Friday, March 9, 2012


My Cerebral Palsy never seemed to matter to my class mates. My elementary school friends were around me since the first grade. I think at first they were too young to care or question and later it just became the normal state of things for them. They have seen me crawl, lean against furniture, exercise, walk in leg braces with sticks, bike, transfer from chair to the floor and swim. In Polish school system at every level you attended every class with the same group of people until graduation. The upside was that kids would bond, get to know you and used to you better. The downside- when problems started, you'd still be stuck with the same people. When I was younger my parents made sure I made friends and have some kids over. My mom knew how to intervene and break the ice and then to steer our interactions so we'd play along nicely. But I had a vivid imagination  was fun to be around and I could turn anything into a toy or a game, be it a  tape recorder, when we would act out our own shows, my aunt's typewriter or my dad's tool case. Later on we had a computer, my father went to America to visit our family and sent packages and we bought a VCR- all those things made me and my brother even more popular around the block.

But then, when I was 12 a new kid transferred to our class. He was sarcastic and funny if not on the mean side and he soon join the little group that hung out at my house after school. Soon he showed his true colors, at first making fun of other weaker kids. Then, maybe a year later, he'd move on to me. The jokes became meaner and meaner and soon my other friends would join in making fun of me. They mocked my spastic right hand between classes, my posture gang up on me just to get me upset. It progressed to a point that the'd be throwing chalk or a sponge at me or try to put them under my sweatshirt. They would harass others as well, but I was weaker. I couldn't run away or change sits as at that point I was using a regular chair in class. The boy was perceived as very cool, that's how he found followers and it escalated from there. It really doesn't take much for things to fall out of balance and for children to be mean. As kids grow older, it's more difficult for parents to go in and fix things. To iron them out and make sure everyone is included. I guess everybody wants to be "in", so when the group decided to turn on me so did the kids in it. That was I think the first time I felt different. Different and humiliated. Not only did my Cerebral Palsy become a big deal, I couldn't defend myself. I was an easy prey in a group.  Kids can be mean if they single you out.Still, the boy would come to hang at my place every day after school. I was too cool to tell my parents then, but when I confronted him at home he made it clear he had no regrets and he'd do it again the next day although to my mom we were good friends. You don't tell on others and you want to be cool and accepted.  I guess I didn't realize how quickly things spun out of control and I thought I can deal with itBecause you're always taught to handle your problems. .  But it's tricky. Kids tend to turn on each other and it happens, but then it gets meaner and meaner, it zones in on the weakest target, it's no longer a "guy thing". Kids tend to turn on each other and it happens, but then it gets meaner and meaner, it zones in on the weakest target, it's no longer a "guy thing". Ultimately, I did tell. I told my parents and our teachers. But the one person who really had my back was my brother. My seven years older, martial arts training brother. He came to my school during recess and managed to humiliate the boy in front of our entire class. He didn't have to touch him. As he was walking towards him the kid was backing away with his head down with his face read. And all my brother had to do was to say "Why don't you throw a sponge at me" "Why don't you throw chalk at me". And there was no response. Only shame. My mom spoke out of course and my teachers gave the kids hell. Because it wasn't just one person. It was many against one. And then all of those who saw things and did nothing.

Things were never the same and although we lived in the same neighborhood I hardly if it at all spoke to any of them after graduation. I went to highschool and then the University and the only time I've heard about any of my former classmates is when my mother run into any of the other parents. What I can I say. Things happen and people grow apart. 

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