I met this girl in 5th grade, a really hard year for me. I had moved, switched schools from an older red brick building, marble steps worn in the center by the hundreds of children rushing to recess, matronly teachers who had taught many of our parents. This school spoke security to me, smelled of learning, the cool hallways of the basement carried memories of other eager students. This place was my sanctuary. Then my parents divorced, mom moved us and we entered a new school, a yellow brick open classroom new concept horror. I struggled to adjust to the noise, the distractions, the lack of well worn banisters to hold onto as I traveled the steps, securing me into this world. There were no steps, nothing to help me rise, nothing to tell me any other child had survived childhood, to whisper “keep learning, stay close to the teachers, follow the path.” I was lost at sea.
I got removed from my initial classroom because I changed all the male pronouns in a story to female ones, the teacher didn’t appreciate my creative license. She hid my math book for days, I fell behind in my assignments, got sent to see the principal. Her anger and duplicity reminded me of home, she scared me. Her attempts to teach me to follow her rules only taught me to shutdown, again, a meeting was held, I was moved. I found myself in the neighboring class with a much nicer teacher. She was still too young for my liking and now I had a reputation as a troublemaker so my classmates treated me that special mix of awe and exclusion that children are so good at. Except for one girl. We shared a name but she already was years ahead of me in sophistication. She had colored pencils and crayons and made pictures of her name, painstaking pieces of art with each letter outlined with the same color in pencil as she had colored it. I was entranced. My name had never felt beautiful before. I allowed some of her glow to spill onto me, I edged closer, she let me in. She was an exotic beauty even then, sought after by all, she gave me group credibility. She was my lifeboat for 5th grade. She has not stopped ensuring I don’t drown.
Forty-two years later, her heart is as pure, she is as gorgeous, she still creates beauty. She traveled 50 miles yesterday to deliver a wreath for my door, I haven’t seen her in too many months. She stopped in only for a minute, to gift me these reds, oranges, yellows arranged with love. She created it several days before, before I wrote about longing for color. She hears my soul before I speak it. She added a little plum to go with the pumpkins, a plum, my Plum. An extra over the top touch of love that says I know you, I know your heart. Her wreath is beyond beautiful, my porch now explodes in the colors my soul craved. Never deserving of her friendship, she still gives it anyway. I bask in her grace glow, I rest in her peace gifts. I never really stopped being the troublemaker, she is still the cheerleader.
Her love speaks God to me, is that absolute example of His forever presence in my life. I haven’t earned His love, it is there for me anyway. He decorates my name with colored pencils and crayons, He calls me from the safety of an old school into harsh overhead lights but doesn’t leave me there alone. He gives me another Lisa, a choice always of how it can be if I choose to follow His new path, one that may not include a musty basement but surely leads toward the Light. While this is a story about one special friend, my introverted life is expanding by way of more like her. People of faith who send lifeboats and letters, draw pictures and drop off care packages. People who insist on being in my world, blocking out the noise and distractions, pulling me up the steps as we rise together, hand and hand without banisters. Friends who remind me I don’t wait alone, the leaves will turn. Until then, we will decorate my porch together.