The next few months passed by in a blur. I am ashamed to say that the first note I wrote to Tabitha wasn’t the last. Our mothers noticed that we weren’t hanging around after school and the most embarrassing day was one Sunday at church. Tabitha’s mom saw our family at Coffee Hour after the service and came over to talk to us. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tabitha shooting daggers our way, wondering what was going on.
Well, apparently she wanted to ask how I was doing and then gave me a hug. That did it. The tears started again and she said, “I’m sorry. She’s just…she’s just on Cloud Nine over junior high. Give her time and she’ll come around.”
She chitchatted with my parents and then walked back over to Tabitha and her sister. When I glanced back over, they had left.
The thing is, no matter how many times my mother told me that it wasn’t my fault…that it was Tabitha. I knew she was wrong.
I mean, all you had to do was look at me. Absolute wrong hairstyle, wrong clothes, ugly plastic glasses, stutter like you read about and I really couldn’t blame her. I didn’t want to know me, didn’t want to BE me. How could I expect anyone else to want to hang around me?
It was a quiet life. I went to school, dealt with the giggles, the stares, my locker being slammed on my hand every day when one of the boys decided to make me their scapegoat. I dealt with always being picked last when it was time to break into groups during our classes. And the worst was when the teachers noticed. They would make one of the groups of three separate and would ask for a volunteer to work with me. The dread on their faces said it all. Some of them would talk to me after awhile during class but then I magically turned back into the joke when the bell rang.
Books were my escape. I’d always make sure to bring one along to lunch so I could avoid eye contact. Sometimes the tables would be so full that I’d have to humble myself and walk over to a group and ask if I could sit down. More often than not, I’d hear “Sorry, it’s saved”…but I knew that was a lie. I’d watch the table after I squeezed myself onto the end of another table and could see that no one else had sat down with them.
My sister knew that I was hurting and would often seek me out on the couple of lunch periods we shared during the week and would tell me to come sit with her and her friends, but that was more humiliating than sitting alone.
I suppose I could have gone to the office and said…what? That I was being picked on? This was before bullying was “a thing”. My mother’s famous phrase that I shudder to think about now was “They only pick on you because they like you…it’s just harmless teasing.”
Yeah, that’s what she said about my father too. What a crock.