My Friend Jane

My middle school daughter recently shared with me how a fellow classmate is continually teased put down and mocked by others.  She’s known him for years and this is nothing new.  I myself witnessed the teasing first hand at the elementary school level.  What was scary though was when she told me how this normally quiet, yet very intelligent young man finally “blew-up” and lifted his aggressor off the floor by the shirt collar.  He’d had enough.  While keeping my word to not name names, I assure you that at least for this time, the confrontation was diffused quickly and no physical harm came to anyone.

I’m sure each one of us can recall a classmate of ours who was teased or bullied throughout the course of the school year.  As adults now and reminded often on the evening news, we realize how much harm can be done to that person’s very being and how some who can take no more react in disturbing and violent ways.

The teasing I remember most was towards a girl I went to high school with.  Slightly old-fashion in her clothing tastes, with stringy long brown hair and needing more regular showers in my estimation, Jane* was the brunt of many nasty pranks and jokes.  After all, no one in ninth grade would be caught dead coming to school in knee socks, would they?

Much to my surprise and utter consternation Jane was assigned to be my lab partner in Earth Science.  How could my teacher do this to me?  He knew I was smart and artistic.  When we would be doing charts and posters and experiments, I just knew Jane would bog me down and bring my grade down with her.  I thought that life was so unfair.

All during supper that night I was bemoaning my fate in Earth Science, telling my mother all about my horrid day and how this latest turn of events just stunk.  She looked at me and said simply, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“Mom, you’ve got to be kidding.  This girl stinks.  She has lint in her hair.  Her clothes look like they came out of a rag box.  She hardly speaks and writes messy with this gloppy, leaking pen.  I can’t do it.”

She said, “You can’t do it or you won’t do it?”  She then proceeded to ask me if I’d even given Jane a chance.  Had I asked her what she’d like to do on our first project?  Did I think that maybe if I stopped complaining long enough that she might actually have something valuable to contribute?  Had I put myself in her shoes and even thought for one second how she must be feeling right now?  Would it hurt so much to try and be friendly to Jane?

To make a long story short I put aside (with much difficulty I’ll admit) all my nasty, judgmental attitudes and began working alongside Jane instead of treating her like a pariah.  In her shy, stilted voice she’d suggest an alternate way to do the experiment and it actually worked.  One day she told me she’d spent hours in the library the night before and had found a book with the right pictures in it I could copy for our poster.  In class one day she handed me a brand-new Magic Marker she’d bought with her lunch money so I could letter our poster boldly.  We worked hard, turned in our project and waited the review.

At the end of the week, while leaving class, papers with our grades were handed out to us.  I looked over at Jane after looking at mine and she was smiling.  Something I’d never seen her do before.  Her whole face lit up and she turned the paper to show me.  It was a B+ written in bright blue ink.  She said to me, “Thanks for your help.  I’ve never gotten anything higher than a C, ever.”

That day in the lunchroom I saw Jane sitting at her usual corner table all alone with her brown paper bag in front of her.  As my friends beckoned me to join them at their fairly rowdy table, I said, “Not today, Jane and I have some more projects to get a head start on,” and headed her way.

Jane still smelled, her clothes hadn’t changed, but now I saw a keenly intelligent girl with a smile on her face that deserved to be treated for who they were inside, not for who they seemed to be on the outside.

Jane* is not her real name but the girl I told you about was very real and I think about her often, wondering if she knows just how much she impacted my life.  I pray she has found love, peace and happiness in her adult life.  She deserves it.

(Originally Published In The Hamden Chronicle – Kirsten’s Chronicles)

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on My Friend Jane

History Lesson

NOTE: This was written 15 years ago!

We took a family trip to Boston as a sort of summer kick-off, the weekend after school let out.  We needed some down time, an opportunity to relax, get away from computers, cell phones, faxes and schoolwork.  September 2 will come soon enough.

Boston was chosen for it’s close proximity to home, ease in transportation and it’s rich history.  The wide variety of food, shopping and more food was also a necessity with four growing children.  So off we went.

By way of the Old Town Trolley we arrived at the harbor and boarded a boat for a cruise to the other side.  Ambling around in Boston Harbor (if boats are allowed to amble), we learned about the landfill that is the base of the immense Logan Airport.  We saw little red striped tugboats lined up to bring huge ships into port.  The Cormorants were zipping past, just inches above the surface of the water, looking for a lunch of fish.

As we approached the end of our sail many of us headed to the bow to catch first glimpses of the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and berthed almost next to it, the USS Cassin Young, a destroyer similar to those which were built in Boston’s Charlestown Naval Yard during World War II.  One made of wood, the other metal.  Quite a “then and now” experience.  And in no way to be overlooked, looming behind the vessels upon a hill was a monolith of granite, The Bunker Hill Monument.

“Look honey, there’s the Bunker Hill monument, that’s where some important battle took place,” a woman standing next to us, said to her husband.

“Excuse me but actually the battle took place on Breed’s Hill and the monument was put on the hill that they were supposed to fight on and the fight was the first major battle of the American Revolution,” piped up our 9-year-old daughter.

The man and woman turned, looked at our daughter, smiled and thanked her for the history lesson.

And what was my response?  Of course, I was the mother beaming with pride and gave her a generous hug.  Not only was her response spontaneous but accurate as well.  I said a prayer of thanks for the teaching she has received in Hamden’s public schools and an extra thanks to her teacher Mrs. Longo who read “Patriots – A Story of Bunker Hill by Gregory T. Edgar to the class after a visit to the school by the author and his wife.

If you’d like to hone up your history facts about the American Revolution, the following website is a treasure trove of information.  In the event you don’t have time to read the book, head to Boston, or see the monument itself, you can see a series of paintings about the Battle of Bunker Hill and others about the American Revolution by John Trumbull at the Yale University Art Gallery right here in New Haven.  To check hours of operation their website is

And, the next time someone asks you, “So, are Hamden Public Schools any good?” You can respond in the positive and for further information refer them to one of its’ fourth graders.

Posted in Education, Patriotism | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on History Lesson