by Cheryl Dyson
My parents had a serious case of wanderlust when I was young. As a result, we ended up moving from town to town and state to state about every six months. Also as a result, I was pathetically shy and introverted. I hated leaving my hard-won friends in every town and trying to fit in to the next new place.
In my ninth-grade year we moved to a small Arizona town. I became the target of a couple of female bullies. I never discovered why these girls disliked me, as I had little contact with them. They were two grades ahead of me in school, and therefore bigger and older.
The only time I saw them was on the daily bus ride to and from school. That bus ride was a long exercise in torture whenever they were in the mood to torment me. It was even worse when I had the misfortune of sitting close to them on a full bus.
Once they even threatened to turn me in to the Humane Society for riding my horse at a dead run in the dry riverbed near our house. That horse loved to run — he was from thoroughbred stock and that was his nature. Such a threat seems ludicrous to me now, but at 13 I was petrified that they might be able to take my horse away, or at least get me or my family into trouble.
One day after a particularly nasty bus ride home I remember crying to my mother that the horrible girls hated me. My mother’s response was simply, “Isn’t that kind of like hating a rock? ‘I hate you, rock!'” And she made a grinning rocklike face that was so perfect I had to laugh. It was almost magical the way I suddenly realized it didn’t matter one iota if those girls hated me. They could hate me all they wanted!
After that, whenever those girls, or anyone else, insulted or bullied me, I always thought of my mom grinning like a rock and had to smile. My expression of amusement always baffled the bullies and it felt like a secret weapon. Those two girls eventually gave up tormenting me, no doubt helped along by the lack of concern and even occasional pity I felt for them.
My mother gave me plenty of gifts when I was growing up, but the gift of self-esteem was the most precious. I’ll never forget that wonderful moment when I discovered I could be like a rock.