Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This post is sponsored by Burger King*.

Well, not really. But the leadership seminar I went to in fourth grade was. Or was it sixth grade? I don't really remember. I do, however, remember that I was picked because I was someone the teachers deemed a 'leader.'

What the heck does that mean? If I had to look back it probably meant that I was loud, and tried to win friendships by being funny. I wasn't funny. I was just loud. Oh, but I tried. I think what my teachers saw was my attempt at being funny pretty much never hurt anyone. I wasn't one of the kids that would belittle others to get a laugh. Nope, not me. I would feel too guilty.

In fact, to this day, I still feel guilty about one of the few times I made a joke at someone else's expense:

I was in kindergarten. And I had a boyfriend: Jermy. His name was really Jeremy, but I called him Jermy. He didn't know (or didn't care) that it sounded like 'germy.' He loved me, and I loved him. We were going to get married. That is of course, if Michael Jackson wasn't available. Hey! I was five. And I loved him. He wasn't as weird back then. It was still the 80's people. Thriller! He was cool!

Where was I?

Oh. Yeah. Jermy. Jermy and I were in love. Madly in love. So much in love, that the teacher couldn't put us both at the yellow table because we would sit and giggle and make eyes at each other.

We both lived in the same neighborhood and went to the same bus stop.

One cold winter morning a bunch of older kids (they were so much older, they were probably in 4th grade) were picking on Jermy. Saying mean things, and teasing him. They were using 'peer pressure' to get everyone else at the bus stop involved too. There weren't any adults around to stop the bullying because this was back in the day when it was safe to send your 5 year old to the bus stop without worrying that some freak was going to run off with them. I think we were smarter kids back then too. We were told not to get into a car with strangers unless they said "purple cow" and we listened to that advice. Pretty soon all the kids at the bus stop were being mean to him. Including me. The other kids had pressured me into calling him a "sissy girl."

I will never forget the look of pain in his eyes when I called him those names. Or the pain that I felt when he punched me in the eye immediately after. That morning at circle time, I told our entire class that he had punched me, giving the whole incident a 'double whammy.' Jermy wasn't in the classroom during circle time, though. I don't remember why. I think he may have had ADD or something and was busy with his mentor at that time. I remember the hot feeling I got in my ears as my face flushed red when I told the story to my class, because I wasn't really telling the whole story. I wasn't telling anyone that I had called him a 'sissy girl' before he hit me. I wasn't telling anyone that he was being bullied, and the one person he looked to for help turned on him, joining the crowd.

I don't remember seeing much of Jeremy after that, but then, we were five. And kindergarten ended and we moved. But, sometimes, I wonder what Jermy is doing. I wonder if he remembers that day when the person he loved most, besides his family, turned on him. I wonder if he's forgiven me. I'm still not sure I've completely forgiven myself. I look back now and realize that yes, I was only five, and yes, I didn't really know better. But, I really did. I remember feeling guilty, even while I was doing it. That guilt, that is the sign of knowing better. I wish I could apologize to Jeremy for turning on him, for giving into peer pressure and being so nasty when he really needed his best friend in the whole world to stand by him and love him.

I've written about this before, but I'm writing about it again because that moment was one of those - probably the first -character building moments in my life. I used that moment as I grew up as a gauge. I still do. I don't ever want to cause that kind of pain to grow in someones eyes again. I think it was that moment that made me into what my fourth grade teachers deemed a 'leader.' I was always trying to get a laugh out of my peers, but I would try hard not to stoop to being mean to get that laugh. Those laughs, they weren't worth it.

What was your first character building moment?

*You know I had to mention food somewhere, right?


Ashlee said...

Wow...just noticed you were having banana pudding pie and I totally missed out! :0( I loves me some cream pie!

I can't believe you still remember this from when you were 5! It really must have made an impact on you. And I completely understand what you said about Michael Jackson. I loved him too. :)

Elisabeth said...

First of all, great question - I'm going to have to think about that.

Second of all, I can definately tell that we were destined to be friends - I see myself in your post SOO much.

1.)My 1st BF was named Jeremy too. Jeremy Klinginpeel. And, sometimes I think Hudson looks just like him. (Curly blonde hair and blue eyes!).

2.)My 1st concert was Michael Jackson's Victory Tour. I was four and I loved him. I had posters, folders and stickers of MJ. Thriller and Beat It were my favorite songs.

3.)I got the guilt gut, too if I ever hurt someones feelings or made them feel bad. I have a couple of memories of it and I always feel guilty about it.

I'm willing to bet that jermy forgave you.

And I'm going to try and think of my first character building moment.

Deb said...

When I was 9 or 10, I went go Girl's Scout camp - it was supposed to be for 2 weeks with a break in between when you got to go home (if you wanted to). I was never very popular as I kid and really wanted to be popular there. My friend, at the time, could not go cause they didn't have the money for it. So I knew no one and really wanted to be popular. I, with several other girls, tricked this girl into "shaving" her legs. You see, we were using razors with no blades (we certainly did not shave at that age) and we gave her one with a blade. Of course, she cut her leg - god I am making myself sick telling this story. When I went home for the weekend and told my friend (the girl that could not go), the look in her eyes was the most horrible thing. I cannot even find the right word to describe it. I realized what an a** I was at that moment - all to be "popular". I never went back to camp and have never treated anyone like that again in my life. Unfortunately, I may have swung too far in the opposite direction, cause sometimes now I think I am a doormat for people - maybe I can find a happy medium someday.
Wow! How much do I owe you for that session?? :)

Not the Momma said...

Now I need to find this guy and kick his ass!!!

Vanessa said...

Mary you crack me up. I don't remember my first character building moment. Maybe I'm still waiting for it? I was a sweet kid, who could be mean if I wanted to, which I usually didn't. I remember once we were in line for something at school and I called my BF a hairy ape. She had done something to make me mad, and it was wrong. And the teacher heard it and I got in trouble for it. I think that was 4th grade. I felt bad the second it left my mouth, but it probably wouldn't have stuck with me if the teacher hadn't made me apologize.

San Diego Momma said...

Oh no! That story makes me sad (I'm an over-empathizer)...but you're right, you were only 5...and the fact that you still feel bad about it is a testament to the woman you became in the intervening years.


Colleen said...

What a sweet story (even though it involves a betrayal and a punch in the eye). We must be the same age - MJ's hair caught on fire when I was in kindergarten and I remember crying about it. ! Come on over today and read *my* reminiscing post - its good for a giggle. And you should link this post up with my carnival, too!