much any thing they wanted. Her mother was strict and cold. She had a formal living room which we kids were not allowed to enter. She never let us make cookies because it would make too much of a mess. From this friend and her mom, I learned that you should make a mess when you can. Sit on the citrine colored couch, stain it even. Life is too precious to keep clean or to save. This friend's Facebook pictures reveal that she eventually moved to Louisiana.
Now, as a mother, as an adult, I know I have an impact on the kids in my life. This week during noon aide duty, I had the opportunity to soothe a kid who has a reputation for being bad. He is only a first grader but you can see that he is precariously perched on a point and could fall to either side. I got to gently clean mashed potatoes from his curly brown hair as he ranted "I hate myself...I hate this place... I want to kill myself...Everybody here is so mean...". And then I got to look him in the eyes, tell him I cared about him, that I was his friend and that I wanted him here and that getting into a food fight with mashed potatoes is really no big deal. He let me hold his hand until we were visible to other kids. He is now my friend and I really do care about him.