Purple Flashback

There I was, minding my own business (almost) at DishpanDribble. Suddenly, in the middle of a post about counting your blessing in which AnnaLise wears the rust-colored sweater which she hates, I am thrown full force back into the seventies. Floating in front of my eyes is The Purple Coat.

The Purple Coat was heavy neon purple wool, with a fake fur black/white leopard print collar. Looking back, I can acknowledge that it was a classic and fashionable coat, if you were eighty. But I was in fourth grade. I didnt WANT a classic and fashionable coat. I wanted an inconspicuous coat. The Purple Coat was definitely not inconspicuous.

There was no arguing with my mother, about that or anything. I simply wore what she wanted me to wear, much like convicts wear whatever the warden provides. But, she wasnt there at recess. She couldnt follow me every minute of every day (at least during the school year). And I had accomplices.

Periodically, someone will say oh, you know, children can be so cruel. But, just as often, I find that children can be generously and spontaneously kind. There were a dozen lockers across the back of the room. There were significantly more than a dozen students, so the teacher put three children in each locker. She decided it would be best to assign lockers based on birthdays. To this day, I remember that Brad and Jamie have birthdays the same month as mine. Brad and Jamie were jocks, even in fourth grade. And in fourth grade, boys still werent even really talking to girls. They were as far removed from me as Martians. But they tried to help me in that charming little-boy-way. They kept their basketballs and footballs and cleats out of our locker because they knew my mother would kill me if anything happened to that coat. They also came up with the plan that the coat could stay in the locker all week hidden behind their coats so that the teacher wouldnt send me out at recess, thinking that my coat was at home. This minimized public humiliation. I took it home on weekends to wear to church, and it spent the rest of the week pristinely in the back of the locker.

I havent thought about The Purple Coat in years. Mostly Ive obsessed about The Orange Turtleneck. No one could save me from The Orange Turtleneck. But thats a different story

This week, I started thinking about those boys, and others. I suppose they were bad boys. Popular jocks with obviously-bad attitudes. Ive wondered why they took care of me, then and other times. Im not sure they were my friends, we didnt talk about our days and our lives. We never played together, or just hung out. But if I was hurt on the playground, they stopped what they were doing to make sure I was ok. When teachers, in some misguided attempt to ensure we were all getting exercise, made us play team sports like dodge-ball or baseball I never had to worry about being picked last or being brushed-back with a hard aggressive pitch. Eventually, our elementary school merged with other schools into a bigger middle-school. Boys from the other schools quickly learned, through no doing of mine, that even talking to me rudely was not allowed. (Ill never forget Brad stopping in the middle of gym-volleyball to explain firmly to another boy that he would never talk like that to me again.) So, we werent really friends and they definitely didnt have crushes on me. (You could just tell who they were crazy about, and it wasnt me).

My parents sent me to a private high-school in another town. It was a last minute decision, so I got whatever locker assignment was left. As it turns out, I was the only girl in the bad-boy section of lockers. It never dawned on me that could be a problem. And, for me, it wasnt. A few months later, the headmaster stopped me outside the auditorium after morning announcements. He asked if I ever had problems with the boys. Im not sure who was more surprised. I was surprised that he even asked, and he was surprised there was no problem. And in that, I found my answer.

Often, children behave the way you expect them to behave. I never EXPECTED to have a problem. I expected them to open the door, and hand me the pencil I dropped, and say excuse me. I expected them to return the umbrella if I loaned it to them. I expected them to say thank you if I volunteered a cough-drop. I expected them to smile and say good morning back when I said it. In other words, I expected good civilized behavior. I expected to find that the bad boy was thin veneer, protecting fragile egos and heroic men-in-the-making. I expected to find at their core that they were gentlemen. And so they were, at least with me. Because I reflected back to them what they most wanted to see, that they were good fellows at heart.


Yeah I had a rust clored sweater too when I was a kid, only mine was brown shoes! I remember dying of embarrassment when mom had me wear them to the neighbors to borrow butter. I was three years old!!

Tammy | 02/24/2004 - 09:11 PM

Was just bored and thought I would post

sara S | 11/06/2004 - 09:41 PM
Note in a Bottle
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