Approaching seventh grade can be confusing, scary, and even life altering. To me it felt like stepping over a chasm. You see, topics of a personal nature were off limits in my family, so I was a rather uninformed adolescent.
One summer day before seventh grade I heard my sister, ten years my elder, moan.
“I've got cramps.”
“Oh. Don’t go swimming,” I said, drawing from my vast well of knowledge.
Rosie’s mouth fell open before she burst into laughter. “You don’t know, do you? I’m not talking leg cramps here,” and she proceeded to enlighten me about all things feminine.
Now my mouth hung open, but I recognized and seized an opportunity.
“Don’t you think it’s time I got a bra?”
Another burst of laughter ensued. “Why would you need a bra? You’re flat.”
“I am not! See?” …and I promptly bared my barely budding breasts.
Thankfully, my sister stifled her laughter this time. “You’re serious, aren't you?”
“I need one before choir tour.”
“Oh, I get it. Your roommates will be teenagers who wear bras, and you don’t want them to think you’re still a child.”
She nailed it, though silently I wished for just an ounce of compassion. I was the junior member of a Christian youth choir with a weekly radio broadcast. In two weeks we were going on tour. The older girls in the group were kind, but I wanted to fit in.
The following Saturday Rosie drove me to choir practice. After practice she handed me a package. I reached in and pulled out a box labeled Training Bra. I wanted to ask what a bra was supposed to train. Instead, I simply threw my arms around her neck and shrieked like the twelve year old girl I was.
For the next two weeks I wore my new acquisition every day. Mama seemed amused, but not disapproving. The night before I was to leave she asked, “Have you washed your bra yet?”
“Well, if you’re going to wear it every day, you need to wash it. Let me show you how.” Reluctantly I removed my prized object and handed it over for its first hand washing.
The next morning I was disheartened to find my bra still damp when it was nearly time to go.
“Don’t worry,” Mama said, “we can dry it quickly in the oven.” I was desperate, so I didn't protest.
Now the “cups” on a training bra are not cups at all, but thin elastic fabric that further flattens whatever might have been raised to begin with. When my mother opened the oven door to remove my precious training bra, she gasped, and then slowly raised a little white bra with two round gaping holes, charred around the edges. Needless to say, I was devastated! I had to dress without my bra (funny how I felt exposed without it, when it made no difference, whatsoever).
Mama and Rosie drove me to meet the bus where all the other youth were bustling with excitement. Our luggage was loaded, we received last minute instructions from our director, and we said goodbye to our families. Mama hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, “Don’t worry. I’ll get you a new one.” I looked around for Rosie, who had strangely disappeared, but I couldn't delay boarding the bus any longer.
Once aboard I slumped into my seat and stared out the window, through which I spotted someone running toward the bus. As the figure drew closer I could see it was Rosie, and she was carrying a package just like the one she gave me two weeks earlier.
Before I could consider what might happen next my sister reached the bus, pounded on the door, strode down the aisle gasping for breath, handed me the package, hugged me, and was gone.
“What’s in the package?” everyone wanted to know. I no doubt turned several shades of red, but nothing could make me loosen my grip on that bag!
Throughout that choir tour I sang heartfelt praises to the God who would get me through the coming year. I was ever so grateful for my sister who, it turned out, had more than an ounce of compassion. And a few weeks later, when I experienced my first cramps that had nothing to do with legs or swimming, I was more grateful still. But even now I rejoice in knowing that I never have to return to seventh grade.
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