I was seven years old and loved the movie Annie. This was probably pretty normal for most little girls, however I wanted to look like Annie. My mother, accommodating as she was, allowed me to get a perm so that I could have my wish - visualize a short Hispanic girl, with a black Afro (not red), and bottle capped glasses. You can imagine how I became an easy target on that October day.
The morning was extremely hot and humid, so much so that my clothes began to bind with the shape of my body as if being dunked into a pool of water. My mother wanted us to “get ahead” of our public school counterparts so she enrolled us into the only private Catholic school in town. The morning church bells signaled that recess was nearly over for our first grade class, which made my heart beat with relief. I stood up from picking flowers and slowly headed for the door leading into the cool building. I watched all of the kids stare at me as if I were a freak show at the circus. The boys gawked with jaws wide open, and the girls whispered and giggled as I passed by. With embarrassment I started to walk faster, head down, watching my feet alternate into the ground. My goal was to get into that building as soon as the doors opened, but unfortunately I ran smack into the tether-ball pole pivoting me to the ground. All of the kids came running, laughing, and pointing at me confirming I was the freak show they thought I was. I started to get up from the ground when the popular girls, Michelle and Roxanne stood in my way. They started to point out all of the obvious reasons that got me into this situation and proceeded to say: “Anyone who wants to be friends with HER is a loser. If you don't want to be a loooo-ser, come stand next to us.” Not to my surprise, all of the kids stood next to them; everyone except Katie. That's how I met my first private school friend.
Twenty-eight years later those same anxious feelings that I had endured on that October morning overcame me when we took the Ladybug and Bean to a local restaurant for kids night. We headed outside and Bean was instantly drawn to the puppet show taking place on center stage. She tugged on my arms pulling me in the direction leading me to the kid-filled audience. Brett and Ladybug took a table in the far right corner near the moonwalk and sandpit hoping to place an order to beat the crowd. The puppeteers signaled for everyone to stand up to do the hokey pokey, and of course Bean wanted to partake but not without me as her dance partner. As I pointed and shook my index fingers around, I noticed Bean wasn't by my side. I quickly turned around and saw her talking to a little girl. As I approached them the girl ran off. “She wanted to know if I saw her red sand bucket, and I said no”, she said in a concerned manner. “OK, well I'm sure she will find it. Let's go see daddy and sissy and get some food. We can come sing and dance later”, I said gently pulling her hand and leading her to the table. As we approached the table Bean saw the little girl, pointed, and screamed, “There she is! I have to help her!” She then let go of my hand and ran off to join the girl in the sandpit. Bean approached the girl but she ignored Bean as she frantically searched the sand, uncovering lost treasures of dump trucks, shovels, and other lost novelties. Bean was relentless, following the girl to every corner of that sandpit. It was as if a string were tied to their arms keeping them attached. My heart started to pound faster as I watched her, my palms started to sweat, I was on my tippy toes anticipating to rescue Bean from the disaster about to happen. I started to take a few steps in their direction, ready to save Bean from the wrath that stood in that little girls body, when all of a sudden the little girl whipped her head around in Bean's direction. I pictured her pushing Bean and yelling to leave her alone all while making her feel smaller than she physically already is. But to my surprise the girl looked at Bean with a blank stare then smiled. They started chatting about who knows what then slowly walked off and started to play with sand covered dolls.
When I was finally able to coerce Bean to join the family for dinner, I casually asked her what she and the little girl had talked about. She explained, “The girl said her bucket was red, not green and she forgot because she was color blinded or something like that. I don't know why she forgot the color but she did. And the kids took her bucket and HID IT from her because she kept calling it green. They were mean and called her BAD names. So we played with dolls instead that were stuck in the sand. She was nice, mama and dada. I told her we could share my bucket next time.” A small tear emerged from the corner of my eye and I had to wipe it before anyone could notice. Today my Bean was not an anxious Annie, like me, but rather that little girl's “Katie”.