It was 65 years ago, we had finished our first year in kindergarten and were starting our new school year in the 1st grade, it was 1944, and we were 6. I think about her at least once a year, usually in those momentary thresholds between being asleep and awake, those times when it’s difficult to discriminate between thought and dream.
Nancy Walker and I were not particularly good friends nor were we adversaries. We were seated together in the classroom and for two years shared one of those two child tables with a small shelf under the surface where we could store papers, artwork, pencils, crayons and other small things.
She was taller than the other girls, blond and always had what I remember as a shy quiet smile. She was smart, talented, uncomplicated and in retrospect seemed to be totally trusting. Life was easy for her. Her work was ahead of mine in every respect, spelling, writing, art, arithmetic, she was better at everything, even music; sometimes she would help me with my work.
I think this may have been the first time in my life I had experienced envy, I wished I could have her same ease of dealing with the simple complex of 1st grade encounters; for me everything was hard. And I especially envied the fact that she showed, and I’m sure felt, no sense of superiority; she was just good! I was aware I couldn’t be as good, as nice and as friendly as her and that troubled me.
We stayed seated together well into the 2nd grade. Then something happened, I think I had done something, I can’t remember what, and we were separated. Nancy never wanted to talk to me anymore. I was sad but tried to laugh about it every time I saw her. For the next years, through elementary, junior high school, and high school she remained distant. I will never remember what I did but I wish I hadn’t done it.
I dreamed about Nancy last night. It was a good dream; she was old but still had that shy quiet smile. I tried to explain to her that I was sorry for whatever I had done to cause her to distance herself. She seemed moved and touched my hand and said she couldn’t remember what I had done either but she forgave me. I think she was a wonderful person I wish we could have been good friends.
I resisted waking up for as long as I could this morning.
After searches I have sadly discovered many of my class, the 1938 vintage, have already deceased.
I hope you are well Nancy.
Okayama, Japan, April 19, 2009