In Love With Michael
The real estate agent had
no rentals but assured us one was coming up and this place on Jonesboro
street was what she was showing us now. It had not been cleaned and
because we needed to get into any place we accepted the offer to be paid
for cleaning. What choice did we have? The Rider moving truck full of
our possessions was now parked in the drive. Over the years I’ve had
nightmares over dragging possessions from one rent house to another.
It was the strangest
experience I’ve ever had as far as cleaning, before or since. Everywhere
was litter. Boxes of Kentucky Fried Chicken, containers from McDonalds
and other fast foods were scattered randomly over piles of newspapers,
old clothes, some books, and other sorts of household trash.
We filled black plastic
sacks with all they could hold. I often wished the bags had been counted
because it was an unbelievable number to be stacked in the alley. Upon
reaching the floor itself the shock was that these were relatively
clean. No filth had to scraped up as had been the case in the apartment
on Elliot Street in Oklahoma City. To carry those plastic bags to the
alley must have made the neighbors wonder what was happening inside.
The only actual cleaning
to be done was in the bathroom where some industrious woman had piled
layers of floor wax on the tile until it looked like old parchment. The
area was small and it was no problem to strip that wax off. If I had
known the Dallas school system was a little overwhelmed by the new
Special Education demand this cleaning would never have been done.
Not to complain, because
the short time we lived there burns bright in my mind because we were so
happy. There were children in the neighborhood and this time Mark was
the person for whom we looked to find him companionship. A beautiful old
Sycamore tree stood in the front yard, a small yard. Neighbors were
naturally physically close because the houses had a proximity to each
other. All these things are lovely memories. We were invited to craft
making parties, visited daily by one or the other for a short coffee
break in the morning, and sometimes brought bits of a dish someone had
created for their family. Maybe it would be a few popcorn balls, some
slices of home made bread, or whatever they had extra.
It was too bad we
couldn’t get help with Rhonda in the Dallas school system. They were
simply not ready to take handicapped children at the time.
Next door a little girl,
Amy, came every evening for art lessons and a safe place until her
mother returned from work. Along with her friend who came with her. They
were sweet and gentle friends for Rhonda. Amy’s art lessons I gave her
allowed the girl to be moved up to the grade where she belonged
chronologically, her mother told me just before we left.
"I’ll always remember how
Amy learned to paint the sunlight from you." Her mother was grateful.
The comment humbled me
and once again through art, my life was full and I appreciated being an
instrument in the little girls world for a feeling of her own self
Garland, Texas was our
next move and again the experiences there were special.
"How can I repay this
girl who has helped Rhonda to the bathroom for all the year."
I made inquiries of the
bright little woman who was their teacher.
The woman was standing at
Rhonda’s desk pulling the tape from off her paper. Rhonda couldn’t hold
the paper with one hand so this ingenious woman simply taped the paper
to the desk so it wouldn’t slip. Because it was hard for Rhonda’s hand
to hold a pencil she dropped it quite often. The teacher tied it to her
wrist with a string and it could be easily pulled back up onto the desk
where she could pick it up.
"Her folks and she are
proud people but I don’t think they would resent her having a coat. I
know she needs one."
So it was, we found an
attractive coat for the girl who was just beginning to enjoy new
clothes. The look on her face when she tried the new coat to wear will
forever be with me. It was a small price to pay for her having taken on
a woman’s dedication for helping someone weaker than she was to get to
the bathroom. Surely God in his infinite mercy has stayed with her
through the hard times of her life. It is my prayer that this has been
My heart was touched
after we returned to Oklahoma where that teacher from Garland, Texas
sent Rhonda’s records to her new school.
"Her mother brings her
daily to class, " her previous teacher from Texas made a note at the
bottom. This was the thing I so loved about the Texas people. They
always found something good to say in any situation. I miss that.
The most fun memory is
the one of Rhonda having to endure the African American girl in her
class who delighted in picking and tormenting her. Rhonda told me of the
girl’s behavior and I didn’t know the girl was Black.
"You will just have to
find a way to get along." This was my only advice.
Rhonda was "in love" with
Michael Jackson. He often came to Dallas we were told. Because he was so
well known it was his way to take on some character so he could do
community service. Most often he wore a gray wig, old men’s clothing and
walked with a cane so no one would recognize him. When Rhonda wanted a
notebook with his picture on the front I dutifully bought it for her.
It wasn’t long until she
told me her tormenter at school now was her best friend.
"How did that happen?" I
wanted to know.
"She saw Michael Jackson
on my notebook and said, "Do you like him?"
"I love him, I told her,"
Rhonda was grinning slyly.
"Me too,’ she said to
me!" Rhonda was outright giggling now.
"You see we both are in
love with Michael Jackson, and we’re best buddies."