JULIE - THE SILENT ONE
She never spoke much. The schools had just gotten into the Big-Brother-Act and were taking every teacher's concern that was brought to their attention seriously. When my daughter was in grade school the playground monitors had reported that she was getting 'picked on' for not 'fitting in' with the other children, and not joining any particular group, instead sitting alone on a swing and reading.
Eventually the more aggressive of the class decided my daughter would be the prime victim to take out their anger issues on, and began to get physical. Things got a bit scary. She would come home and ask me to cut gum out of her hair, she would have holes in her jeans and scrapes on her knees from being pushed to the cement. I would ask her if she would like me to intercede. She always declined, adding, "There's something wrong with their heads." OK.
There would come a day, just after Christmas one year - the same year the photo above was taken - when she went to school in her new coat. She had wanted a red coat for the longest time, I have no idea why, with the complexions we inherited we look like the walking dead in red. Never the less, I gave her a red Woolrich coat, with toggle buttons, and a red plaid lining. She loved it, wore it everyday right up until Christmas vacation was over, then to school.
That first day back to school, I had gotten out of work at seven a.m., and after getting the kids off to school, went to bed. The phone rang at 11:15. It was the school principal. Uh oh. "We need you to come to school, there's been a problem with Julie, but she is alright." Naturally thinking the worst, I raced off to the school.
When I was escorted into the Principal's office the first thing I did was scan the room looking for my daughter, expecting a beaten, disheveled mess. Seeing her sitting there looking as placid as ever, I continued scanning the somewhat crowded room seeing two other mothers, with their sullen looking offspring. One of said offspring had the biggest shiner I had ever seen on a kid (until later that year).
There were two teachers in the room as well, both outright beaming at me. I sat. The principal began. "As you know there have been problems with Julie being picked on during recess. Up until now we have been unable to identify the culprits. Today, shortly after recess began, these two - glaring at the sullen ones - decided they would start picking on your daughter, not knowing the playground monitors were watching. They approached Julie and started to grab at her coat, then one of them tried to mark her coat up with a magic marker. At that point your daughter hauled off and hit that student - glancing glare at the shiner - with a roundhouse to the eye that would make Ali look like an amateur." And she beamed, her smile appeared to reach the earlobes on each side of her head. I glanced at the two teachers who had been the monitors. They were smiling and beaming at Julie and me. Then one of the teachers said, "Finally, Julie had had it. She stuck up for herself and we are so proud of her!" The principal continued, "These other two - GLARE - will be dealt with with detentions, as well as suspended bus privileges for the rest of the year. We all hope this will be the end of their horrible behaviour." The teachers led my daughter and I out of the office, Julie returned to class, while the teacher absolutely gushed over how my daughter had finally done something to end it with her tormentors. She praised Julie's strength of character in not doing anything drastic long before this, as she was such a quiet child.
Which in no way explains why her personality blossomed out of of control in junior high, when she became this child...
THE KID - In his grandfather's NAVY ISSUE 'Birth-Control' glasses.
Later that season I was once again summoned to the school, this time much earlier in the morning than the incident with my daughter. There had been a fight between two boys on the school bus. According to the bus driver, my son had tried to intervene in an attempt to stop the boys from fighting. This is what I saw that morning.
He was so mortified after everyone in the neighborhood, including his best friend's father who was a police Sgt. in town, couldn't resist the, "Whoa, what does the other guy look like?"
My kid started walking around like this after school...
Now, looking back, I can see, it's definitely in the DNA. Between being the underdog, and trying to stick up for the underdog, my kids have it covered. They maintain to this day.
My daughter rescues animals she finds abandoned in local parks, and volunteers for an animal rescue league that rehabilitates injured wild animals. Recently my son went to his boss to inform him that a co-worker of his who was about to be fired, was not the culprit who made the error, resulting in the firing. The worker who had actually committed the act, whatever it may have been, had lied and said it was another person. The appropriate person was then let go.
I keep waiting for my son to arrive home with the second shiner of his life. But it won't matter. He did the right thing.