Rites of Passage

On Saturday, my niece had her first communion.  It was her first opportunity to take the body and blood of Christ- amazing, profound, and spiritual all at once.  It’s one of our culture’s rites of passage, and she’s the first person I’ve known since birth to go through the ritual.

It was also fun to see the kids in all their best clothes- navy blazers and little ties on the boys; white dresses and veils on the girls.  Each child had their own unique style and it is very interesting to see how kids take a “dress code” and make it their own.  As I looked at the group, I noticed one little girl with snaggly teeth, glasses, and slightly unkempt hair.  I felt a surge of emotion: about 25 years ago, that kid was I.

I was horribly uncool, with big buck teeth, 1980s glasses, and hair that my mom and sister had feathered (they were trying to make me feel special- but I didn’t like it).  I was definitely not the in-crowd kid.  I was teased a lot and it was very hard.  It started when I was about eight and in tennis lessons.  I was shy because of my new glasses, plus uncoordinated and left-handed in a class of all right-handed kids.  One of the girls in my tennis class told everyone I was retarded and they believed her.  All different kinds of teasing lasted for years; I went through most of sixth grade crying myself to sleep.

I feel that those hard years have made me a nicer person.  I have compassion for lots of people, even those whom I don’t understand.  I developed lots of hobbies and my family let me blossom and encouraged me to be myself.  I also know that being a nerd led me to my career path which, as my faithful readers know, I love.

When I saw that little girl, tears came out of my eyes as I felt complete empathy for her.  I wanted to hug her and tell her she was beautiful and special in her own way, and that someday she’d be glad she was the smart, nerdy kid. 

Then the hormones totally hit.  I realized that I’m going to have one of those: my little girl will most certainly need glasses, and considering her dad’s an engineer and her mom’s a chemist, I’m guessing the Nerd potential is high too.  Suddenly, my face was covered in tears.  Being that kid- that shy, strange, nice little kid- is not easy, and there is no way to protect her from it.  I guess all I can do is love her.