My daughter arrived home from college tonight; she had called earlier in the day and said she was bringing a friend.
I was a little taken back when I stepped outside to greet my daughter; I could see her friend was struggling with her baggage. She walked with a limp, her knees were turned in and she wore thick glasses, with limited eye sight.
As we sat in the living room, tears came to my eyes because I was seeing the exact image of myself 45 years later.
We had moved when I was going into the fourth grade. I was ready for the move. My dad had recently remarried after a 1961 divorce. We settled into the community, and I started school in Miss Sorenson's class.
In 1964, there were not special education classes, only three levels of students: the smart, the average, and the slow. We had three slow students in my fourth grade class: Dave, Patty, and Norman. I was average to smart.
No one wore tennis shoes to school in 1964, but dress shoes. Norman didn't wear either; he wore a heavy type of above-the-ankle work boot that was sturdy, bulky, and enduring.
From his feet to his head, Norman dressed different than the other kids. His coat and jeans were not stylish, but straight cut denims that a 30 year old farm hand would wear to do chores. He wouldn't eat the 35 cent school lunch, but instead, he would carry his lunch of heavy dark bread sandwiches full of last night's meat. I ate the Friday fish stick lunches and drank the two cent milk.
I wasn't the biggest kid on the play ground, but I remember watching after Norman. I always made sure he was included in kick ball games at recess and would not allow the other boys to poke fun or mimic Norman. He was not overly gifted in running and throwing, but he was extra strong in arms and chest.
When Christmas came around in 1964, my dad was making around $3000.00 per year. I didn't know we were the poor ones. I remember having our Sunday School Christmas program prior to our school's Christmas vacation. I remember the good hard candy and chocolates that were passed out to each child in the brown paper sack. I saved mine.
I took it to school on Monday morning, gift wrapped in a box and slipped it to Norman over lunch. He never said much. I never received a thank you, but I knew I had done the right thing that Christmas. I haven't seen Norman since grade school. I heard he never made it through high school. I moved away when we finished eighth grade.
I doubt my daughter's friend got asked to visit somebody's home often during her four years at Moody Bible Institute. I am glad that apple's don't fall very far from the tree.
And to you my old friend Norman, Merry Christmas to you again, 45 years later.
I am the Director of Vision and Design at Hidden Acres Christian Center (www.hacamps.org) in Central Iowa. I have an M.A. in English Education from Truman State. You may follow my writing at the website listed below. www.hiddenacrescamp.blogspot.com
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