Pre-K Pals

April 20, 2008
“Want to be friends?” she asked as we were playing dolls in the “Yellow Room,” of the community center pre-school. Who knew that such a short, yet sweet, phrase from such a little girl could make a childhood so much better? I didn’t until that day. It was September 17, 1998, and the first week of pre-school. No one really knew each other then; we were a group of four-year-olds from all different parts of town. Everyone was scattered around the large, bright yellow-colored room, stickers coating the walls. A few boys were gathered around a broken outlet in one corner of the room, plugging severed cords into it. Almost all of the girls were busy finger painting at a plastic picnic table in another corner, although it seemed as if more of the paint was going onto the table than the dingy construction paper. Across the room, my first friend was playing with plush baby dolls, wearing summer dresses and mini-skirts. She was all alone except for the dolls. I was sitting on a short art stool in the middle of the room making an early Christmas card, when I noticed the girl over there playing by herself.

I felt bad for the girl, so I, cautiously and nervously, walked over to the doll station. I picked up a toy from the table against the wall, and watched streams of sunlight pour into the room from the great glass window overhead. The girl stared at me as I began brushing its hair with a miniature plastic comb, filled with blonde, stringy doll hair. I set the doll down in bean bag chair in the corner, next to a brightly painted doll house splattered with pink, purple, and blue paints. I stared at the house for a moment. It looked homemade, unusual for a school. We had one just like it at home, which I rarely played with. My daddy made it for me when I was two, along with my own art stool to match. I used to play with it almost every day, but hadn’t seen it for almost two months. After a moment, I turned around, to see the girl behind me playing with a red-headed doll that she had found under the table. She pushed back its hair and held it out to me. I took it after a split second of shock, and then started teasing its tomato-red hair. She turned around to the table behind her, and looked out the window at a play park filled with a huge group of older kids. She turned around again, and tapped my shoulder, making me jump.

“Hi,” I said slowly, as I started turning back around to the doll house.

“Hi,” she said back. “Want to be friends?”

I must have looked very peculiar at the moment, as I raised my eyebrows and let my little mouth hang partially open. I thought about the question for a second. I didn’t have any friends yet, so I wasn’t really in the position to reject any offers. Besides, she seemed relatively normal compared to everyone else I’ve met so far. So, with little doubt in my mind, I said, “Yes.”

“I’m Katie,” she replied, completing the moment that forever changed my childhood.

Katie McAllen was my first best friend, not to mention my only friend up until third grade, three years later. After second grade, we kind of, “broke up,” and formed our own little “cliques”. But those three years were probably the best years of my life. From Katie I learned how to be happy. I always had someone there for me if I needed help with anything, from school to a playmate for the weekend. I always had someone to talk to at lunch, and to invite to birthday parties. During those three years, I was probably the happiest I have ever been, and will never forget that one girl – that one moment – that changed my childhood, if not my life, forever.

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