I was fascinated by the way she would take off and run. The wooden screen door slammed behind her as she picked up speed running away from the house. Shoes or no shoes, it didn’t seem to matter. As long as she ran. Her long legs would move her across the ground like a gazelle. One foot in front of the other with a determination in every step. The movement was effortless but the feeling behind it was that of a caged animal trying to get free. It felt like she was running away from something but nothing was chasing her. The look in her eye. You could sense she was waiting for the right moment. Freedom was within reach and nothing would stop her until she reached it. Why this child was looking for freedom, I don’t know? She looks like she has loving parents. They dote on her, yet she seems distant and quiet. I wonder what the story is? Is she shy? Is she scared?
Watching her, you would think she is like every other child until you pay attention. She is shy and prefers to be alone. It’s not that she does anything too drastic. It’s as if she is in her own world dealing with other things. I get a feeling something isn’t quite right. Why is this young girl with big blue eyes withdrawn and prefers to be alone? What are her secrets? I asked her once but she didn’t seem to know what I was asking. She appeared angry when I showed concern for her. Her brow furrowed as her nose scrunched, in a puzzled expression. Then for a second, it looked like she wanted to bite me. The wild animal in her came out! She ultimately dismissed the question and me. She put her head down and mumbled something as she walked away. After our encounter, I noticed her grades were slipping and she didn’t have much interest in anything relating to academia. The extracurricular groups like band, lost their appeal. It was as if the music had stopped inside her. Her once shiny flute, which she loved so much, now sits in its case, in the corner of her room, untouched, uncleaned. No more practicing for recitals. Other interests occupied her time now. Mainly trying to fit in and be popular.
Being popular is something most children want. They need to feel accepted by their peers. The feeling of isolation is too much for most of them to handle. This longing to be one of the group pushed the wild blue-eyed girl to not be as shy as she had been. This meant she needed to fit in. She wanted to be like the older girls that everyone wanted to date. Jaguars and BMWs would drop off the popular girls at the front of the school. They would hang out in a group while the boys would walk by and flirt with them. They had all the trendy clothes by the popular designers of the time. Clothes are a way of showing a person’s personality and expressing themselves as individuals. They can show others that you have similar interests or they can show others that you are unique and unlike anyone else. In the past, she had been made fun of for wearing the same clothes too often. She hadn’t forgotten the feeling as the girls laughed and pointed, asking her if she had any other shirts. She cleaned houses and mowed yards to help buy the clothes she did have. After being made fun of, she got a job delivering the daily newspaper. Trendy clothes are expensive. Working and going to school doesn’t leave much time for a social life.
One day at the Mall, a friend of hers took an Izod shirt. She said they had stolen from that store before. She knew it was wrong to steal but at the time, not fitting in was a fate worth stealing for. She tucked the bright red Izod shirt under the shirt she had on and ran away, fast. They both got away but that shirt was a constant reminder of what she would do to not feel isolated and alone.
The popular kids all lived in the right neighborhoods and had big houses. Her cousins lived in neighborhoods like these. One of her cousins had a quarter horse. She wanted more than anything to have a horse of her own. Her cousin wouldn’t let her near her horse. The girl never forgot how that felt. The feeling of being looked at as less than because you don’t have as much wealth. I later learned that feeling was rooted in one of her secrets.
She longed to have friends over for a sleepover but was too embarrassed. She was ashamed of her small old farmhouse. There were 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. The paint peeled from the columns that wrapped the porch. The peeling paint was so old it had lead in it. She was constantly being told not to put it in her mouth. She would roll her eyes and say, “I know, I know.” The garage looked like it was going to collapse. The house was located behind the rest of the neighborhood. It had fields all around it. This house was used as a farm house for the main house down the road from it. The main house was a grand southern mansion with big white columns. It was owned by a single man that was their landlord. I could see why she might have felt like people saw her as less than.
It was many years later that I saw her on social media. She was sharing her story of being adopted and rejected. I hadn’t thought about adoption as being traumatic. I had always thought it was something beautiful. As I read her story, I felt bad for her. I didn’t realize how painful adoption is for an adoptee. I never saw it from the perspective of the child that was given away. Most people think that babies don’t remember. She wrote about why she had felt isolated and angry when she was young. Her birth mother had never spoken to her. Every time she tried to contact her mother, she was rejected. She rejected her until she died. She had been completely ignored by the person that is supposed to love and protect her. I read how she found her sisters and how she had wanted to find siblings her whole life. I read about her heartache and pain as one of them won’t have anything to do with her now that she found them. I understood why she may have felt less then. My heart ached as I read through her story. I remembered my observations of her. The time she looked like she wanted to bite me when I asked how she was. The look in her eye as she ran, like a wild animal wanting to escape. I wondered what made that long-legged blue-eyed girl run. Now I knew. She was running away from the pain and trying to find herself.