As the thick curtain of weekend rain lifted, Monday’s set was a vibrant blue sky, and nearly warm sunshine.
What a glorious day to head to the Norwegian Department of Taxation and register for the ever elusive “D” number.
Something I’ve learned as I dance upon the splintery stage of immigration is that there are required official forms that you must complete before getting to the next round of applause; but, in order to get certain forms you must already have been approved for the form that comes next. It’s a bad running order of dangerous circles and mind acrobatics. It must be well choreographed, performed with precision timing and sold with magnificent stage presence… in other words, it is the WHEEL OF DEATH. Donning my best “I’m a normal person” costume, I exited the train station with my duet companion, Devin, and had no idea which way to go.
Still having no internal sense of Scandinavian cultural boundaries, which include the unstated but known thought, “please do not interact with me, I’m uncomfortable in the spotlight”, I bounced up to the first person I saw. The nice Norwegian man tried to help although he knew very little English and had no idea where the office was or that it existed. Receiving the same results from my next victim, I scanned the perimeter of my life theater for the perfect audience volunteer. Near the second row I spotted the handsome Arab taxi driver and set my focus hard, knowing he too must have participated in Cirque Du Immigration at some point. He saw me coming and looked willing to participate. My hopes were high as I asked the compelling question, “do you know where the tax office is?” He stood to his feet with enthusiasm, smiled widely, shrugged his shoulders, and pointed to his mouth as he exclaimed, “لا اتكلم الانجليزية!” Determined to be in the closing act, however, he turned to his friend and asked him to translate. Having been given detailed direction we took our show notes and Devin and I headed out to the next venue.
After walking for some time we began to doubt our whereabouts and began asking random stagehands if we were near the elusive destination, first stopping a frail, elderly woman who seemed terrified, and then a lovely geriatric man who spoke beautiful English, and although he had no clue where to send us, he was quite happy to engage in general, back stage chit-chat.
Mesmerized by the gentleman’s compelling conversation about cheese, I was nudged back to life by Devin who had an expression of surprise as he gestured to look down the walkway. Coming towards us with a dazzling smile was the handsome taxi driver. As we approached him he held out a small piece of paper and simply said, “I queued for you”. As he passed me the paper I realized that he had driven ahead of us to the tax office, scaled the stairs, taken a number in our stead and then found us exactly when we were needing a prompt. This seemingly obscure volunteer had just proved to be the most inspiring, resourceful stage manager of all time. Star struck by his heroic act of kindness, I thanked him and hugged him for way too long.
The tax appointment was a real hit and if all goes well I’ll receive rave reviews from the immigration office in a few weeks, and top billing as Norway’s newest and only side show, umbrella twirling, knife wielding freak.
Do you know what frustrates me beyond reason and causes me to do and say irrational things I regret?
When a person I love leaves me and does not communicate often enough.
When somebody who is out of touch only communicates when they NEED something.
When that OTHER person is irritable, mean, short tempered, detached AND arrogant.
When SOMEBODY ELSE is a nit-picking NAG about tiny details EVERY day.
When THAT OTHER GUY, doesn’t turn out to be EVERYTHING I pretended they could be to fulfill ALL of MY expectations, needs, wounds, LACK OF LOVE, hang-ups, sorrows and feelings of abandonment… and I especially HATE IT when it turns out that when I experience any one of these UNBEARABLE, IRRITATING, HEART-CRUSHING traits, I am actually observing MY very own SELF in the MIRROR!!!
It seemed easier when I was blaming the other guy and I was flawless.
Alas, the reality is that I have recently come to the full awareness that the repeating cycles of neglect, abandonment and abuse in my life have been produced, directed and performed by none other than “The Amazing Lucero”— yep, that’s Me.
“Those whom we love and are emotionally attracted to, and those whom we are distressed or repelled by emotionally, are both mirrors of our own self. We are attracted to those people in whom we find traits that we have and want more of, and we are repelled by those in whom we find traits that we deny in ourselves.” ~Deepok Chopra
…and both the attraction and repellent can appear in those you are closest to, until you find the keys to heal your personal damage.
Because if you haven’t found healing for your own wounds, those gaping lacerations will angrily glare at you from the other side of the shiny, truthful piece of glass, they will convoke the love and scream in your face, “I TAKE IT BACK!” I’m taking it ALL back and now YOU are once again abandoned, just as you already were, because you, Annetta Louise Lucero, haven’t found enough healing for those wounds, and I’m showing you how ugly and open they are as a favor to You… from Me… who is actually YOU.
Growth is EXHAUSTING!
Being stuck, however, without the courage to observe, receive, admit and reach further, is a far worse prospect. I can handle the stretch, the tears, the pain, the loss and the shocking truth because it all leads me to a shot at bringing a more developed Me to the next round.
I AM RESPONSIBLE for all of the qualities in myself that are reflected back to me by those who cross my path, whether it is a momentary meeting or a long term relationship. It’s all Me.
Do you know what heartens me beyond reason and causes me to do and say thoughtful things I am delighted by?
When I communicate well and often with the people who are important to me.
When I haven’t seen somebody for some time, and I remember to inquire if there is anything they need.
When I find a way out of my irritability, before I become mean, short tempered, detached AND arrogant.
When I catch myself being nit-picky, and I let go of the need to direct others, and instead chose to relax and release it.
When I turn out to be EVERYTHING I have created without expectations and I fulfill ALL of MY needs, wounds, LACK OF LOVE, hang-ups, sorrows and feelings of abandonment… and I especially LOVE IT when it turns out that when I experience any one of these UNBELIEVABLY IRRESISTIBLE, HEART-ENHANCING traits, I am actually observing MY very own SELF in the MIRROR!!!
A few moments after exiting the train in Oslo, Norway the bombardment began;
“Pretty Lady, please give me something, please, PLEASE, just enough for one cheeseburger… here, here HERE, TAKE THIS!” The gypsy girl forcefully pushed a small magazine of some kind into my chest. She was at least the sixth person from her clan to do so in a matter of minutes. “No thank you”, I clearly and politely replied, yet right below the surface of my kind veneer an irritability stirred. I caught myself, took a deep breath and ushered in an internal dialogue I have been practicing; “I am neither beneath nor superior to anyone.” After repeating this in my mind several times the irritation evaporated and I continued on through the crowd. This remedy reminded me of another practice that has recently come to my awareness, and I began making eye contact with those who were available. As I met their eyes I held the thought that the spirit within them, is the same spirit that is within me and I honored it. This simple exercise was powerful in that connection took place in an instant, with many people nodding and smiling at me as they passed by. I was enjoying my “drive-by” relationships when one man caught my attention and caused me to take pause. His weathered, toothless face smirked at me as I caught his eye, and he chose to not release his gaze. He was a beggar, but in that moment he was not asking me for anything. I stood there looking at him, he looking back at me; seeing him, and being seen by him. After a bit, I sat down on the walkway next to him. I said, “I’m not going to give you money because I don’t think that will do much, but if you don’t mind I’ll just sit here with you for a while. I didn’t know what language he spoke, but he nodded, grinned and scooted a little closer to me. As we sat I told him I was very new to Norway, that I had come from Hawaii and I had just completed my immigration appointment. I told him I thought it was funny that people were wearing shorts and t-shirts and that I was in a leather jacket, long pants and cap and still felt chilled. After a little while somebody dropped some coins in his tattered coffee cup, and he looked at me with surprise, a moment later some more coins went in and he verbally made a Whoop-Whoop noise and shook his boney finger at me as he widely grinned. We were laughing as his next customer made a deposit, and he took the liberty of giving me a little shove on the shoulder like an old chum. Time went on and I said I would be going to catch the train soon. I gave him a little hug, said goodbye and stood to walk away. As I turned to go I felt a tug on my ankle. I turned around and my companion stood to his feet, and with a heavy accent and perfect english he said, “that is the most kindness I have received in more years than I can remember. Will you do something just for me?” Stunned and touched, I said, “what do you wish?” He said, “please go get yourself a lovely, big ice cream and know that it is from me. You are so skinny.”
I could not stop the tears from flooding my face as I walked back toward Oslo Central Station. I was not irritated by the gypsy girls besieging me on the way back.
As I ordered the huge ice cream my heart was exploding with colorful sprinkles of gratitude.
The man with his thumb out was clearly going to smell like Puna, but something about the twinkle in his eyes and huge grin caused me to screech to a halt near the thick patch of hardened road-side lava. He threw his arms into the air, gleefully ran to the passenger side window and enthusiastically inserted his beaming face across to where I was sitting. “MAHALO beautiful being!” he greeted me in a thick European accent. “I am filled with gratitude for you stopping for me. It’s so, so kind and wonderful… ” I immediately liked him, introduced myself and asked “who might you be and where are you from?” He quickly stated, “Ah, Annetta, I am The Shaman of the Universe and I come from My Heart.”
“Well, Shaman of the Universe, I’d really like a shorter title for addressing you; hit me with an actual name”, I bluntly asserted.
He laughed and sincerely proclaimed, “I am Roman, and I am unconditional love.”
He had many seemingly odd things to share during our 15 minute trip, and as I drove away after dropping him off at his destination I thought about his offerings and wondered if I would run into him again sometime.
About a month went by and I was sitting in the office at S.P.A.C.E., where my kids were participating in a circus class. I had experienced a rough day and felt weighted by sadness. Suddenly, I sensed a prominent energy and soon after, Roman entered.
His exuberance filled the small room as he stood before me, eyes sparkling and huge smile illuminating the area. He said nothing, and as I adjusted to his presence I blurted, “how are you so beautiful?”
Without hesitation he replied, “because I am a reflection of you.”
This stunned me.
I had never been greeted in such a way or contemplated that perspective before.
I could not stop thinking about Roman’s ease of being Me, and how my life may be altered if I began viewing others as if I were Them. This concept was stuck in my thoughts and after about a week I contacted Roman through a message. I simply wrote, “May I have time with you for a conversation about life?”
The next day I found myself sitting on a lovely lanai with a man who insisted I only use the terms me or I whether or not I was speaking about him or myself. At first I was quite adverse to this weirdness, but I played along and found it was an exercise that became easier as the hours whittled away. In fact, this simple game on the concept of self clicked a light within me and changed the way I approach life.
Roman and I hung out for about a month, intellectually and soulfully adventuring together on a daily basis. I found myself developing more tolerance for myself and others and learned a tremendous amount. He approached life in ways I hadn’t explored and when I left for a European clinic tour, I was filled with new ideas to share.
Today Roman and I are still very good friends. I am filled with happiness every time our paths cross, and on tough days, I revisit perspectives I came to know because of the concentrated time I spent absorbing his goodness.
I have always had positive experiences with the folks I scoop up off of the Big Island roadways.
…and it should be noted: The Shaman of the Universe, smelled as fresh as a daisy.
My mom dated a variety of losers, weirdo’s, underachievers and perverts who liked the way she looked in her cropped tops, hip huggers and way-too-short mini skirts.
Concerned for her well-being and lack of ability to pick a decent man, her sister Gloria stepped in by inviting us to attend church – a 4 Square, Christian church.
This was a new one for me.
One time previously, when left home alone, I had snuck in a little television watching when I was supposed to have been practicing. Bad idea. I tuned in to a television preacher who was terrifying! He was sweating, spitting and screaming about something called the “tribulation” and detailing the atrocious events that would surely befall humankind. After seeing this, I was wholly unable to control my nightmares!
Now here I was being ushered into the very place where the knowledge of these petrifying events originated. YIKES! I was not an average kid. I knew things and saw things that other people didn’t. I had not yet been diagnosed with epilepsy but I knew I was different.
My first day in Sunday school was uncomfortable. I just didn’t get it- how could all of these people be so happy about being sheep? They were actually joyously singing about being sheep. My mom, who has always had issues with self-confidence, was immediately sucked in. She has always believed she was unworthy of…well, everything, and so church was the perfect fit for her.
“Mom”, I mused, “they all like to be sheep.”
“Honey, this is the kind of stability we need,” she retorted.
I think my mom accepted Jesus in to her heart as her savior that very first day. She was gung ho immediately, and life would dramatically change for us within a few months time. From one extreme to the next, the theme of my life continued.
We faithfully attended church every Sunday and after a brief time period, Wednesday nights became part of our routine as well. This put a cramp in my regimen since I now had to fit in my twirling practice, accordion time AND boring sheep training!
One thing about Sunday school I did look forward to was the memory challenge. I discovered you could win prizes for memorizing scripture and answering Bible questions. PRIZES! In a brief amount of time I had become a virtual Biblical scholar. I won every challenge every week. I could spout out pages and pages of memorized scriptures at the drop of a hat. I became the biggest prize hoarder of all time. It didn’t matter what challenge was presented; I refused to lose.
After a while those scriptures started getting under my skin. I began feeling guilty about the things I did that were less than holy. I began modifying my thoughts and actions. It was almost entirely based on fear, but I must admit, I was becoming more aware of my behavior. These Bible scriptures were kind of like instructions on how to keep from burning to a crisp in hell. I decided it wasn’t so bad and figured it was better to pretend to be a sheep than end up as a human shish kabob.
I am a baton twirler… Okay, stop yourself right there. I know you just conjured up an image of a smiling cheese-ball in a cheerleading costume marching in a parade. Do you really think that all of these hours of practice, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears I have been alluding to thus far are for the benefit of neighborhood parade attendees drinking beer and cheering on the local senior citizen garden club? PAALLLEEAASE!
I was born into a family of baton twirling nuts. I was raised and trained to live and breathe the sport of baton twirling. I am an elite dancer, and floor exercise gymnast. I can remember more routines, tricks, and series of movement than any math scholar on the planet. I am an athlete, artist and sports psychologist all wrapped up into one skinny, strong, baton-slinging body, and I’ve got big news for you: I am not alone.
For your quick education here is a short twirling glossary:
SPINS = The amount of pirouette turns your body completes under a tossed baton.
ROLLS = The tricks that roll on and around your shoulders, arms and neck. It looks like a magnet is holding the baton there as it twirls.
CONTACT MATERIAL = The super fast, low tossed, flips and whips that build speed in your routine.
BREAKS = Penalty! When the baton stops and jerks unintentionally rather than flows.
DROPS = Obvious. Go kill yourself now. You’ve lost and your mother is coming to beat you senseless.
Twirling was HUGE in the 70’s and 80’s. Competitions lasted for days and were so ferociously stacked with talent that any one of the top ten at Nationals could have been the champion. At the State championships my single age division boasted more than a hundred entries. Just to get to the final round you had to make it through several preliminary age cuts. The top three then moved on to compete against the top three from the other age divisions in that category.
For example, the Juvenile division was comprised of 9 to 11 year-olds. The top three 9 year-olds competed against top three 10, and top three 11 year-olds. THEN, the single champions from each Division would compete against one another for the Grand title.
In the end ONE Champion was left standing as the winner.
If you won Grand at Nationals you were truly a GOD. You were awarded the DIAMOND CUP (a monstrous trophy bejeweled with five real diamonds) and you were plastered on the cover of TWIRL Magazine! (Insert angelic chorus here)… and that was just USTA!
The United States twirling Association (USTA) has flourished since the 1960’s. It was a branch off of the other original twirling organization, the National Baton Twirling Association (NBTA). NBTA is a mega federation of countless twirlers. NBTA was less concerned about “technique” and more focused on speed, tricks and showmanship.
The two organizations were brutal enemies back in the day. It was political suicide to jump from one to the other and the style differences between the two organizations made it nearly impossible to win in both. Only one person had ever succeeded in capturing both Grand titles: Cathy Fujymi. You may bow humbly to the ground now.
Cathy Fujymi was the untouchable deity of my dreams. She lived in my imagination. She was real but I had never seen her. Cathy Fujymi was IT for me. My hero. My fantasy. My reason for daydreaming that one day I might, on a fluke, make the top 3 in my age division at State. My mom told me magnificent stories about her.
“She caught a 6 spin, split leap pull-out on the grass! She has a roll named after her, the Fugymi Roll!”
Nobody could ever be arrogant enough to think that the accomplishments of Cathy Fujymi could possibly be matched. To do that, somebody would have to be strong enough to bust through political boundaries, be ten times better than everybody else athletically, be persistent, confident, superior in every way . . . wow . . . I would have loved to been able to catch even a glimpse of someone like that. They would probably come from a great family with lots of money, they’d have beautiful costumes, a sparkling personality and they would definitely be trained by the perfect coach.
My yearlong sentence to the hell that was Rhode Island ended and my mom, cat and I once again conquered the highway and found our road home to Southern California. I enrolled in my former elementary school, reacquainted with my few friends and trudged forward with my practice regimen and now-tainted childhood existence.
My hair had grown out to a shaggy, who-gives-a-shit length and I can see from photos of that era I had a very haunted look in my eyes. It was a look that even a smile could not disguise. I was no longer a problem in school. I was more . . . invisible.
One day, while on our back patio grinding out my daily twirling routines, I heard the doorbell ring. This was unusual, as nobody ever visited.
I heard a man’s energetic, booming voice and my curiosity got the best of me. Peeking around the corner I saw a man in a funny, ill-fitting suit opening a big black case.
My mom, proclaiming her disinterest, was powerless to stop him. When he pulled out the contents from the mysterious case it was as if the heavens opened and I heard a chorus of angelic hosts lifting their voices just for me. I may have actually seen a giant sunray beaming through the front window, highlighting the most amazing treasure I had ever seen.
AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! My eyes actually lit up.
The cheesy salesman lifted the heavenly object to his chest, strapped it on and began playing a magnificent polka. That sealed the deal for me. Although I already had practice responsibilities beyond any average 9 year-old kid, I begged my mom to sign me up for the six-week, door-to-door accordion rental and lessons.
Did she give me the If-you-sign-up-you-will-stick-with-it-for-a-year-without-complaint speech? YES. Did she make sure I understood that I would practice this skill for a minimum of a half hour per day, everyday? YES. Did I tell her that I had found my calling in life, I couldn’t live without this divine instrument and I would become the most famous accordion player of all time? ABSOLUTELY.
And so it began.
I loved playing the accordion. I practiced more than my assigned time and I was quite a natural. The small, white, rented accordion was sufficient and I was satisfied with my blossoming music career.
During an outing to purchase sheet music I spotted something that obliterated my contentment. Displayed in a faux black alligator case was the largest, shiniest, most impressive accordion I could have ever imagined. Pearly, iridescent keys that spanned miles, so many black button chords I couldn’t even count them, so large, so beautiful . . . my eyes swirled like a cartoon character.
“MMOOOOOMMM!” I yelled through the store. “THIS is my LIFE! I MUST have it!”
My mom gazed at the atrocious instrument and with a lump in her throat she sadly stated, “Honey, this is $600. We just can’t afford it. EVER.”
Oh no! On the silent drive home my mind was racing. How can I get that king of accordions? There must be a way. I can be sold for child labor. No. How? How . . .
“MOM! I’ve got it!” I squealed with joy. “Christmas is only two months away and SANTA can bring it! Santa doesn’t have to pay for it!”
What an awesome idea! My world was complete again. I just had to wait two months and that magic man would deliver my dream-come-true right to my living room. Now my mom didn’t have to worry. After all, we received food stamps. $600 dollars in two months was more than her hard-earned paycheck could supply. Thank goodness I had Santa!
As the weeks rolled on, my conversation always found its way back to the beautiful accordion. I visited Santa in front of 7-Eleven and described in detail the gift he was to deliver. Knowing how special it was, I informed him I would hold no grudge if it was my only gift.
Things were going great for me.
For some reason my mom was working a tremendous amount of hours and I was able to cheat on my practice chart, completely bamboozling the babysitter who knew nothing about baton twirling. About a week before Christmas my mom sat me down for a serious talk.
“Ned, honey…is there anything else you can think of that you would like more than the accordion?”
Easy answer, “Not a chance.”
My mother blinked.
“Well, I know it is a big deal to you and I just don’t want you to be too disappointed. I think the elves may not be able to build the kind you want. It is very detailed and large.”
I was undaunted, though.
“Oh, don’t you worry mom. Santa will bring me the perfect accordion. I believe it.”
Christmas Eve was exciting. I couldn’t go to sleep. I lay in the hall facing the tree, waiting. I was determined to see how the hulking gift would be delivered. Of course, I eventually nodded off.
When morning came there was a giant gift, wrapped in the most beautiful paper I had ever seen. Even though I knew it would be there, I have never been so giddy. Tearing through the paper my heart was racing. Oh My Gosh! There it was. THERE IT WAS! It looked exactly like the one at the music store! Santa was the smartest, best, nicest, most generous, amazing guy EVER!
I couldn’t stop talking about how great he was! My mom was kind of tired, but had a satisfied look on her face. I tried to motivate her by giving her a lecture on the power of BELIEVING! Then I hammered out song after song in an effort to help her stay wide-awake all day!
I am a believer in magic – the magic and hope in life. I have faith in the unexpected, life altering magic that appears right when it is needed. I never doubt that a new possibility is going to flourish at any moment. My mom gave me this gift of belief. One of the many ways she did this was through Santa Claus.
For me, Christmas was always the most amazing day of the year. Not only did I get material gifts and a visit from the Fat Man, it was the ONLY day of the year I had a “No Practice” pass!
Many children believe in Santa Claus, and many parents conjure up magical scenarios for their children to enjoy; but I have never come across any presentations more convincing than those concocted by my mother. My mom was not blind to the fact that we led a tough life. She knew I suffered in many ways. She was determined to push magic into my world . . . and she did.
The year we lived in Rhode Island was the worst year of my life and so I had many concerns as Christmas approached. Would Santa bring me anything? I had lied to everyone at school about my gender and beat most of my classmates to a pulp. I secretly wished horrible things would befall my creepy, mean cousin. I cursed like a truck driver and I cheated on my practice chart when my mom was unable to watch my every moment. These were unforgivable grievances in my mind and I was sure Santa would not be able to reward my existence.
Aside from my behavior I was terrified that even if he had some small token for me he would not be able to locate me in the tool shed for lack of proper address and I was certain there was no room on the roof for all eight reindeer. Restless and guilt-ridden I eventually fell asleep on that cold, snowy Christmas Eve.
Morning came and my stomach sunk with disappointment. As I had feared, Santa had bypassed my home. There was nothing in the tiny room where I slept. Nothing. As I sat on my bed, filled with remorse I heard my mom’s excited voice yelling from outside.
“Ned! Ned! Get out here right away! Oh my goodness! I can’t believe it! It’s amazing!”
I ran outside immediately and was astonished to see such a miracle. Our shed roof slanted drastically. Carved into the thick, icy snow were very obvious sled tracks! Sled tracks and reindeer hoof prints! Sled tracks, reindeer hoof prints and . . . could it be . . . lots of presents! Stuck in the snow, on the roof and surrounding the shed at various distances were loads and loads of presents!
Obviously Santa did have a difficult time delivering to my home. Although the reindeer could fly they had a hard time floating. Not all of them could fit on our roof, (as I had suspected), and the others simply could not float off the side long enough for a proper delivery! I was overjoyed! From agonizing disappointment to unimaginable joy…that was my life!
The real topper came as I moved along collecting the gifts. A bit of a distance down the road I saw a large, colorful package. I ran to it, snatched it up and couldn’t believe my good fortune. Written on the label was this: To Tommy, From Santa.
WHAT! Not only did I hit the mother load, this extra gift, meant for someone else, had fallen from Santa’s sleigh right into my grasp! HAHAHAHA! What a bonus! What a miracle! I was so grateful. I repented a thousand times over in my mind as I laughed and jumped and yelled. And then I had one quick thought for poor Tommy . . . “SCHMUCK!”
I have experienced a lot of horror in my life. I am not sad. I am not bitter. I haven’t much self-pity regarding the harsh, unfortunate circumstances. I think it may have to do with the amount of love that I received as a counter balance to the evil.
My mom had many issues, including an explosive temper. I was beaten mercilessly on a regular basis. I was also loved beyond measure. In the end, the love has outweighed all else, though the volatile extremes have undoubtedly affected my choices in life. The mixed messages have also caused me to search, study and dissect my own behavior, leading me to a better understanding of myself and the pain of others.
I am grateful for the lessons I have learned through my suffering. I no longer accept abuse for myself but I have been given the gift of compassion towards those who lash out. Nobody deserves to be a victim of those who inflict hurt, not even the perpetrators themselves.
After my haircut I decided I would no longer wear girls’ clothes. My mom was dismayed, but she reluctantly purchased my school wardrobe. I chose button up collared shirts, corduroy pants, and an assortment of boys’ Garanimals outfits. I was especially fond of my blue striped shirt ordained with rocket ships on the sleeves.
With a scowl on my face and carrying my Happy Days lunch pail, I entered third grade ready to destroy all who confronted me. I started with the confused teacher during roll call. As a new student my name was last to be called. Obviously perplexed by the femininity of my name and masculinity of my appearance the teacher hesitantly called for me.
I stared at her angrily.
I held my ground with a mean glare, deepened my voice and blankly said, “My name Is Ned.”
Almost with a sigh of relief, the teacher announced, “Class, this is Ned. He is new this year.”
Ned was the meanest boy in school. I got an unhealthy thrill out of the many weaklings who were afraid of me. I walked around feeling very tough. I would call out fights with anyone in school. I remember hoards of kids forming a circle around a large dirt patch on the playground waiting for the big fight between Ned and the rotten fourth grade bully. I also remember looking back and smirking at the crying bully as I was led to the principal’s office once again.
My mom, who has been such a constant in my life, was simply too busy trying to keep us fed that year to know what was really happening. She received many phone calls from the office stating that I had gotten in to trouble again. She didn’t understand why I was being punished for going into the girls’ bathroom. I should have adapted to using the boys facilities but I really didn’t like the smell and I certainly didn’t want to see them using the urinal! The bathroom problem was eventually my downfall.
Somewhere around the fifth bathroom alert, my mom finally carved out a moment of time to come down to the office. There I sat, looking gloomy as usual.
“Mrs. Lucero,” the principal began, “your son will not abide by our school rules. He is disruptive, mean and continually goes in the girls’ bathroom.”
My mom was silent for a moment, trying to digest this odd information. She finally said, “I don’t have a son.”
The principal continued, “Your son, Ned, is causing quite a few problems here.”
Looking over at me in my button up jean shirt, brown corduroy pants and converse sneakers, my mom finally got it. As I watched the comprehension flood over her face I felt my world come crashing down.
“Ned! . . . Son! . . . this is my daughter, Annetta – and I would hope that she uses the girls bathroom! I will be happy to pull her pants down right here and prove it to you!”
With one swift tug, my career as the meanest boy in third grade came to an abrupt and embarrassing end.