“There was a little group of girls in my class," my mom continued, “each one exceptionally pretty, or so I evaluated by my fifth grade perception of physical beauty; they always had the latest fad in clothes and their hair was pretty, shiny and stylish. The girls chosen to be in this group always walked around holding hands or with their arms across the shoulders of one another. One day these lordly ones came up to me and told me that they liked me and thought I was really nice, and as if that wasn’t enough they asked me if I would like to be a part of their group. I, of course, said yes, and it felt so good all that day to be one of the chosen ones; to walk hand in hand with one or to have the comfort of the arm of another resting on my shoulders as we walked down the halls. It felt good to be popular."
"Walking home from school I felt like I was walking on air; I loved the whole world and felt it was a pretty wonderful place to be. I told my mother what had happened and then I used some of the new found power I had been feeling since I had been asked to be one of the special ones and asked her if she thought I could have some more up-to-date clothes because the group all had what the latest fad dictated, especially sox, snow white sox with fluffy angora tops. Most of all I wanted those sox. Later, when I no longer felt powerful and laid awake at night contemplating the world and how hard it is to find a comfortable place to be, I think that I felt worse about asking my mom for things that she could not give me than anything else; to that point in my life I had never asked her for anything. Her life was already hard enough." Zena broke in by asking, “Why couldn’t your mother give you those things, especially just a simple pair of sox?" "It wasn’t so much about the asking but the reason I asked," said my mom. “If you have to change who you are to belong to a certain group, it is better to be alone or find friends who accept you as you are."
Mom told me how excited she was to go to school the next day and how anxious she was to see her new friends. She said she got to school early and the group told her they wanted to talk to her. The leader stepped forward, put her arm across mom’s shoulder and told her that there was one thing she had to do to be a part of the group. My mom couldn’t possibly imagine what this could be and since she was still feeling the power of belonging she thought maybe it was simply a childish ritual to perform, nothing too hard; after all they had invited her and obviously wanted her My mom asked, “what do I have to do?” “Actually, you can’t be friends with the DuBells,” said the leader, “and you can’t speak to them either," My moms eyes opened wide with disbelief and she said, “I won’t do that.” And, with that firm declaration, my mom’s world came crashing down around her. She tried to talk to her mom about it when she got home but her mother really didn’t understand. Mom said to me, “It was in the still of the night that I struggled and suffered and truly came to peace knowing that I had done the right thing. I don’t even remember those popular girl’s names but I have never forgotten the DuBell’s; how brave they were and how pretty their name really is."
My mom told me that she has thought about these happenings so many times through the years and she wonders about what happened to the DuBells. She did hear, not too many years after that painful classroom humiliation, that Laura had became a missionary; mom said how wonderful that she wanted to help others less fortunate than she. Mom said that she respected so much that she brought good to the world by serving others after the terrible pain she suffered as a child.
Recently we were all out in the garage running all around putting our noses into everything while mom was sorting through boxes of her things. She said that she didn’t want to leave them behind for someone else to have to go through someday. I don’t know what she is talking about because I know she would never leave Isis, Raphy, Zeus and me because she loves us all so much.
All of a sudden I heard mom say from amidst the boxes, "oh my goodness look at this." I bounced right over there very interested in what she had found. There she was with an old autograph book in her hands and tears running down her face. Of course I had to get my nose up there first to see what was going on and just what it was in the autograph book that made her cry. I peeked over her arm at the book and the signature on the book said Mrs. McRae; here's what she had written:
(That was mom’s name when she was a girl,
Dear Emogene, it's Jeanne now.)
Let your light so shine before men that they will see your father in heaven. You are already doing this dear, I hope you grow up to be the same kind of woman that you are a little girl.