As long as my memory lingers I will never forget that morning in my Sunday school class when I was ten years old. There was a lot about life I didn’t quit grasp, but I did understand that something had altered my life forever.
Small windows allowed little natural light to flood it, but that basement room burst with all the excitement akin to wild horses being herded into a pen.
The lively talk between the boys and us girls was full of teasing and (for the girls) giggles. Always the boys were the loudest! Even when they pulled their chairs out on the cement floor, they made the most noise. Each boy parleyed to make sure he would be the one heard above the clatter.
Our family’s recent move to the area had totally changed my life.
In the city I was one of many in the Sunday school classroom; no one had noticed me. Here in the country I was the center of attention among the youngsters of the church. In this country place of worship, I was the newest giggler.
Both Steven and Stanley “liked” me. And I liked both of them, but I was concerned about the way Stanley looked at Steven. Wanting to keep peace between the two rivals and deciding that Stanley was the more powerful, both in personality and in physical strength, I chose to return only Stanley’s smiles when the two boys were together. It was my way of protecting Steven.
Life was good, and church – especially Sunday school, gave me the most cherished moments of my week.
This day, however, walking down the steps toward that basement, a doom of dread clung to me. Things would never be the same. Reluctantly I moved my clammy right hand down the rail. Other children rushed pass me. At the bottom of the steps I entered the room that before had showered me with enjoyment.
It didn’t matter that I wore a new dark blue dress with white lace that spread itself outward from the collar and six red and white buttons that lined themselves down the front, and my feet sported shoes Dad had shined to perfection.
The basement’s gray cement block walls were no longer welcoming; they seem strained to the seams with noise. I felt entombed. Enveloped by unwelcome sounds, I walked like a zombie unaware of the jostling of the other children.
Complicated churnings unsettled my mind and ripped at my emotions.
Life had flipped from fun to caution.
At the north end of the room all of the classes met together for the opening session. Sitting in those wooden chairs we sang songs and recited verses before we were dismissed to our graded classes.
Around me, children’s voice spun choruses - sounds I did not grasp. My voice was missing. Only my lips moved.
After we were dismissed to go to our classes, I walked alone to the table without speaking to anyone else. Time was moving too quickly.
My class sat at a rectangular metal table behind the assembly area - that place where I had enjoyed so many meetings with my friends. But those days are gone. Instead, I concentrated on the space between my chair and the ones on either side of me.
If only Junelle and Cindy had been sitting next to me. Instead, I have the worse possible fate. Steven sat on one side of me and Stanley on the other.
What am I supposed to do? I wondered if I should ask my teacher. How much danger was I in? To make matters worse, there were several boys sitting at that table. I didn’t know how to handle the hazards.
I looked down again at the space between our chairs. Was there three inches? No, maybe it was two inches between their chairs and mine.
The teacher droned on with the lesson.
I wished my mother had told me a more. How was I to handle what I was facing?
How close dare I be to them? How I longed for the old days when sitting between Stanley and Steven in Sunday school was fun and not dreadful. My thoughts tumbled like pearls mixing with the muddy emotions of new awareness.
Mom said that with the changes my body had just made, I had to be careful. Getting too close to boys could make me pregnant.
(The preceding is a true story.)
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