When Rejection Crowds Out the Rest of the Story
Updated: Apr 27, 2021
[This essay was published at (in)courage as a guest post.]
I was eleven when we moved from a rural town nestled in Amish Country, Pennsylvania with its roadside stands selling shoo-fly pie and fresh corn to New Jersey with its louder, more colorful everything. My dad was entering the Army, so we lived on base, our comings and goings marked by rising gates and armed guards. Because our August arrival found the school on base full, I was enrolled in sixth grade at an elementary school off base. As I began up the bus steps, Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics played over the speaker — a new beginning. I was ready.
I followed others into the classroom, its rows of desks in two’s waiting. I held close Ms. Sauer’s warm greeting, found my desk next to the window, and settled in. I opened my English book, expecting solace from its table of contents, and instead felt surprised, then worried, as I saw that I had already read all of these stories in fifth grade. I gathered up my resolve and quietly whispered this to my teacher. Was there something else I could read?
She placed me in a separate reading group with one other girl — my first friend, Teresa.
Weeks later, when the air had turned colder, all of us girls were assembled at recess on the logs. I have no earthly idea why there were logs, but there they were, laid straight like rungs, and we were standing on them. The Girl Who Was In Charge made her way through the crowd of us, starting farthest from me, cupping her hand over each girl’s ear. Each girl replied, “No.” She got to Teresa, who faintly replied, “Yes.” The Girl stopped before she got to me, turning away. I remember digging my hands into my pink parka, studying the log and my brown shoes and the mulch. All of the other girls peeled off, except Teresa, who revealed to me the question: “Do you like Marnie?”
Fast forward painful months, when my teacher and my parents joined together to move me to a new class at an entirely different school. For the second time in one school year, I climbed the bus steps to an unknown. Once again, I searched out my assigned cubby and found where to hang my pink parka. But this time, in addition to carrying my backpack, I was also carrying the memory of the logs with me, heavy and sharp, like overgrown skewers.
Read the rest over at (in)courage!