Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sally


It was my first exposure to 'small town politics'.
Not a pleasant experience.
And I'll never forget it . . .
When I was in grade five, a new family moved to our town.
Parents, children.
The father had been offered the top position in one of the numerous churches in Milk River.
I first learned of the family when I met their daughter - I'm going to call her Sally - on the first day of school in September.
She was a sweet, quiet little girl. Funny.
With shoulder-length, soft brown hair.
And freckles.
We started visiting.
And discovered we had many interests (ie. boys) in common.
We started to 'hang out'.
I invited Sally to my house.
And she reciprocated.
I remember my first visit to her home.
Her parents were very glad to see me.
Almost tearful in their welcome.
It seemed a bit odd that parents would be so interested in one of their children's friends.
But I shrugged it off.
Because they were kind.
And there was a safe, peaceful feeling in their home.
Almost like being in my own.
They asked me about myself and our family.
Seemed very fascinated by every aspect of my life.
Served Sally and I a piece of cake.
I should mention, here, that this was the first time I had ever seen someone serve chocolate layer cake with a dollop of raspberry jam between the layers.
Jam wasn't my favourite thing at any time.
Though the cake was delicious.
Moving on . . .
As I was preparing to leave, Sally's mom gave me a hug and thanked me for being her daughter's friend.
I smiled.
I liked her daughter.
I liked the whole family.
After that, Sally and I were together a lot.
Hanging out at school.
Hanging out at each other's homes.
One day, we were sitting out on her front lawn.
Visiting.
A group of my friends showed up and gathered around us.
For a few minutes, I was happy to have all of my favourite people together.
Then the rest of them got up to go, asking me if I wanted to come with them.
“No. I'm staying here with Sally,” I told them.
“Why do you hang out with her?” one of my friends demanded. “The whole town hates them!”
I stared at him.
The town hated my friend?
I had never heard of such a thing.
My friends left.
But I sat there and turned that statement over in my ten-year-old mind.
The town hated my friend and her family.
Hated.
Weird.
I looked at Sally.
I looked at her kind, caring family.
Now some of what they had said and done began to make sense.
Their almost tearful excitement over Sally having a friend.
Their interest in me.
I talked to my parents about it.
They looked at each other.
“I don't know why,” my dad said. “But for some reason, the reverend has gotten off on the wrong foot with other members of the congregation.”
“But I was told the whole town hated them.”
“Well, not the whole town,” Mom said. “And we certainly don't.”
I shrugged it off.
And kept on being Sally's friend.
I helped them scrub egg off the front of their house.
Wondering, at the time, how on earth they had managed to spill eggs clear up there.
I kept Sally with me when other kids at school teased her.
I didn't understand any of it.
These were wonderfully kind, sweet people.
Caring.
Considerate.
How could everyone not see that?
One day, Sally wasn't at school.
I walked over to her house.
It was empty.
She and her family had moved.
Gone back to where they came from.
For weeks, I was sad.
She had been my friend.
I had loved playing with her.
And now she was gone.
A new family moved into Sally's house.
A new leader for her church.
Someone who didn't 'get off on the wrong foot'.
They stayed.
But I never forgot Sally.
My friend with the soft brown hair and freckles.
Or my first experience with small town prejudice.

16 comments:

  1. I know what it's like to be the center of discrimination. I was the main whipping boy because of what I was. I know what it's like being the last one picked on a team and that wasn't because I wasn't good at a particular sport, it was the church I belonged to. I finally got the respect of my peers in 9th grade when I slugged one of the perps and knocked him out cold. Strangely enough those kids who picked on me relentlessly are now my best friends.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, George, I ache for that little boy who learned about discrimination first hand. Sad, too, that it took an act of violence to correct the problem. But if I can say one thing, it is that that little boy turned into a fine, fine man.

      Delete
  2. Wow Diane, that is sad. Did you ever try to find her? People can be so cruel but it was lovely that you were her friend :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never did hear about her or her family again. All I know is that they went back to the town they had just left. But I will never, ever forget them.

      Delete
  3. That's a hard thing for a child to absorb.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And a sad thing that they have to learn about it at all!

      Delete
  4. This just turns my stomach. A problem that doesn't go away. Would it did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I with you, Joanne! Think of the peace in the world if it just 'went away'.

      Delete
  5. Oh my heart. That is SO sad. I will never understand at what point the sweetness and innocence of a child's world has to change. I wish we all could stay innocent for ever. What a beautiful and loving world it would be. I hope that someday you will be able to meet up with your friend "Sally" again someday.

    P.S. It's especially hard to take when Christians don't seem to be acting like Christians, eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think your 'P.S.' says it all, Lynn. I think THAT is what is hardest for me to absorb. That he was the leader of a Christian congregation and that it was those people who had taken a dislike to him. I don't to this day know what it was about. And I really don't care. It simply shouldn't have happened. So sad.

      Delete
  6. Oh, Diane, this is a sad story. Poor Sally! How tragic that discrimination affects even the youngest of children. This must have been a difficult lesson to process but one that I'm certain showed you the dark side of human behavior. And one that allowed you to see the strong contrast between it and kindness and compassion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bella, Sadly I think it is the children who always pay the most. Children just naturally accept everyone. It is a beautiful thing. They have to be TAUGHT discrimination. I wish THAT class would just be dropped.

      Delete
  7. I also wondered if you'd ever heard of/from her again - surely in these days of Facebook ...

    It'd be really interesting to find out what happened to her and how she lived her life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never been able to track her down. But you're right. In this age of Facebook, etc. . . . I'll let you know . . .

      Delete
  8. When I was a child, I was pretty "black and white" when it came to fairness. I could never understand why some children were treated so terribly by other children. Just because they looked a little different or had a different talent or were super smart or very artistic. I mean, God made us all different on purpose. So why not treat everyone as if they were made exactly the way God intended? And give everyone a fair shake before you decided whether they were your favorite people. Ironically, I was treated badly because I felt this way. This attitude was viewed as a kind of immaturity by several of the girls in my school. I am proud to say I never grew out of it. It sounds like you never did either. Good for us! Thank you for sharing this sweet and sad story. I am positive that you made a difference for the better for Sally and her family. And that they never forgot you either!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can see that I am very much like you. Imagine. Being called immature because of an accepting attitude! I was once briefly admitted into the 'inner circle' of popular girls. Briefly because I had a really hard time excluding anyone. And exclusion was what they were all about. I'll never understand it. And I don't want to. Thank you for your wonderful words!

      Delete

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