Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 10/07/2017

Who I Was at that Moment, 49 years ago


Broken pencil and sharp pencilsAbout six months ago, on a whim, I put the name of a friend that I went to grade school with in the search box on Facebook and bingo, found her on the first try.  I sent a friend request and within the hour had a reply.

I could hardly sleep that night.

She knew who I was when I was in sixth grade. She knew who I was at that moment.  In 1969.  She wore the same saddle shoes.  She probably had cranberry-colored wool pants, slightly flared, and a pink shirt to match.  She was an eyewitness to the humiliating moment when Sr. Clare made me stand up in music class and sing the entire Star-Spangled Banner by myself since I was goofing around. She knew me in side-by-side desks and spraying a handful of water at the water fountain. She knew who set my heart on fire.

She knew me when.

She knew my twelve- year- old self.    She knew me with two left feet in my scuffed-up saddle shoes.  Gangly legs that looked like stilts, with all the grace of a drunken sailor.  She knew me when my mom cut my bangs too short.  She knew me in my light blue glasses with the little sparkly faux diamonds in the corners.

Yesterday, after two days of torrential rain, we had a puddle in the basement.  I had to empty a box that had gotten wet.  In it?  My composition book from St. Gabriel’s School.  Circa 1968.  Terrific Catholic school handwriting.  “JMJ” at the top of every single page.  (To the non-Catholics reading this, that stands for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.)

So many fond memories from those days in Riverdale.  John R*** chasing me across the footbridge over Henry Hudson Parkway, to ask me to go steady.  I was running from him.  What in the world must have been going through his mind?  Or the better question, what in the world was going through my mind?  (John, it was nothing personal. Really. And for the record, when you decided that another girl in the class was more to your liking, I survived.  Self-esteem a little banged up, but it all worked out.)

It was on the grimy streets of NYC that I learned to walk fast.  My born and bred Kansas spouse had to work on increasing, exponentially, his mph. It was in that same city that I rode the subway with a friend into Manhattan, in my white high heels that I graduated from eighth grade in.  It was all about trying to be the young sophisticate.  But I paid for that look.  Blisters that took weeks to heal.

It was on that same subway ride that a man sat next to me and slid his hand down my back and a little bit beyond.  I didn’t know that “no” meant “no” in those days, but I sure knew how to spring off the bench like a missile and find other seating. I had my first job in NYC.  Babysitting.  $.50 cents an hour.  It was the year of “California Dreamin’”.  Mama’s and Papa’s.  Ed Sullivan and the Beatles.  Marlo Thomas.  Mary Tyler Moore.  Leave it to Beaver.  The New York World’s Fair.  I went with my Girl Scout Troop. The first blackout in NY.

I love my NYC roots.  My accent has sadly, faded long ago. Geographically, it’s where my coming of age story began.  Life does come full circle.  A friendship rekindled.  Thanks, Betty.

49 years later.

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