Kindness, Being Enamored and Milk Break…

milk break

When I was in the first grade and lived in a perfect little suburb of Livonia, my parents sat us all down and told us we were going to visit a farm in the country because we might be moving there.  As I recall, my older teenaged brothers were not terribly thrilled about this announcement, but I was beside myself with excitement.  My dad told me that we would have animals and a garden and all of the awesome trappings of living off the land!  I couldn’t wait to get started! All seven of us piled into the car for the hour long drive to the village called Byron.  The people who were selling the house were just finishing up a HUGE breakfast that Sunday morning and the whole farmhouse smelled of maple syrup.  There was a barn and a big old shed and the yard was gigantuous!  My dad talked about the property having 20 acres.  This 6-year old city girl had heard of blocks, cul-de-sacs and corner lots, but never an acre.  He explained that one acre was about the size of our yard at home and the three or four yards touching our property, combined.  It all felt like such an adventure!

We went out to visit one more time after my parents bought the property and before we moved in.  We met the neighbors who lived about a quarter mile from us and they had a little girl named Kim, just a year younger than me.  She had her very own pony!  The family also had barn cats, a dog or two, chickens and a few head of cattle and I couldn’t wait to live just like them – especially the “my own pony” part!  I had a bunch of fun that summer with Kim.  Her mom made homemade bread and jam, and let us collect the eggs from the chicken coop.  We layed on the grass and found pictures in the clouds.  I liked the country life just fine!  I was very nervous about attending a new school in the fall, but I had a friend, so at six, I just lived in the moment.  Unfortunately, she lived on the other side of the county line, so she attended school miles away from me, and as September neared, I became increasingly sad about that.

That first week of school another girl from the Detroit area showed up in my classroom.  We were fast friends.  I just loved her and her family was so cool.  Her dad had tattoos and he was so friendly, her mom reminded me of Cher and her brothers were older and kinda cute!  We spent almost every weekend at each other’s homes.  When we got a bit older our parents would allow us to walk to meet each other halfway, so we would call each other to leave at the same time and each walk the 1/2 mile to see each other.  I would always be a little jittery until I got over that first hill on the road.  Once I got to the top of that hill, I would usually see my best friend and it was all worth the fear of walking that road alone for the first stretch.

One of my favorite parts of going to Byron Elementary School was morning milk break.  My mom would give us a quarter for milk break milk for the whole week.  We got to drink our little pint of milk, laugh with our friends and just be kids every morning for about 20 minutes.  It was glorious!  We did not do that in the city school I came from and one of the things I loved about this was that we got to do it all through elementary school.  When we got into the upper grades, we were allowed to play music that we brought in during the break.  It was the bomb!  I often wonder if they still do that at Byron Elementary…

I don’t remember how or why but for some reason an older girl, named Shelley, used to come into my classroom during milk break and kind of watch over us.  She was a cheerleader, as I remember, and she always had the sweetest smile on her face.  She had freckles like me, but she was SO much prettier than I ever hoped to be.   As I’ve mentioned before, I was not an especially likeable little girl.  I was also gangly, with red hair, freckles and a bit brash…  So, when Shelley was kind to me, I was just shocked!  I wanted to be just like her in every way. Probably every child in my class thought s/he was Shelley’s favorite.   I remember knowing that she genuinely cared about me.  She listened to me and really talked to me.  I don’t remember her ever saying anything bad about anyone or anything.  I was completely enamored with her.  I even told my older brothers that I wished one of them would marry her – and I wasn’t kidding…

She would show the girls in my class differ cheer routines and moves.  She would always choose me to lift up on her shoulders!  I felt so special!  At some point, Shelley came to tell me that “they” told her that she wasn’t allowed to lift anyone up anymore because it was dangerous.  I thought “they” were crazy!  They were ruining this little girl’s life! Ha!  That school year ended and Shelley didn’t come to my class the following year.  I remember a couple of years after that when I didn’t really see Shelley much, wondering if she just felt sorry for me back then or if she really liked the unlikeable freckle-faced girl I was.  That would only last until I saw her and she smiled her big beautiful smile at me and said, “Hi,” and ask how I was doing. I knew then that she was the real deal and she saw something in me that no one else seemed to see and she truly cared about me.

I’m a kindergarten teacher now.  I try to remember what a difference Shelley made in my life.  Somedays my kinderbabies will get on my very last nerve by being unkind to each other or being self-centered – as children will be…  I still strive to be as loving and accepting as Shelley was to me.  I continually ask Him to help me love my babies with His love.  I fall short much of the time.  I wonder if Shelley knows what a difference she made in this awkward little girl’s life.  I still want to be her when I grow up…

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