She was a pretty little girl with long blond hair and separated front teeth. She walked with a slight limp. I may have even asked her why she limped. She probably couldn't explain it to me even if she knew. I didn't know any one else who walked that way. We met in the neighborhood; probably when we were three or four years old. She lived around the corner from me. I always knew when she was outside playing with her sister because I could see her backyard from my bedroom window. Our yards were connected to each other by a shared fence. Our parents became acquainted, too. Having children of similar ages engenders camaraderie amongst parents.
Our kindergarten class' chairs were set-up in a circle. I could see all my classmates. She sat directly across from me, yet seemed far away. I suppose your perception at five years old is that everything is far away and much larger than it really is. We talked amongst ourselves, we cried, shouted, wanted our Moms, fought over toys and did what five year-olds do when presented with a class room full of new kids the same age. We sang songs, finger painted, and memorized the alphabet song. I recall there was a wall of toys lined up along the windows. Fire engines and phones were standard in any boy's collection. Balloons and dolls were for the girls.
That Kindergarten circle was our conduit to socializing with one another. I don't recall seeing the little blond-haired girl ever leave her chair, and she rarely spoke. I was always taught not to talk in school; to listen to teachers because they, like doctors, parents and police men, were authority figures and knew more than I did. Once and only once, I was reprimanded for talking in class. I recall crying continuously because I was slapped on the hand with a ruler. I cried, not because I was hurt by the ruler, but because I was frightened by my teacher's admonishment. I was a good boy, always listened to instructions and was fearful because this authority figure was standing over me looking down at me with scorn. I saw the little blond-haired girl leave her seat and walk towards me. She asked me, "What's wrong? Why are you crying?" In my humiliation and embarrassment I rejected her attempts to assuage my anguish. I shouted, "Leave me alone!" and forcefully pushed her away from me. She stumbled momentarily, then turned her back to me and walked away without saying another word. I can still recall her limping as she walked back to her chair.
We rarely saw each other or spoke outside of school even though I would often hear her playing in her family's pool during summer months. The only time I walked on her street was to pass her house on my way to buy a newspaper for my father, baseball cards and candy. Each baseball card pack came with a stick of chewing gum. My father always told me not to eat the gum because it was bad for my teeth, so I felt compelled to try the gum by nibbling a tiny corner off of the gum stick before throwing it away. It was my secret and was sure he didn't know I was doing it.
Every time I walked by her house, I noticed her stairway painted red. I knew red was a Christmas color, and wondered if her parents were going to paint it a different color when the Christmas season ended. They never did. Every body else's stairs were grey, or speckled with a black and white-colored concrete. And every time I walked by, those red stairs struck me as being so unusual and out-of-season. Every now and then, our mothers would see each other from across their shared fence and make the standard inquiries regarding the children. The little blond-haired girl was now an adult living elsewhere in the neighborhood. I would ask about her, but don't recall ever receiving a definitive answer from my mother.
I hadn't seen or heard from her since grammar school ended. Years passed, marriages began and ended, lessons were learned and life went on. Social Networking was born and our old friends became new again. And one of those old new friends was the little blond-haired girl; whose last memory I had was of watching her walk away. Serendipity would play its part and bring us together again. I see her daily. I watch her wake in the morning, and go to sleep at night. The slight limp she had as a young girl, the result of a birth defect, is still present today. I now understand why she crossed that room to comfort me. The kind, compassionate soul who wanted to ease my pain years ago is as gracious and courteous today as she was then. And as I watch her walk, I'm constantly reminded of that Kindergarten day when the little blond-haired girl walked away from me. Her gait still pronounced and entrenched in my mind; except now she walks towards me – only 45 years later, and still that pretty little blond-haired girl I remembered so well.
Greg Sacchet – September 5th, 2012
Author Notes: www.gregsacchet.com