I was on a field trip with my grade four class. We were on our way to Calgary Alberta but stopped for a picnic at a park. The weather was warm and refreshing, not like the Ice Fields we visited the day before where I was certain my toes were going to turn black and fall off due to the wicked cold. I wasn’t smart enough to dress appropriately for the extreme weather.
I was excited to have been given permission to go on the two week field trip with my grade four class. A family had agreed to take me in even though I wore a back-brace that I could neither get in or out of by myself.
As with most kids who are different in some way, I had no trouble sticking out in a crowd. My stiff jerky movements and my robotic like cage that wrapped around me, made me a target for a few boys that seemingly had nothing better to do than to knock on my brace, as though I were a door, then run away. I couldn’t make them stop bugging me or hitting me. How could I? They were stronger than me. I was used to the teasing and could usually see it coming well before their ugly words funneled my ears.
While on the field trip, our bus pulled over and let us out at a park. We were so excited to get off the road and go run and play. Everyone scattered across the green rolling hills. I hurried over to the swing set and quickly seated myself on a wooden swing. It didn’t take melong to get swinging and pumping as high as I could. My hair was long and golden in the sunlight, and I loved the way it caressed my cheeks as I swung back and forth. I allowed myself to feel beautiful, strong and in control. I even pretended that I was in my own super popular shampoo commercial with me swooshing my hair around.
Everything about my life was perfect- right up until John Mclay pulled the swing out from under my butt. I landed hard in the dry dusty dirt.
Before I could understand how I had gotten there, the wooden seat of the swing cracked me in the back of my head.
John Mclay stood bent over laughing his guts out at me. Inside, my body raged. I had never felt so angry towards another person as I did with John Mclay.
I stopped the swing from clocking me again and struggled to get to my feet.
“Oh that was a good one!” he hollered.
I stormed over to John and yelled at him.
“That hurt John Mclay!”
He continued to laugh at me. That’s about the time I grabbed him the the scruff of his shirt and threw him to the ground. I was surprised that I knocked him down but I wasn’t done with him. I quickly straddled him the with every ounce of weight I had, I came down on him. I made sure that the sharp bottom part of my brace dug sharply into his ribs. He let out a deep groan before I stood up and let myself drop hard on him again.
Without missing a beat, I proceeded to tell him how unhappy I was with what he had done to me.
With each word I spoke, I delivered a punch to his shoulder.
That’s when he started to cry. That’s when I knew he was listening to me, but just to make sure I added, “I can’t stand you John Mclay!” Wham!
“And I” WHAM!
“Will! NEVER!” WHAM!
“A boy!” Wham!
“Named- JOHN!” Boof! I slammed both my fists down on his chest and ground my brace into his ribs one last time.
As I got up, I noticed most of my classmates had circled around us. Their mouths and eyes wide open.
I looked down at John Mclay and said, “Don’t you ever touch me again!” L
With surprising balance, which is questionable at best, I wound up and kicked a cloud of dust up into his face. I turned and walked away.
My best friend Deanna came running up to me.
“You beat up John Mclay! You beat up John Mclay!” she said in a disbelieving tone.
“I know! I know!” I said. My body began to feel wobbly and weak and I began to panic about what I just did.
“He pulled me off my swing and then it hit me! I got so mad!” I told Deanna.
“You better tell the teacher before he does or you’ll be in big trouble for sure,” Deanna said.
I knew she was right. He would try and look all sweet and innocent.
I marched over to where Mrs. Tune stood under a big crab-apple tree. She wasn’t hard to find because she was at least four children wide and had a big gray-ish white beehive hairstyle that added to her stature. With her white and floral dress blowing softly in the breeze, she reminded me of a flag in the distance.
By the time I reached her, I was sweaty, and scared about being shipped home early from my very first field-trip. What if she told my mom? What kind of punishment she was going to dole out to me in the middle of a park, hundreds of miles away from our classroom? I’ve never beaten anybody up before. Didn’t seem to matter that I got hit on a regular basis, but this? This was different!
“Mrs. Tune,” I said with authority. I gave her a moment to focus on me me through her cat shape glasses then said with the same conviction, “Mrs. Tune! I beat up John Mclay!”
She tilted her head, raised her eyebrows and nodded ever so slightly and said, “Good for you Dear.” She turned and walked away, leaving me with my jaw hanging.
I looked at Deanna to see if she heard what I heard, but she too was busy dusting the dirt off her own chin. I began to walk away. With each step I took, I felt stronger, like I didn’t have to take anymore crap from anyone. I could get mad! Heck, maybe that’s all I needed to do the whole time I was getting picked on. Mrs. Tune empowered me that day. I knew right then and there that if need be, I could kick someone’s deserving butt and set some jerk straight! How cool was that?
I got back on that swing and pumped like my life depended on it.
With Deanna by side, we laughed, sang and soared like we were stars in our own shampoo commercial.
Twenty odd years later, I met and married my best friend named Jon. Jon Moleski.