Do you remember the movie Jack? It came out in 1996 when I was in 5th grade. I was 10 years old, same as Robin Williams’ character, Jack.
I absolutely loved it and there was the Bryan Adams song in the opening credits that I loved too, called Star. It’s still a wonderful song that makes me feel teary when I hear it. It sounds like the magic parts of childhood to me, the almost teenager age when everything was a brand new experience. I saw a lot of me in Jack, because I was picked on in elementary too. Not for the same reasons, obviously, but there’s definitely a tender place in my heart for this movie because of it. Tonight it was on TV at my parents’ and I watched it as if I’d never seen it before.
Sweet shirt, little Erin!
Were you ever picked on when you were little? I remember being invited to a sleepover at a girl’s house and they wanted to play hide and go seek. I was a little shy about it, and never liked sleeping away from home, but I was excited that I was invited and wanted to do whatever they wanted to have fun. They said, “you’re it!” and told me to go to her room and shut the door and count to 100. While I did that, they left and went to the girl next door’s house. I came out and felt so hurt and lonely, like there must be something wrong with me that they didn’t want to be my friend. I felt small and stupid. I called my mom and asked if I could come home. In 6th grade our class took a field trip to Washington, D.C. on a charter bus. Many parents came along too since it was one of those trips of a lifetime where you get to tour and see all the most historic sites, and my parents were two of them. As I nervously boarded the cold recycled air conditioning of the bus early that morning before the sun came up with my parents trailing behind me, I felt hopeful that I might find a friend to sit with for the 18 hour drive. I asked awkwardly, quietly, if I could sit beside these girls, and again and again, I felt so dejected and embarrassed by each of their terse responses: “No, I’m saving it.” My mama welcomed me in the seat beside her, with my daddy reading in the row behind us. I cried quietly, ashamed, as the bus pulled away from our school and thanked God for my parents who loved me even if the children on that bus did not. There’s a possibility that some of those girls are reading these words, and if you are, I don’t have any ugly feelings toward you. I think a lot of kids use meanness as a way to feel included and I just never caught on to that.
Children can be so hurtful. It sort of blows my mind. I think it either messes you up or makes you tougher, and while I still remember how much it hurt to be alienated by the girls my age (over and over), I’m thankful for what I learned from it—to never treat another person the way I was treated. I also can now recognize grown people who still use meanness as a way to fit in or feel good about themselves, and I feel sorry for them.
Jack reminds me of that time and place very much, but in a good way now. I hear that song and remember the first time I got to wear perfume (Gap Dream), I remember making homemade pizza for supper with mama, making paintings and feeling like it made me different and special to my parents. I’m glad childhood is over and now I hope that someday when I have children of my own I can teach them to be kind to every single person.