Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Simple, Homely Occurrence, January 6, 2009

Prompt: Today is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. Write about a childhood epiphany.

One definition of epiphany:
a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.


Jill said...

The Apology

Ginger stabbed me with a pencil. In fifth grade, out of the blue, during our subtraction lesson. We were sitting in our desks, Ginger pinched in, overflowing – she was 5’8” at age 10, towered over everyone but our teacher Ms. Mangum, 6’2” and a former basketball player.

“Ouch.” I grabbed my arm and jerked it away. The pencil point stuck, and dragged across my skin, creating a point and then a line, about an inch long, not very deep I learned later, but at the time I worried she’d struck bone.

“Ms. Mangum? Ms. Mangum?”

“Yes, yes, Ms. Hudgins?”

“Ginger stabbed me.”

“Ginger what?”

I glanced over and watched the tallest student in fifth grade slump over in her seat. Even slumped, she towered over me. I was the shortest…well, tied actually with an Asian boy named Bobby Wang.

Ms. Mangum walked over and stood between us, straddling the aisle like an umpire addressing opposing managers. She got both sides of the story. I claimed Ginger stabbed me. Ginger argued nuh-uh. I argued back.

“Okay, okay, well first let’s take you down to the nurse’s office to get that scratch checked out.”

I was offended Ms. Mangum considered my deep, gaping wound a mere scratch. And I was worried about lead poisoning until I found out from the nurse that pencils are made of graphite not lead. So I had nothing to worry about.

Nothing to worry about? A monster of a fifth grader sitting next to me in class stabbed me out of the blue, and that’s nothing to worry about? I still didn’t understand why it happened. Ginger, despite her size, had a shrinking personality, hardly spoke up in class or in groups. She was part of my circle of friends, but lingered on the outside. My best friend Rachel and I patrolled the middle.

The only time I’d seen Ginger outside of school was the weekend before. She had a birthday party at her house, invited half the girls in fifth grade. Three came: Rachel, Theresa, and me. We ate junk food, which normally I’m not allowed to do at home, and watched scary movies, also forbidden in the Hudgins household. Everything was fine and fun until Ginger’s dad put on a scary mask while we were watching Friday the 13th and roared into the living room, scared us half to death.

I wanted to go home. Everyone was frightened, but Rachel and Theresa insisted we stay. It was supposed to be a sleepover. But I didn’t feel safe, not with Ginger’s dad pulling pranks like that. How could I sleep in her house with him around? I called my dad to pick me up. Rachel and Theresa called home too. We all left around 10pm, said “Happy Birthday” to Ginger. She didn’t even say goodbye. I realized later we never had cake.

I thought about all of this as I sat in the white square office while the nurse rubbed ointment on my arm, and then stuck a band-aid. I had every right to be mad. After all, I’d been stabbed. And I could go up to Ms. Mangum and tell her that Ginger deserved the harshest punishment. I would have been justified, sure. But I realized in that moment, as my right forearm throbbed and stung, that I needed to say sorry.

I walked up the long hallway back to Ms. Mangum’s fifth grade class, passed right by the teacher’s desk, and back to my own chair. I turned to Ginger, whose head was buried in her math workbook, and said, “Sorry about your party.”

“It’s okay.” And from that moment on, it really was.

dee said...

Daddy’s leaning against the doorframe in the kitchen, his hand over his eyes. He looks like he might be crying, but I know that can’t be right – he never cries. “Your mother’s not going to make it,” he says.

I walk back to the bedroom I share with the middle sister and finish making my bed. It’s a corner room and I can smell the mimosa blooms through the open windows.

Mama’s been sick for several years now. I remember the day she went to the doctor and first heard the word cancer. I was with her and apparently my sisters were, too. But I don’t remember them; I only remember walking up the sidewalk behind the doctor’s office, with her holding tight to my hand, but not seeming to know I was there.

Since then there’s been an operation, radiation treatments that burned her skin, her adjustment to that empty space where her breast used to be. I knew about all this and even though I’ll be in the 8th grade when school starts and old enough to understand, I don’t. I’ve always been self-involved and quite capable of ignoring what I don’t want to face.

But that summer morning I finally understand, watching a father I don’t recognize, I finally understand she’ll never come home.

Carol Henderson said...
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