One person who was a light in my life was a shy, but super sweet teenager named Lindy. She was 17 and I was 9. She and I connected at church and she looked out for me and made me feel special. Looking back we were probably pretty similar. I followed her around and enjoyed the attention she gave me. Someone was finally noticing that I was special. Lindy was Hispanic and had long brown straight hair, brown eyes, and a kind face. Her mother Julie was friends with my mother. Julie had a thick accent and had been all over the world. I loved listening to her talk. At the end of kids camp, our church had a small informal awards ceremony for the kids that attended. Lindy presented an award for me. I got the “Sweetie Pie” award. Though I was hoping for something a bit more empowering, I was still happy that I received one and that it was a nice title. I suspected that Lindy came up with it herself.
Lindy and I hung out outside of camp. One of the trips we took was to the skating rink. I love roller skating. Like going to the movies, it was a place I could go to have fun and forget about the outside world. When we went it was in the middle of the day and there was hardly anyone there. One of the staff members was a young Black guy who seemed to be in charge of the music as well. As soon as he got onto the rink, the music selection changed from the usual teeny-bop music like Avril Lavigne and Rihanna to Too Short and the Ying Yang Twins. He showed off in the middle of the rink, dancing around and Jam Skating. We were both giggling as we skated around, knowing he was trying to show off. I also commented on the bad words in the song, noting that my parents wouldn’t like it. Lindy offered for us to leave early and I said no. Later when we returned our skates the guy at the checkout counter asked if Lindy and I were good friends. I excitedly said “Yes! We’re best friends!”. He looked shocked and confused. Lindy looked flustered and explained how we weren’t actually best friends. I didn’t like that she denied it, and I tried to convince myself that maybe it wasn’t possible for a 9-year-old to be best friends with a teenager. One Sunday Lindy had planned to hang out with me and take me somewhere for an activity. When we approached my mother to confirm our plans, she explained to both of us that I was not allowed to go because my room wasn’t clean. I told mom that I could clean my room when I got home and then Lindy could pick me up after. Mom firmly said that wasn’t an option. This was a common thing with my mother, there was no negotiating, reasoning, or deviation from what she decided. I stood there devastated and embarrassed hanging my head trying not to cry. Lindy tried her best to console me. Another day, when Lindy was coming by to pick me up to hang out, my mother informed us that I was not allowed to sit in the front seat with her. Since I was a child, it was safer for me to sit in the back. I had already been riding in the front with Lindy and tried to convince my mother to change her mind. It didn’t matter. I had to sit in the back of the car, with only Lindy and I riding in it. I felt distant in the back and was very sad during our ride. I don’t think I hung out with Lindy too much after that. I don’t remember why we stopped hanging out. I really liked having a special friend. Looking back on it, I assumed that it was the micromanagement and coldness of my mother that may have scared Lindy and turned her off to trying to spend time with me.
When I was older, Julie, Lindy’s mother would employ me to water her plants and take care of the cat when she was traveling. I enjoyed the small amount of money I earned and took the time to listen to music while in the yard feeding the foliage. I’m allergic to cats, but I stayed longer than I should have because I wanted the cat to feel loved and taken care of. I would brush her and pet her and coax her from under the master bed when she sprinted in there. I was allowed to eat the food in the fridge and watch TV. So I would stay for an hour or two, carrying around tissues and blowing my nose every five minutes, sneezing, with tears running down my face. I was not aware of allergy meds at the time. There were pictures of Lindy and her younger sister on the shelves. Julie told me they were doing well and excelling in their careers. I was happy for them. I also learned that like me, they had experienced discrimination and weren’t treated very nicely by the other youth. They were never able to fit in with the other girls. I was surprised but also felt validated that they had a similar experience. This meant it wasn’t all in my head, and the white kids were treating other people differently that weren’t just like them.