Close your eyes and picture someone who had an incredible influence on your life.
I was at VBS training, and the leader was reminding us of the influence that we may have on the lives of the children who attend. I closed my eyes.
Her face immediately popped into my mind, and I knew she would be my Friendship Friday person. She had an incredible influence.
She is now Chief, but back in the day she was Aunt. She was my mom’s friend, the kindergarten teacher of several of my younger siblings, and my safe person.
We used to joke that we could have all been sisters if the timing was right. If my mom was born to a teenager, Gieta in the middle, and me at the end, later in life. It was a fun idea and made me feel included in the trio.
My mom wasn’t REALLY born to a teenager. This was our theory of how we could all be sisters. Just in case my grandma reads this and thinks I think my mom was born to a teenager.
Gieta was in my life for several years. I will guess it was from when I was 8 or 9 to about 11. Rough estimate. Kid memory years.
Kid memory years are messy and tend to jumble together. The world is all about you when you are young, and the bigger picture tends to blur around the edges.
She comes sharply into focus for me when I was in 5th grade. That year was my first at a new, larger Christian school. This school had three 5th grade classes, and as a new staff kid I found myself in the leftover class.
No one overtly SAID that it was the leftover class, but kids can tell. There was the smart class, the fun class, and our class. It was a rough year. We were a tough bunch.
I was the studious type who always read ahead in textbooks and wanted to know what was coming up next. This bit me in the tail when I flipped ahead through my book during one laborious math lesson. I was a reader who enjoyed searching for story problems. I was in for a shock.
Towards the end of the book was an entire page of story problems all centering around the theme of camping. There was a cute picture of a tent at the bottom of the page which made it even more appealing. I’m sure this is what the textbook authors were after. Engaging 5th graders in practical math problems about camping.
Everything was well and good, me with my ears on the teacher and my eyes on the book, until. . .
Horror of horrors. I began to read.
Julie and Boy’s name went camping.
Julie and this boy? Julie and THIS BOY??!!!
You see, there was this boy by that name in the 5th grade class, and he was NOT someone that any girl in the ENTIRE 5th grade would want to go camping with.
My pulse quickened, but not in a good way. In a traumatic fight or flight way.
Julie fixed pancakes for said boy. If she. . .
I’m pretty sure the words began to blur together. Fixing pancakes meant breakfast which meant real camping overnight with said boy..
No! No! No! I was doomed. This story problem page was coming on page 162. We were on page 50. WHY did I look ahead?
It loomed over me every day.
Enjoy today. Soon you will be even MORE of the laughingstock of the class. You know, when you go camping with you-know-who in math and make him pancakes.
In addition to being the new girl, I was awkwardly tall and gangly, and, just, awkward. I wasn’t one of the cute girls. It was hard enough trying to fit in BEFORE I knew that the end was near.
I spent many days and weeks miserable with this secret knowledge.
One evening, Aunt Gieta was babysitting. It must have been getting closer to page 162, because I felt sick. She sensed this, and I don’t know how, but somehow I cracked and began to spill all of my fears and griefs about math and camping.
Why don’t you talk to your teacher and tell her about it? I will go with you and help you if you need me to. Do you know that I had mono in 10th grade? Do you know how people say you get mono?
She proceeded to tell me her story of embarrassment and shame while assuring me that she would help me through mine.
And she did. And I am grateful.
I don’t remember how. I just remember that after that conversation I no longer felt anxiety about the math situation and story problems about camping. I felt heard and loved and cared for.
Thank you, Aunt Gieta! You were, and continue to be, and incredible influence to me and many.