There will always be someone in your childhood that sticks out in your mind. Maybe that person is someone who you admired, or maybe he was royal pain in the butt and your memory can’t seem to bury it deep enough to forget. John Mclay was like that. To this day, I can tell you exactly what he looked like even though the last time I saw him was when I was… I don’t know, nine-ten maybe? John, to me wasn’t a bad looking boy. He had clear creamy skin with rosy colored cheecks and blond hair that sparkled in the sun. I liked his smile because it showed his straight white teeth. Now, for his personality. Come here John. I want to introduce the world to you. World, this is John. John Mclay. John’s strengths are spit ball shooting where seldom he misses his mark, mainly the back of my head or any part of my body. John is vocal with both belching and flatulence, his specialty. Comprehension for Canadian manners? Not so much. In gym class he seldom missed the opportunity to point out the fact that I had been picked, last-again. Thank you John. John is allergic to anyone physically touching him unless it’s a boy and they are wrestling or playing on the playground. God help him if he has to stand beside me. Apparently God didn’t care much how I felt being around him because my prayers were never answered, when I begged for John Mclay to get swallowed up by the Earth or struck by lightening. These were the lost wishes made just so I wouldn’t have to listen to him insult me, hit me or team up with the other boys who went to great lengths to remind me what a complete freak of nature I was. Like, I didn’t already know! The braces on my body weren’t a strong enough clue.
One day our grade four teacher, Mrs. Tune announced to the class that we would be taking a two week long field trip through the Canadian Ice Fields, Banff and eventually Calgary. I was super excited about this. I hadn’t been to Calgary before but I’d heard about the Calgary Tower and their world famous zoo. It didn’t occure to me that I wouldn’t be allowed to go. Of course John Mclay shot his hand up and said, “Does that mean even the super stupid kids can go? Won’t they wonder off and get lost?” He said that while pointing his finger at me. Of course the class laughed and I felt like he just might have a point. There was another boy in my class named George Geizburge. He was super skinny and you could see three big blue veins run up his neck and along his cheek. They’d fade off into his long, dirty blond hair. He looked under fed and under everything. If he wore a clean new shirt, George would wear it until it was completely filthy, then maybe change into another shirt. I felt bad for George because if John Mclay wasn’t tormenting me, he was tormenting George. George and I were considered the stupid ones in the class and according to John Mclay, George and I were destined to be married and create stupid little babies that would attend the Dorthy Gooder School right across the street. That school scared me but I never told anyone this. It was a school for kids with scary mental, psychological problems and who were really wrecked. My grade three teacher, Mrs. Klamara tried to have me kicked out of my school and thrown into that school where the kids wore crash helmets and spun circles while staring at the sun. My classroom window faced their play yard. Often through our classroom window we could see or hear those kids screaming or shaking the chained link fence like crazed inmates wanting out. I knew I wasn’t sick like them. But most of all, I knew I didn’t want to be mistaken as one of them. I hated being called a retard but Mrs. Klamara believed I was and so the name followed me around on a daily basis.
Mrs. Klamara held firm to her beliefs that she had a misfit in her room. Under no circumstances was she going to waist any time trying to teach a mentally retarded child when clearly there was a school ready and willing to take me.
Forms were sent home to my mom to have filled out by specialists who would prove to everybody concerned that I, was indeed retarded. Take a bow. Exit stage…
Mom was pissed. This isn’t something new. Mom was pissed with someone most of the time. Heck! There’s eight kids in my family to pick from. Any one of them could have pushed her freakishly big and shiny red button. Often it was me. To this day, I still can’t resist shiny things or stirring a reaction in people. It’s a gift.
I remember the day she hauled me down the long white hallways in the hospital. She held my hand firmly and wasn’t concerned that I was having trouble keeping up to her long quick strides.
“Mom! What’s wrong? What did I do?” I asked her that every so many doors we passed. She said nothing that would encourage or enlighten me.
Moments later I was laying on a bed with countless wires attached to my head. I was ordered to lie still and don’t talk. An hour or so later the jell was wiped off. My clothes were put back on and I was on my way back up the same hallway.
Again, Mom offered no explanation. I just knew she was upset.
A month later my mom let me know that there wasn’t a thing wrong with my brain. I had every right to be in my school as any other ‘normal’ child. Mrs. Klamara would just have to deal with me.
The tests may have shown I was normal but the bullying from the kids and Mrs. Klamara’s comments lasted my entire school existence. I would never be thought of as ‘normal’ or smart. The seeds were deeply planted.