I have vague repressed memories of my awkward years, as everyone else does. Being called Olive Oil and Chia Pet, girls driving by me as I walked home alone and yelling profanities at me, being bullied, picked on... jumped. Then going home and being caretaker to my Mom while my Dad worked out of town for days at a time. I have come across so many people who whine about their pasts, when the truth is we all have painful moments scarring the space between the happy ones. I matured past the point of being bothered by the ignorant, and rejoiced in aging past the need to conform. No more awkward haircuts and hurtful nicknames, suddenly those people who tormented me for years on end disappeared, washed away in time. I found myself surrounded by other adults who couldn't fathom spewing hateful rhetoric at a strange little girl, and yes I know I was a bit strange. I attracted other positive people, and moved forward and away from my childhood. Or so I thought...
This morning I sat in my philosophy class, 5 minutes late as always, following a captioned discussion of Aquinas on a laptop. The professor was discussing how Aquinas used earlier philosophers' works, uncited, to prove the existence of God. This semester is more than halfway over, and for the first time, he asked us to form into groups of 3 or 4 to work as teams on a specific topic. Suddenly I was in 6th grade PE again, and I held my breath as the professor actually chose team captains and told us to split up on our own. I glanced at my captioner with a smile and looked at those grown adults sitting around me. Every single one avoided eye contact with me, and the girl sitting closest to me actually stood up and walked to the other side of the room. At this point I saw the professor glancing back at me, and around the room, noticing as well that people were scattering away from me like I was the Big Bang. Everyone in the class can see that I am Deaf, and that I have to sit with my captioner who is plugged in and stationed in a way that she cannot move, and yet still every single one moved away from me. This class, who was just discussing how it is possible for a perfect God to co-exist with evil, abandoned me like a pack of prepubescent boys afraid to catch cooties. I could see the professor making his way toward me, and I saw in my mind's eye how he would walk up and announce that I needed a group, forcing an already formed group to come sit with me, and everyone would turn and then again avoid eye contact with me. I told my captioner I would text her later, grabbed my notebook, and walked out of class without a second glance.
As the door fell behind me the cold fall air hit me in the face and the tears that rimmed my eyes dissipated. I walked with purpose to my van and allowed myself to sit for only a moment, attempting to absorb what had just happened, and reminding myself that it was absolutely ridiculous, and I am not in 6th grade anymore. "I'm not Josie Grossy anymore".... I'm not Olive Oil anymore! I am not the one with the problem, an entire class full of adults, and not even one was kind enough to include a classmate with a special need, that is the problem. The difference is, now I am old enough to see that. Unfortunately, it still hurts, and now I can't go home to my Mom and lay next to her in her bed as she watches Oprah, expecting my Dad to walk in any moment with his million dollar smile. Instead I have a husband with strong tattooed arms, and adorable children to climb onto my lap and tell me they love me with eskimo kisses.
I can't help but long for my childhood anyway, scars and all.