Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Meadowview Project, Part 1

There was a bully who always wanted to beat me up in grade school. He would say things like "I'll see you after school." There would be no reason for it. He was just a bully and I looked like a victim. He was a "Leave It To Beaver" cliche type bully. I would be terrorized for the rest of the day knowing I would meet this guy after school. Then, after school,  I would leave as quickly as I could and get on my bike and head out peddling furiously. I was a pretty good bike rider. As far as I remember the bully did not have a bike. My bike was a Schwinn. It was built for speed and doing wheelies but not much else. It had just one gear. It also had a banana seat that could accommodate two riders, a dangerous concept really. Today there would be all kinds of warnings but then it was just a bike. When I was younger I used to put a clothespin on the bars near the tires which clipped on a playing card. This would make a motor sound as the card flapped against the spokes. They wore out pretty fast. First card to use would be the joker that had the writing on it, instead of a picture. Next, was the other joker. At that point your cards were pretty much ruined as a deck so you would pick the masculine ones. Kings, then jacks. Perhaps the ace would be next. But never never the queen. I never see kids do this now. Kids don't play outside in the same way we did. On one of my walks I often see a kid on a skateboard, or sometimes he is shooting hoops in his driveway. I was kind of a loner but I'll guess this kid isn't. There are never many kids outside.

I guess, part of this is perspective. When I was younger either I was in school or not. While I was in school there were plenty of kids around. When I was out of school there were also plenty of kids around. About 12 years ago I had to go to an elementary school to give a presentation on the Alabama Virtual Library to the teachers. It was the first time I had been in an elementary school since I was actually attending one. It was absolute craziness. I was raining that day and all kinds of problems resulted. Heck, I don't remember rain causing that much of a problem. Either mom or some other family member came to pick me up, or I walked home in the rain. There was a preplanned place for me to look for Mom and then after that, I was on my own. No biggie. At this school everything was a grand production. I was amazed at how many kids there were with problems and how much trouble it seemed to be for teachers. The little wimps. They couldn't handle a little rain when I had had a real circa 1950's bully to worry about. :)

Finally, all the teachers gathered together for a staff meeting which had been planned. Teachers came in at all times after their personal rain problems. The staff meeting was full of teachers interupting and having negative oppinions. Finally it was my turn to give my presentation. I think it was the best presentation I had ever given and the negativity just kept coming. Basically, the teachers wanted to go home. Some said rudely "I've got to go." Finally, when I was about half way through I decided to pretend that was all I had to say. Great... time to go home. They were certainly not the teachers I remembered when I was in school.

I was a lucky child, as poor as we were, really because I grew up in an apartment complex where there were plenty of children around. We all went to the same school. Even luckier, we had an apartment complex pool. Kids from far outside the complex would want to come into the pool. They would dress in bathing suits and try to cajole us from the fence to let them in. Sometimes they would make it in and they seemed to usually disobey the rules. Some were regulars and got in with actual friends. They lived close enough to qualify as "Meadowview Kids." The experienced swimming poolers like us, knew that infringements of the rules carried swift action from Mrs. Whately, "whale tail" to my Dad! For guests that had begged at the fence, they would be escorted out of the pool area and it wouldn't be forgotten who had let them in. This was probably why they seemed so secretive about asking us. They whispered and promised all sorts of things that they would never actually come up with in payment for our bringing them in as a guest.

Rarely did these boys (all seemed to be boys) know me or even my name from school. I would get out of the pool because they had motioned me over to them. Each time I would, of course, suspect that all they wanted was to be in the pool. They would lie and cajole. I would lean over and, for cover, pick dewberries that often lined the pool fence and say "Sorry, my mother won't let me have guests in the pool." They would try other strategies and I would eventually go back to the pool and jump in. I must have seemed like a privileged snob to these kids. I was just living my life. Eventually they would call me names when it seemed their plight was impossible. My fear was always that someone else would let them in later. I remember leaving the pool and going home a few times just because of this. But usually we apartment kids were a pretty united force once the name calling began.

The bully never came to the pool, as far as I know. He lived pretty far up the road. The kids that wanted into the pool were usually from close around and if they really had friends, they got in. The apartment kids grew an identity because of this distinction. There was one street right behind our apartment complex that had a a few poorer people on it. The name of the street: Happiness Avenue. I didn't have much concept of poverty back then but I knew these kids were usually better than most as far as friendliness went. My parents couldn't even afford a house but like I said, the apartment complex made us distinct. "Happiness was just on the other side of a ditch", which was wide and went between the complex and Happiness. There were not many kids living on Happiness that I knew. I remember sometimes letting them into the pool. They were neighbors. We were all poor, really. Television showed a glamourous American life that we did not have.

I did feel very sorry for every kid that couldn't swim in our pool. Later after the jeers I didn't feel sorry any more. After a while I became savvy and could judge them immediately and just ignore them by swimming to the opposite end of the pool until they got bored.

Happiness only had a few bad houses I guess and it is all my imagination about the poverty. One of my favorite people from Happiness was Connie. I liked Connie a lot but she was always very painfully shy or at least seemed that way to me. Of course, how would I know because I was neurotically shy. I was mostly shy around girls. Connie was in my grade school. She wasn't very outgoing in school either and neither was I. We somtimes greeted and talked through the fence and across the ditch. She usually played in her backyard I guess. But my shyness here was why I fell in love with Angela Browder instead of Connie. Angela was outgoing and friendly to me. I remember Angela Browder's full name so I guess that says something. She told me that she had made straight A's on her first report card. I told her I had made two straight A's.

Angela was so smart and pretty. Her hair was always perfectly done. She wore pretty clothes. Of course I was too shy. I was shy until about age 20, so First Grade was probably beyond the question. Angela of course wasn't from Happiness or Meadowview but from a much better street. We never did anything together, our paths never crossed outside of school. Once years later, in my 20's, I remember Angela sitting in a movie theatre lobby with a date. I walked over but she did not recognize me. I sat down near the bench they were sitting on. I could hear this guy talking about studying to be a Gynocologist. I noticed that his hands were exceptionally sleek, white and pure looking. I guessed they were aristocratic. It brought my plight with women clearly into focus. I would never be this guy.

And again I met Angela in college. She worked there. When I introduced myself, she was the same Angela I had always known. She was kind and friendly to me. But I was still student and she was already in administration. Snapshots. That is really all I have in my head about those times. But the snapshots I have still in my memory are the ones I pondered about for some reason.

Connie was a beautiful little girl. I know her full name now, it was Connie Taylor. Thank you, Connie Taylor.

Click here for Part 2

Note: the Meadowview Project will be edited as I go. Earlier blog entries in this case may be edited long after I have written them. Events may even change if my memory get's sharper about an event. Just letting you know because none of this matters a bean but it is amiable. :)