The seventh grade coincides with an awakening to puberty that makes for a very powerful transformation for any adolescent! Physical changes induced perceptual changes. Schoolyard conversations were migrating from who was the best ballplayer of the day to who was the prettiest girl in the school. In our school, there was no debate who the ugliest girl was. There was no one even comparable to poor “Miss M”. I even believe that “Miss M” knew that she could win that title. It was sad, and I often wondered why and how God could place a person in such a lowly position.
“Miss M” had a very light complexion that was sprinkled with thousands of red and pink freckles. We marveled at the quantity and the different shapes that had camped out on her face! Her hair was a short growth of frizz, and was a fiery orange…which of course brought out the freckle syndrome. She was topped off with a very large nose …which brings us to the opening act of this recollection.
During lunch break we would eat lunch in the schoolyard and the guys would go off and flip baseball cards, play a quick game of “flip the penny” or try to elevate their stature with intelligent conversation. Intelligence at the seventh grade level is measured by how gross a statement or insult you can make! I recall a few of those conversations regarding “Miss M”. “I swear I saw her pull a booger out of her nose that was as big as my thumb!” said one of the guys. “That’s why she’s so ugly, cause she eats those boogers”. I confess, there were times I chuckled at the insane remarks, but deep in my heart, I always felt sympathetic towards the day to day plight she lived.
I am not certain of the event, but I do remember returning to class after lunch and happened to look over to “Miss M” who sat a row away from me and few seats back. Her eyes were red and puffy, and she was clasping a tissue. She had been crying and was trying to hold back her tears. “Oh no” I said to myself, she must have heard the remarks that the guys were making about her. It’s funny how insults always traveled faster than the answers to Miss Goldberg’s math quiz.
The next day I told the guys that “Miss M” spent the afternoon crying, and asked if any of the insults were spread about. The guys seized the moment to turn on me, “oh so you like “Miss M”? They laughed. I defended my statement, “it’s not right, she knows she’s far from pretty, we shouldn’t get our laughs by rubbing it in her face!” I exclaimed. I startled myself; it was the first time I was sticking up for someone other than myself!
In a world where everything is “just and fair” these boys would have woke up the day with foot long noses and boogers hanging down like icicles. But no, I arrived at school the next morning to find a huge, chalk drawn, heart shape with both my name and hers in it! The guys laughed, “She’s all yours”.
The chalk drawn heart had a very short life span. As we exited the school that afternoon, we were surrounded by Dominic and his gang. Dominic was the “Soprano” of the school.
The gang cornered my friends, Dominic got very close in their faces. “If you knuckle heads ever draw anything on a wall where my name is on it, I’ll bounce your heads on the ground like a Spaulding ball! His entourage removed erasers from their back pockets and threw them at us. “Get this off the wall NOW” he demanded! My friends raised their bowed heads to notice that the heart with my name and “Miss M” was on the same wall as “Dominic & Anita 4 eva”. Dominic turned and looked at me, “and you….you get some taste”. Little did he know, I had a slight crush on Anita and she always had a smile for me.
The years passed. We all moved up, grade by grade. Fortunately, that period of insults was replaced by greater conversations, “which girls were the bad ones”, and “who I’d like to spend the night with”. Nobody even cared who the best ballplayer of the day was!
Enter “The Summer Of Love, 1967” . Like a wave, it covered and transformed each and every one of us. Our hair expanded on top of our heads like yeast filled bread. Our dungarees were bell bottomed, our shirts tie-died, our language transformed with words of “groovy, peace brother, and dig it.” We all returned to school and could barely recognize each other (except me, who still dressed as if he were an ivy leaguer). However, the biggest transformation was “Miss M”. Her bright orange hair, now fully grown into a very hip perm. Her heart shaped, oversized sun glasses fit nicely on her nose,(they dwarfed it!) and the freckles were now a unique accoutrement to the large plastic “peace sign” earrings that dangled from her ears. She walked down the halls with confidence; she was now flaunting her uniqueness! She was on all accounts, “groovy”!
Over the years we rarely spoke, but always acknowledged each other with a smile. I would get a chuckle when I would hear a guy mention her name with a desire of getting to know “the cute chick with the wild orange hair”.
I have often wondered about her transformation. Was this an answer to a mother’s prayer? Was Miss M’s” transformation a result of a friend taking her out for a makeover? Or, was this part of Gods plan, The Summer of Love, ushering us through a portal where we came out more loving, more compassionate and wearing flowers in our hair?
A girl, plagued at a tender age, having to carry an unbearable weight. Then being transformed so dramatically where her appearance and personality could take someone’s breath away! Imagine, one tiny insignificant person merging onto the highway of self confidence and self esteem…..flaming orange hair and all!
….To those that may be discontent with their appearance, feel like they are in a ugly relationship, or if they feel like they are facing life in the wrong direction, just remember, there is a highway up ahead ….merge on!
Hope always has a free ride….it’s Gods plan!