Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Today is a remarkable anniversary for me. 34 years ago today was my very first day of kindergarten. But that isnt why this date is so special.
She was so tiny! Blond, blue eyed, bouncy, happy and she talked a mile a minute. She even talked to me! I didn't even know her name, but I remember wishing I could be just like her. She wasn't afraid. Of anything. And certainly not of the big old guy with the clipboard who was sorting the clump of us into our classrooms. He had a booming voice, and he sounded mad. And he seemed really angry when there were a few of us still standing there on the blacktop basketball courts, and our names hadn't been called.
He rechecked his clipboard, and asked everyone their names.When he came to me, loomed over me and barked out his questions, I couldn't help it. I cried. I was so embarrassed that I'd done something wrong. My name wasn't on the list. My mother didn't fill out all the papers, and it was my fault, and I sat on the blacktop while he talked to the teachers and I cried. I was going to be in so much trouble when I got home. I just knew it.
I pulled the sleeves of the sweater I was wearing over my hands and tried to dry my eyes. I was so hot, and the sweater was itchy, but it was the only long sleeves I had, and my brothers told me I couldn't go to school with my bruises showing, I would get in trouble. I guess it didn't matter, because I was already in trouble. I knew what that loud voice meant. I knew what that look on his face was. And I was going to be in so much trouble when I got home.
I hugged my knees to my chest, my dress covering my legs. I listened to the chatter of the kids, and I could hear the little blond girl asking a teacher about me. She would never want to be my friend now. I was a troublemaker. No one ever wants to be friends with a troublemaker.I started crying again. I was so excited to finally go to school, and now I wouldnt even have friends. I tried to be quiet, but someone came and whispered in my ear.
" Don't cry, ok?" The blond girl put her arm around my shoulder, and kept talking in my ear."I like your sweater. Can you read? I like Dr Suess. My favorite color is blue. Do you know the principal has a dog? Her name is Candy. He lives by my house. I like mice. I once put a mouse in my sister's hair. She screamed. I told my mom it was an accident. I want to do it again. I like it when she screams...."
The big man left with his clipboard, and the teachers started lining their kids up to go inside.The blond girl jumped up and ran to her line. The five of us ( I was the only girl) still sitting on the blacktop watched as the rest of the kids marched in crooked single file into the portable classrooms right next to the basketball courts. I watched the little blond girl bounce her way along with the rest of her class, talking with a teacher, and holding her hand. She glanced back at me once, and I thought maybe she smiled. But I was probably wrong.
The big guy came back, barking and yelling that he found the updated paper with our names, and of course it wasn't his fault our mothers registered us late. We stood up as he gave us our class assignments. I made my way to the portable on the other side of where the little blond girl went with her teacher. The big guy walked with us along the short sidewalk. The blond girl's teacher came out, and the blond girl ran over to us, and looked up at the big man.
" Can this girl be in my class, Mr Allen? Mrs.White said it was ok." She smiled, her whole face beaming, defying even Mr Allen's ability to refuse her request. The next thing I knew, the blond girl had grabbed my wrist, and was pulling me towards her classroom.
" My name is Lala ( I SWEAR she said Lala) and you are going to be my best friend. You can sit by me, I made Keith and Kevin save you a seat at our table. They're boys, but they don't have cooties. Do you like cookies? We get juice and cookies at story time. What kind of stories do you like? I like Dr Suess. .."
And I don't think she shut up for the next 15 years. Her name was NOT Lala, after all. But it remained what I always called her. As often as I changed schools, and moved out of state, as soon as I got back, I went to Lala's house, and it was as if I had never left.
As time went on, Lala and I lost touch. We both had children, got married and moved away. In late 1998 I found her again. She had moved to New York City, and married a Wall Street man. We talked often on the phone, my daughter, and her oldest daughter were the same age, and they talked on the phone occasionally. As computers became more common place, we kept in better touch, but talked less often on the phone.
Spetember 11, 2001, I woke to find that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. I called Lala. No one answered ( she was probably getting the girls to school) and so I left a message. I was watching the news as the second plane flew into the other tower. And I was watching when the towers collapsed. I woke my husband, and we watched the news the rest of the day, while I waited for the phone call to tell me Lala and her family were okay.
When the phone rang from her number the next morning, I was so relieved. But it was shortlived. It was her mother. Lala and her husbaned were in the second tower when it collapsed. They were assumed to be dead. Her mother had temporary emergency custody of the girls.
Lala and her husband never returned. Their DNA never recovered.They are both listed among those presumed dead. It has been ten years now. Her children have grown into beautiful and graceful young women. They are tiny, bouncy,and blond with big blue eyes and smiles that make it impossible to deny them anything.....
34 years ago today I met a wonderful human being with a capacity to love ( and talk) that is beyond any measurement. And ten years ago, I lost her to a madman with a plan to ruin a nation
" If you're gonna go," she used to say,"go big"
I love you Lala. I miss you so much.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
"I am Omniscient, I am Infinite. I control every destiny, but my own. You may pass from this dimension to the next, where my power has no meaning. But I am here. Always here. And always Alone. Your lot in life is short.I but blink, and you are gone. But I have always Been here. And I will always Be. This is my punishment."
" Your punishment?" She asked, eyes wide with wonder, and fear. " What crime have you commited?"
" You of all should know, there often does not need to be a crime to warrant a punishment. Sometimes mere existence is enough."
" But that implies there is someone else, besides you." She watched from the safety of the tower while galaxies sped across the ever changing sky. Dizzy, and exhilarated, she spread her fingers and leaned into her hands, supporting her weight on the glass.
" There is only me."
" How could you ever be lonely in such a wonderous place?" The spinning worlds slowed for a moment. Colors beyond imagining, spectrums of light from alien suns glittered onto the glass, pulsed with life and disappeared, and flashed again.: "How could anyone see so much, control so much, and ever feel less than whole?"
He turned her face gently,and she looked into the eyes of the oldest soul.
" Because these things you see now, they are long past. I see only death, child."
She pulled her chin from his warm hand, and watched the swirling symphony of life outside the glass.
"Even if they are gone now, they were once alive, once full of hope" Her graceful fingers traced against the glass, following the movements of the brightest stars
" Hope is a waste. Too many of you spend your lives hoping, instead of finding your needs met in the moments you have. "
She turned to him with her innocent eyes. " Hope built entire civilizations."
"Hope left them all in ruins" he replied, once again pacing the marbled floors. " There is nothing of any certainty but death. Time takes all, in the end"
With a brief moment of regret, he shifted her world into alignment, and she was gone.
Stock Photo Courtesy of NASA