The Party

by | Jun 8, 1998 | Acceptance, Judging

My family was “poor” while I was growing up. This fact in itself didn’t bother me much because it was the only life I knew. It wasn’t until some of the kids on the school bus began teasing us about the state of our home and the outbuildings that I became self-conscious of our home. I enjoyed visiting with friends at school but wouldn’t invite them to my house for fear of further ridicule.

We lived in an old rambling farmhouse that the owners let us have rent-free in exchange for “keeping an eye on things.” They didn’t want the house, barns or farm machinery vandalized. While this home had probably been considered grand at some point in it’s past, it had become very worn-down. There were certain board son the porch that we avoided stepping on for fear of falling through. There was no indoor plumbing at first, but eventually my dad and uncle managed to put cold running water in the kitchen, replacing the old hand pump that was perched in the corner.

The neighbours to the west of us had a dairy farm. It so happened that they also had two daughters the same ages and grades as my sister and me. We spent a lot of time walking across the back fields to visit each other during the grade school years.

Time has a way of moving on while we’re not looking. Junior high school came and went and we all entered high school. There were more students and more classes, and we saw less and less of the neighbour girls. However, we shared a few classes and a few mutual friends and were able to keep up-to- date on current boyfriends and all the other earth-shattering events in each others lives. Through mutual friends is how I happened to hear about the party. My neighbour and friend was having a skating party at their pond. I kept waiting and hoping for an invitation. I finally realized that I hadn’t seen my friend as much for the past few days. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was avoiding me.

The weekend of the party was rapidly approaching and I’d yet to receive an invitation. The party was to be held on a Saturday. The day before, at school, I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I deliberately sought out the neighbour and asked as as non-chalant a way as possible how the party plans were progressing. I had hoped that once I mentioned it, I would receive my much anticipated invitation.

She looked me right in the eye and told me the party was postponed. She said her dad had checked the ice that morning and didn’t feel it was frozen solid enough for safe skating. I went onto my next class and began wondering if I would be invited once the next date was set.

The next day dawned cold, crisp and clear. I had to venture outside in the afternoon to get more coal for the stove. While out at the coal pile, I heard the unmistakable sounds of fun and frolic coming from the direction of the neighbour’s farm. Just to make sure my ears hadn’t deceived me, I sat down on the back step and listened for several minutes. Those were definitely sounds of good-natured yelling and laughing I’d heard.

I sat and cried. I kept wondering why my friend had lied to me. Why didn’t she want to associate with me anymore? What had I done to make her dislike me? I was finally driven back inside by the cold. I cried and pondered this situation for the rest of the day. When we returned to school on Monday I didn’t let on that I knew she’d lied to me. However, at one point we made eye contact with each other and she was the first to look away. I wondered then if she’d seen the hurt in my eyes. Maybe it’s my imagination or maybe it was just coincidence, but from that day forward we had very little contact with each other.

I became more aware of and embarrassed by my old, ramshackle home and my second hand and home made clothes. I felt as though I weren’t “good enough” in my classmates eyes for them to associate with me. I was in the National Honour Society; I was always one of the first to be picked in gym class to be on a team; I was on the school newspaper staff; I always helped with decorating or whatever needed done. I talked to a lot of the other students while working on projects together and I seemed to be pretty well liked by everyone. But I was never invited to any social functions outside of school.

Was it because people judged me by my home and clothes? Or was it because I’d begun to feel inferior and tried to keep a distance between myself and my classmates so as not to be hurt again? To this day I don’t know for sure.

But whenever I see a small child out in public whose clothes and appearance aren’t exactly “up to par,” I get tears in my eyes. The tears are because I KNOW the hurt, humiliation and frustration this child may suffer just because her haircut isn’t of the latest style or her clothes aren’t name brand.

It’s possible, however, that her classmates are the ones who are missing out on creating some happy memories. Just maybe, her mom makes the best homemade cookies in town. Just maybe, her sense of humour would make her the life of the party if given a chance. Just maybe, she would be the one true friend who would stand beside you in a time of need, when others have abandoned ship. Just maybe, she had a relative who died with honour defending our country in war.

Whenever you see a child who looks a little “inferior” to her peers, stop and think, “just maybe…..”

Terri Davis


The Party