February 6, 2011

The most significant time period in my life is when I found myself being reliable, the fantasy of friendship coming to me without me even searching.

Barney and Friends and Arthur are trapped in my Saturday morning childhood memory. Those television characters were my only friends. I talked to them, and they laughed and cried with me; they understood. I always felt different from the other children my age. Maybe it was my home life; my father was in and out of rehab or jail, while my mother was a shift worker at Kodak. I was often left alone to fend for myself. Frankly, I soon began to question my ability to value another human beings friendship.

In second grade I was transferred over to the Rochester City School District, where I was isolated from the other children during reading time to help with my learning disadvantages. Moreover, I attended a speech class, which further separated me from my classmates. I could sometimes hear the children whisper about me as I walked out the class. “Retard, stupid” burned in my ears. I always pretended I never heard, but every time I left class I questioned why anyone would want to be friends with someone like me.

Out of the blue, the week before Thanksgiving break a little girl said hi to me. The feeling of importance and acknowledgement warmed my heart. I smiled nonstop for the rest of the day replaying the encounter. That following weekend I saw her again walking her dog, only to discover she lived two houses down from me. Her name was Alexis. Alexis was a classmate in my little brother Gary’s kindergarten class. Once the awkward hello’s paseed, we discovered we enjoyed each other’s company. For hours we could talk about television shows, board games, dolls, and our pets.

And so my friendship with Alexis grew as we journeyed through elementary school and weathered those sometimes less than peasant years through middle school. Her presence was welcomed into my family. She was so smart for her age and began to help me in my classes. By the end of fourth grade I was allowed to stop my sessions in speech class. Later in sixth grade I was placed in MAP for academic advancement. She pushed me for academic success, and for that I thank her. Her friendship allowed me to see my own potential, which lead to my being twice recognized as an Early Black Scholar and seeing ,my name routinely on the Honor Role, as well as participation in the FTC Robotics League, Math League, and the Vice President of the Yearbook Committee.

Looking back my friendship with Alexis seemed destined, two individuals whose personalities and interests seamlessly meshed at the right conjuncture. A casual hallway greeting was transformative, leading to boundless hours of shared laughter and long conversations about everything and nothing, eleven years and counting. Though she is not purple, she is my D.W. We are friends eternal.

Jhahiva Edwards

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