He strutted up, greeted with his usual peanut butter breath sneer, and added the even more usual once-over to find the object of ridicule for this day. He, a town boy, elected himself judge of those not part of the neighborhood brood, especially those from the surrounding farms. He came from a bit of money and self-proclaimed superiority, a boy “looked to” and readily followed. Some of the bumpkins managed to be accepted by accidentally hitting a common cord or by being richer farmer family offspring. My folks at that time realized the farm and the small dairy herd did not hold a good future. The milk check, beef and pork stock, and crops tended by already antiquated machinery could no longer generate support. My specially soled shoes had to last the school year and bib overalls or jeans lasted via patches and careful mom care. My haircut lasted a long time. I offered a lot of options for the “once-over” routine.
In the 50’s this sort of thing seemed a rite of passage. If on the outside, a young boy or girl learned survival while the insiders gleaned particularly effective bullying techniques, some never outgrown. I walked and ran just beyond a tad differently than most kids back then. I must have done some chatting with mom and dad about that and the impact it generated on my daily school life. I recall a house call and our old, only one in town doctor lighting his pipe and puffing cherry blend clouds into the kitchen. “We can operate, but its 50 – 50 if he will ever walk again.” Odds were not good so my ankles, bowed legs, and distressed knees remained. The solution came when the farm sold and we moved “to town” to open the paint store, not the town of my dismay, but one about 4 miles north where I would be just the new kid without any baggage. I didn’t get the customary farewell party at my old school on my last day.
New town, new life, and a first day of school gym class race got me on the right side of the tracks. I defeated all the boys, even the undefeated speedster, and my gait became my trademark. I lost a day later to an “ohmygoodnessgirl”, which everyone expected to happen because she just never allowed defeat. We became close friends until an auto accident took her life our junior year in high school. And quite ironically, with success in athletics and newfound popularity, I became all too often that in crowd judge to make sure I stayed “in.” God had answered my many prayers, my many wishes with a change of venue – one forced by hard times and one ultimately beneficial. Even being named after the David of the Bible didn’t provide enough warning about success breeding troubles.
A lifetime of stories grew from those days, including athletics induced injuries that forced repair of knees and ankles as progress improved odds. Those nemesis lads from the other town rejoined my life when high school came along, but by then I was “established,” a commodity with friends and cliques merged to a degree. And left many looking in. I gave this a lot of thought in 2012 at the meagerly attended, 45th class reunion. High school was not a good memory for a lot of kids now adults. I saw the “judge” and peanut butter breath ripped through my mind before any words were shared. With all of the good God has given in all these years, I did not let go of those youthful shames and angers. Not sure if I have yet, actually. God reminds me that forgiveness needs giving. Ahhh, but the layers we all have. Usually at this point in the writing I find a little twist, a turn back to the beginning in a lesson learned. No, I won’t have a PB&J today. Still a work in progress. Thank you Lord for a Son through whom I am forgiven.