There were no tears, but I could tell by the crack in her voice that they weren’t far from making an appearance. “Susie Blackwell” was one of those kids that all the other kids seem to pick on, make fun of, and treat…well… just down-right rotten.
“They call me ‘Blackwell’….” she woefully explained. The name has been changed….to protect the innocent.
She had finally built up enough nerve to bring a complaint to our 5th grade teacher. I don’t know why she decided to do it in front of the whole class. It may have been because the teacher was reprimanding her about something and this was her chance to explain what had been bothering her.
“So! That’s your name, isn’t it?” The teacher snapped in just about the harshest tone I have ever remembered a teacher using.
This wasn’t going well, and I did not like it. I had heard the way the kids had taunted her saying her last name over and over whenever they came across her on the playground.
“It’s the way they say it.” I blurted out…without raising my hand to request permission. This; from the shy kid who would almost rather die than have to answer a question in class….It took all the strength I had to answer a question when called on in class and it had better be a one-word answer.
That’s all I remember. I don’t know what the teacher did after that. I don’t even remember if she heard me. But boy was I angry with that teacher! How could she not see what had been happening to this classmate. How could she not see and not want to defend someone that was continually the brunt of everyone’s jokes. Why in the world would the teacher be angry at this student? She was in no-way a trouble maker.
The next thing I remember was seeking Susie out on the playground at recess. She always was alone. I don’t ever remember anyone ever playing with her. I found her that day and stood with her for that recess. I think she was wondering what in the world I was doing. I was wondering why in the world I hadn’t bothered to
play with her before.
I don’t remember much else about this student. We moved on to junior high and senior high and I have only one other recollection of her.
I think it was about a year or so later. We would have been in 6th grade and I was in Camp Fire Girls. Back then, the Camp Fire Girls went door to door to sell Camp Fire Mints to earn money for our club. For safety reasons we were always to take a partner with us so we wouldn’t be alone. I don’t remember who my partner was that day. The only thing I remember is going up to a house I was unfamiliar with and knocking. When the door was opened, there stood “Susie”. When she saw who was behind the knock, her face broke into the biggest smile of excitement. She thought we had come to see her and she was thrilled. I wish I could say, I pretended that that was indeed why we were there, so as not to steal her joy. But I didn’t. My partner and I simply asked if her mom was there and if she wanted to buy some Camp Fire Mints. The expression on her face that day is forever in my memory. She was happy; but only for a moment.
I think Susie had a good home life and came from a good family. She wasn’t really homely. She was a bit tall and gangly, but she had beautiful “platinum blond” hair as they called it back then; only hers was natural. I don’t know why she was always the brunt of everyone’s jokes. Not going outside my circle of friends to include her, or play with her from time to time has always been a regret of mine. I guess I do remember one other time in 8th grade standing with her next to those metal poles that apparently were support for the eves over the side walk. We just stood there, not saying much. Maybe she knew I was just trying to be nice. In hind site, I think she was probably a whole lot like me…mostly…just afraid to talk.