The Big Boy
Like so many traumatic events, that day is etched firmly in my mind.
I was five years old; and based on what my Mom has told me since, he would have been twelve. He must have been big for his age because at the time, I thought he was a grown-up.
The memory comes back to me like a series of photographs. There was a crowd of children of various ages, standing in his back yard and staring at a big, beautiful model boat (which I assume he had lovingly built himself) that had been smashed to bits. I was raised by a mother from the depression years who taught me, from an early age, to treat my belongings with care and respect, so witnessing such purposeful, malicious destruction was very shocking to me.
I have no idea how long we all stood staring at that wrecked model boat before he whirled around and thundered accusingly at me, “You did it!”
Like so many of my most terrifying memories, my mind goes blank after this, and all I recall is years of fear as this boy – who lived just across the street from me – threatened and bullied me every chance he got. I was a quiet, introverted child and no doubt I wanted to tell him I would never have broken his boat, but his single-minded hatred of me must have made me mute with terror.
Mom would tell me later that he tormented me and threatened me mercilessly (once with a knife). I recall one Halloween, walking up the street with my mother (dressed as Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies) and seeing him walking down the same sidewalk in our direction. Not even the thought of lost candy could make me take another step and Mom was forced to take me home, crying all the way. I expect that must be the night my mother learned about the knife.
Luckily, we moved away a year or two later and I have blessedly forgotten his face and even his name. I have always privately referred to him as ‘The Big Boy’. I have wondered, though, if he grew up to be a terrifying husband and father; if he finally managed to kill someone with the same knife he used to threaten me; if he ended up in jail.
Or, if he grew up to be a decent man.
I know a few bullies who grew up to be fine human beings, you see. They happen to be people I love dearly, and their eyes have filled with tears as they have confessed how they, too, once tormented some little kid just as The Big Boy tormented me. They have confessed their shame and their sorrow. They have told me they would do anything if they could just go back and undo the damage they did.
I have hugged them and wept with them and forgiven them in the place of the little kid they once tortured and bullied. I have told them it’s okay to let go of it, now. I have told them their years of grief and guilt have been ample punishment. I have told them bad people don’t feel guilty.
I have often wondered if The Big Boy eventually found out who really wrecked his beautiful model boat. I have wondered if he has ever wept with a friend as he confessed to tormenting a quiet, terrified little girl who didn’t deserve his wrath.
And I have wondered if someone else – just like grown-up ‘Me’ – has forgiven him in my place, knowing how very sorry he is for traumatising a little person who didn’t deserve to be treated that way.
Oh, I do hope so…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com