When I was a child, I wasn’t able to do a lot of things or join organizations like the other kids because my mother was mentally ill. A simple thing like joining the girl scouts was out of the question if it meant she had to drive, spend money, or leave the house. She was prone to moments of confused identity, tantrums, and anger. Mental illness is a very scary thing to a child. It’s like living in a horror movie.
I began to spend time next door with a young lady named Julie and her two children. It was nice being around someone pleasant. Sometimes we would watch T.V. with her kids or just sit around and talk. I would go over to eat breakfast with her before school and she would fix my hair. I remember her putting a ribbon in my hair to match my outfit. It was wonderful since I didn’t have anyone to do those kinds of things for me.
When I tried out for pep squad, Julie somehow found out ahead of time that I had made it. She knew that my mother could not make my uniform, so she made it in one day and had me come over to try it on. I kept telling her that I didn’t know if I had made the squad yet. As I danced around in my red and gold uniform she said that she just knew I would make it.
When I wanted to join the school band, Julie went to a pawn shop and paid $25 for a clarinet because she knew my mother wouldn’t buy me one. My band director said that the clarinet had a special kind of mouth piece that alone was worth over $50, which was a lot of money in those days. All of the kids were impressed because I had this special clarinet. They never knew how special it really was.
Julie went on to buy my first bra, fast food hamburger, bell bottom blue jeans, peasant blouse, belt, perfume, nail polish and go-go boots. She took me to the beach, shopping, library and the county fair. She tried to give me as normal a childhood as possible.
I don’t think Julie ever realized how much she did for me. My home life had begun to take a toll on me. I had stopped trusting adults, became insecure, withdrawn and depressed. Then all of the sudden someone was interested in me.
Julie eventually moved away, but I grew up a much better person because of her. Sometimes I wonder what would have become of me if there had been no Julie.
Twenty-four years later, I finally ran into her at a store. Having no time in the check out line, or the words, to say how I felt, I just hugged her. She said, “You’re so beautiful.” Not half as beautiful as you, Julie.