You. Are. WRONG.

Some memories stick in your head for a very long time. Many of those memories are happy ones. Some are sad. And some are memories of injustice. Two such memories from my growing up years still have the power to make me clench my teeth. Still have strong emotion attached.

When I was elementary school aged, our family went to a party at a neighbor’s house. I have no idea if it was a holiday party or a “block party” or some sort of open house. I clearly remember adults talking and talking. I don’t remember kids running around, but we must have been. The snack table was glorious with every imaginable treat. There was even a big bowl of…BUGLES! I was going to grab a big handful, but remembered just in time that my folks would probably get upset with me if I was so greedy. So…I put just one pointy Bugle on each finger. There! Not too many snacks plus I could have fun playing with them before eating them one by one.

And then, then the injustice occurred. My dad saw me with my fingernails of salty snacks. He took me I don’t know where and lectured me. He said I was rude. He said I was greedy. He said lots more. As I stood there, seething inside, I wanted to yell “You are WRONG!” but knew that would only make things worse. So, finally, 40-some years later I will give voice to the little girl that was me: “Dad, you really didn’t understand. I respect you. I love you. But that time? That time you were indeed wrong.”

The second strong memory of injustice was during Junior High School. I had a wonderful art teacher. I loved art class. I could be creative AND use lots of color. It was enjoyable AND I was good at it. Art was a highlight of that year. At one point, we had an assignment that was challenging for me. We had to draw someone’s hand(s) holding something. I drew my mom’s hand, holding a glass. It was hard to make it look realistic. I drew it and re-drew it. (Did my mom patiently sit there while I worked so hard? Or was I re-working the picture from memory? I have no clue…) Finally, it was finished. I was proud of the shading. Proud of the realistic wrinkled joints, short stubby fingers, and veins on the back of the hand.

I was excited to turn in the project. I was certain I would get a good grade on the assignment. Even more important, I was sure the teacher would be happy with what a good drawing I had made. A few days later I got it back…with a lower than expected grade and no positive comments. When I asked the teacher about it, she explained that it was an okay drawing, but that I had made my mom’s hand look like an old person’s hand but it was supposed to be a drawing like a photograph, showing reality. Oh, Ms. Art-Teacher. You Were WRONG! Over the years, at random moments when I see my mom’s hands, and, increasingly, when I notice my own hands, I think again, you were SO wrong. Both my mom’s hands and mine ARE short and stubby with wrinkled joints and with veins showing on the back…

Why do I tell you these two stories? Partly because these are memories that still hold strong emotion. Partly as a reminder to myself to be more careful what I say to kids around me since words can be so powerful and echo for years into the future. And maybe, just maybe, by writing down the explanations I wish I would have had the courage to give when I was young, these stories will gradually lose their power. Maybe the echoes will fade. Maybe these injustices will become an insignificant part of my past. Maybe I can move on to other stories from my past with more positive echoes…

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