I recall clearly that it was a beautiful sunny day: the kind of day that happens on that first day in the spring where everyone goes outside without a coat for the first time and the air smells fresh and new and full of possibility.
I was in grade three, walking hand-in-hand with another little girl, through the school playground. I clearly recall how wonderful it felt, to have a friend who didn’t mind showing the entire world that she liked me enough to hold my hand. I was not a particularly popular child in my early elementary years so any public demonstration of affection was a feather in my cap; a sign that I was popular too (sad, that even at age 8, I already understood the concept of ‘popular’).
“LIZZIES!!! Look at the two lizzies!” shouted an older kid, pointing at us and laughing loudly. At the time, I was sure that every single kid on the playground turned to look.
I had no idea what the word meant but somehow, I immediately understood that we were being taunted for holding hands: that holding hands made us bad and… dirty, somehow. We immediately released our friendly grip and we both took a sideways step away from one another. While I do not recall who was holding my hand that day, I do know that we never hung around with one another again.
A burgeoning friendship, neatly nipped in the bud.
For some reason, my memory of that day includes a group of us, still in the school playground, staring at a dead cat in one of the garbage cans. The cat had a long rope tied like a noose around its neck and it was stiff, eyes open and very much dead. Logic tells me that it cannot have happened on the same day as the hand-holding incident because when I saw the cat, it was the day after Halloween; bitter cold and snowless.
But the two events have always been inextricably linked in my mind. Because both events taught me that not all people are nice. That some people can be hard and cruel. That some people have hate and intolerance residing in the place where love was supposed to have been planted.
Luckily, the intolerance I witnessed didn’t have its desired effect. I have never accepted animal cruelty and I have always endeavoured to be open to and accepting of all people, no matter their race, their religion or their sexual orientation.
Sometimes hateful comments and actions can have positive and unintended consequences.
Patti Moore Wilson/ © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com