In the early eighties, around 81 or so, I began attending a private school for kids with special needs in the educational realm. Some were there for their emotional instabilities, others, like me, were there because they happened to of had a learning disability, and some were there because other schools either wouldn’t have them or their parents wanted to give them a shot at a different sort of education, one that would at least give them a chance at succeeding. Of course I didn’t know all that then, it wasn’t until I was older and looked back on that time that I realized what that whole school was about. There were a myriad of reasons kids were there.
The name of the school was Holy Family Center and it was run by a Sister from the local catholic church, or something like that. I can’t remember much about her, other than she was very nice, incredibly sweet and always spoke in a soft voice, and she always had a smile on her face. It was during this time that I first met Michelle. She was a blonde haired, brown eyed girl, kinda tom boyish and laid back and very funny. From what I can remember of my time at Holy Family, although it was a private school for elementary kids, we attended classes like Jr. high school kids would. We had a home room, main class where we would learn most of what we needed to know like reading, writing and math, then for music, social studies and the like, we would go to other classes. Michelle and I had a class or two together, and I remember catching myself staring at her more than paying attention to what I was supposed to be learning.
Truth be told, of the four or so years I spent there, the most I remember centers around her and a few of my friends. As a kid, and at times still today, I was shy, painfully so. So much so that my mom was afraid something was wrong with me and had me tested to see if there was a developmental problem. I didn’t understand why anyone couldn’t figure out that I just didn’t want to talk to anyone. But apparently not wanting to speak to anyone, and staying to yourself in class as a kid means there’s something wrong with you.
Anyway, Michelle was one of the first people I was able to open myself up to, to feel comfortable with. There was something about her that set me at ease. She was also the first girl I had a true blue crush on. I had found girls attractive before her, but it wasn’t until her that I realized it was a good thing to be attracted to the opposite sex. Michelle and I weren’t close or anything like that. She was three years older than me (and that age gap is something I strongly believe has to do with the fact that I have a thing for older women to this day) so we were pretty much in two different worlds for all intents and purposes. But she never ignored me, or acted like she wanted nothing to do with me. She always welcomed my presence and never pushed me away.
I can remember on the long bus rides home,she would let me lay in her lap and give me kisses goodbye, telling me to say hello to my mother for her, (she was the first girl to ever give me a real kiss) and how I felt elated on the way to school, as the bus would stop outside her house and she came walking out of her front door. The moment I saw her I knew no matter what else happened I would at least get to see her and that was enough for me. And how I felt a tinge of sadness and disappointment on the days she wouldn’t step out her front door because she was sick and couldn’t go to school that day.
I wish I had more vivid memories of Michelle, but time and other events in my life have swept them away from me. But the ones I do have of her I can see as clear as when they happened. I can still hear her voice, see her big brown eyes through that stringy dirty blonde hair of hers. I can remember the feeling of laying my head in her lap on those long rides back home from school. I left school abruptly, so I never got to say my goodbyes to her or any of my other friends I left there. After all this time, all these years, there really isn’t a single week that goes by that I don’t think about her. I often wonder where she is, what she’s doing, and if she’s happy. I hope she is.
The years I went to that school were some of the most fun and hardest of my life. I got made fun of from the kids in my neighborhood because I had to ride on one of those short busses that signifies that the kids on there are different from everyone else. Which is why whenever I see one, a wave of understanding comes over me, because I used to be one of those kids on that bus. And I understand some of the hardships that they face from their peers from being on it. While many of my friends from that school were fun to hang out with and some of the teachers stand out as the best I would ever have, it was Michelle that made the deepest impact on my life.
She was my first true crush, my first true kiss, and she taught me acceptance. With our age difference she could’ve easily left me alone and dealt with the other kids there who were her age, but she always had time for me, and that’s something I’ve kept with me ever since. Out of all the people I’ve crossed paths with, Michelle is one of the few i’d give almost anything to see again. I know I probably won’t and I hope and wish that somewhere out there, Michelle is living her life and is happy. I miss you, Michelle, wherever you are.
In my life, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, the people who have made the most impact on my life, who have taught me lessons in life that are the most important, and sometimes harsh, are women. Michelle was the first to do this, to open my eyes to a world I didn’t know yet, and for that I’m forever grateful.