When I told her I was never going back to school, I meant it. It was in the first week of my first grade at Washington Elementary and the first time I had ever been called a bad name. It being my first time, I didn’t remember the name, but I remembered the venom that spewed from Steve Brolin’s mouth and landed directly on my heart of firsts.
Of course it happened the first thing that morning on the playground, so I had to hold it in all day. By the time my feet jumped from the last step of the bus, the tears began to flow. Big, bulbous bubbles that caught for several seconds in my eyelashes. Tears that puddled in the fold of my new dress as I sat on the cement floor of the garage, willing my mom to come home early from work and receive the news.
She knew something was wrong immediately, seeing me sprawled on the cement, with my backpack laying atop the garbage can. “I’m never going back,” I said. “Ok,” she said calmly. She didn’t argue with me. Just took my hand. Washed my face. Kissed my eyelashes.
It being autumn, the nights had just begun to get cooler. “Would you like to put on your winter pajamas?” she asked. The feel of the soft plaid down my arms. Down my legs. Wrapped early for Christmas, she tucked me under the crisp white sheet. “I don’t think I want my books in the garbage anymore.” “I’ll get them,” she said. “But just for me,” I said, “I’m not going back.” “OK,” she said.
I could hear her getting ready for work. Smell the coffee. My chubby feet wiggled beneath the plaid and hit the carpet. I brushed my teeth. My hair. My brown sack lunch was ready at the end of the table, right beside my backpack – it along with my heart – rescued. I guess we both knew I was going back. “I don’t like Steve Brolin,” I said. “That’s OK. Do you remember what he said,” she asked me for the first time. “Not really,” I said. “Do you remember I love you?” she smiled. “Yes!” I smiled. She got in her car and waved to me as I stood by the mailboxes waiting for the bus. It was the first time I got over something. It wouldn’t be the last. My mother showed me how to love my way through. I walk by her photo and wave, smiling, and knowing, everything is OK.