They Don’t Remember but I Do
THE LUNCH TICKET
I was in the third grade and stood in line for lunch. Our school had grades 3-8 and since I got to the cafeteria late, I stood surrounded by the tall and lanky 8th graders. My head barely came up to their armpits.
As the line snaked ahead, I stepped in a small patch of spilled tea. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my hip hurting and my hands covered in sticky tea and the dirt from the linoleum floor. My little paper lunch ticket flew out of my hand. Without it, I wouldn’t eat that day.
As I was trying to stand up, my other foot slid on the tea patch again and I crashed to the floor one more time, this time practically kissing the ground. A boom of laughter surrounded me as the big kids laughed and pointed their fingers at me, covering their mouths, their eyes pinched in a fit of amusement.
I finally stood up, my throat feeling tight, trying not to let them see I was about to cry. Through my blurry eyes I saw a hand appear in front of me. It belonged to a tall boy. I don’t remember what he looked like because my gaze was cemented to the floor in embarrassment. He was handing me my lost lunch ticket. With the corner of my eye, I glanced him smile a little and he was gone.
Who knows where he is now and what he does, but that one gesture of kindness stayed with me till today.
THE SKI LIFT
I was maybe 12 or 13 and I didn’t know how to ski. At all. All my friends did and I felt really scared about our upcoming school ski trip. I had to borrow skis and the boots because they were very expensive and my parents wouldn’t buy them for me. Back then, the skis were heavy. I was basically a stick figure and wouldn’t doubt if the equipment weighed the same as me.
The first day went by OK, with us practicing on a slope by the ski lodge. I struggled with the cumbersome contraptions and probably lost 5 pounds in sweat.
The next day, we ventured out to the “easy”, real slope. That meant we had to first go up on a ski lift. Back then, the ski lift in that area consisted of a plastic disk about a foot and a half wide, attached to a thick metal pole that was connected to the wire high above. The technique was to hold on to the pole, slide the disk between your legs and just have it gently push you from behind up the slope with your skis gliding in the snow on the ground.
I watched in panic as the line got shorter and shorter and I realized I would have to first catch the pole flying by me, pull it down, stick the disk between my legs and settle it behind my butt, all at the same time while controlling my skis and my ski poles.
The teacher helped me on my first try. He caught the pole for me, I wedged it behind my butt and off I went. Not even 20 feet up, I tumbled off the lift, the disk narrowly missing my face as it shot up. I scrambled to get out of the way of the upcoming skier.
“Don’t sit on it!” The teacher yelled, shaking his head.
The ski lift attendant was nice enough to let me get in front of the line. The whole thing repeated, except this time, I was so afraid of letting the disk even touch my butt, I held on to the metal pole with all my strength. My heart was pounding out of my chest. After about 50 feet, I couldn’t hold on anymore. I gently leaned on the disk and I was able to go another 10-20 feet before it, once again, shot out from underneath me and disappeared above.
“If you do this one more time, you’re done!” The teacher yelled, his face twisted in ager. “You’ll go back to the cottage.” He spat.
As I stumbled down to try to get on again, my face twisted in pain and worry, the ski lift attendant said to me in a low voice: “Try to separate your skis a little wider. You have them too close together. It will help you with more balance.”
I nodded my head, willing myself not to cry.
The attendant handed me the next pole and disk. I did as he said and separated my skis more. I grabbed on to the pole and let the disk push my butt. I held on to the pole as if for my life. Soon I realized that the whole ride felt different. Better. I relaxed my grip and found the perfect balance of leaning on the disk. I made it to the top.
I never fell off another ski lift again. I don’t know where the ski lift attendant is but he saved my day and the rest of the stay in the mountains.
THE ALMOST FORGOTTEN BIRTHDAY
Where I grew up, the 18th birthday was the most important one of all.
My Dad forgot completely. The day came and went as any other. We barely talked anyway.
My Mom handed me a little bit of money on the evening of my birthday, as we were passing each other in the kitchen, with the lights off.
“Happy Birthday.” She said in a hushed voice and left the room.
I stood there, in the darkness, looking out the window, through the curtains, at the street lamp and I remember thinking about how nicely the dark yellow light illuminated the trees.
The next day I was leaving with my best friend and her parents to go to their cottage outside of the city for the weekend.
I looked forward to it because she was also the only child and we grew very close, being friends since we were 6 years old. Friday night, after we arrived, we had a great dinner and then talked till it was way too late.
Saturday morning I woke up and realized my friend was already downstairs. I got dressed and started walking down the little spiral staircase that led to the main room.
As soon as I was in the view of the living room, I heard the Happy Birthday song being chanted by my best friend and her parents. My eyes grew wide as I noticed the dining table set up with a huge cake with eighteen lit candles and several wrapped presents sitting nearby.
By the time I was all the way down, they finished the song and hugged me. I blew out the candles and made a wish and then unwrapped the presents. It was the best birthday ever.
My best friend and her parents probably don’t even remember that weekend but it meant more to me than they could ever imagine.