My sister, Jean, appeared at my door, making no effort to come inside. She wanted my advice about whether she should relocate. A move would…
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Winding down the crowded hall to class, Keisha got stuck behind two girls her teacher had chosen to decorate the classroom for Spring.
“I put our supplies in the empty desk on the end of the third row,” Becky told Sarah. “It’s the one beside — what’s her name? — that quiet girl.”
Keisha suddenly realized ‘that quiet girl’ was supposed to be her. Quiet girl? And they didn’t seem to have a clue about her name! She wasn’t sure what, if anything, to say to them. But her feelings were speaking loud and clear. So insistent, they had personalities of their own.
There was Mad Keisha: “Just because I’m not in the teacher’s face all the time, doesn’t mean you can diss me.”
Sad Keisha kept saying, “That’s just not fair.”
“Do others call me that behind my back?” Anxious Keisha said.
By the time Keisha plopped down at her desk, the voices had agreed to partly blame the teacher, Mrs. Parker. After all, she could have chosen Keisha to help decorate.
“Like it’s so hard to cut flowers out of construction paper?” said Mad Keisha.
“Maybe she thinks bus riders can’t stay after school to help,” offered Sad Keisha.
“Does that mean,” Anxious Keisha asked, “that I won’t get any chance at extra credit?”
During lunch period, Keisha grew more irritated. The cafeteria lady, Miss Baker, put a custard cup, rather than jello, on her tray. Again.
Keisha hated slimy custard. She usually gave hers to a lunch mate; but this day, she wasn’t paying a bit of attention to the girls at her table.
“See you at church Sunday,” Keisha overheard Miss Baker tell a boy. He had red jello on his tray.
“That’s it!” said Mad Keisha. “She only cares about the children who go to her church.”
“Our family doesn’t go to church much,” Sad Keisha reminded.
“Does that make us bad people?” Anxious Keisha wondered.
After school at the park, Keisha swayed on a creaking swing — her regular spot over the past month. She also twisted and untwisted the puffy ponytail Momma left unbraided on the top of her head. All the while, she pretended not to watch a soccer team practice.
“What’s so hard about kicking a ball, anyway?” snapped Mad Keisha.
Sad Keisha just wondered why no one invited her to play.
“Is it because I don’t look like most of the girls on the team?” Anxious Keisha asked.
By the time Keisha made it home for dinner, she was fully aggravated about her life — all of it.
“Why are you so salty?” Momma asked. “You’re barely eating and your face is all puckered up.”
Keisha kept chewing a rubbery piece of hamburger. Although she was determined not to answer, the voices in her head battled to get out. She finally blurted:
“I can’t stay after school!
“We don’t go to church enough!
“And you never let me learn soccer!”
“H-o-l-d up!” Momma said in a voice that meant business. “What exactly is your problem?”
After a few deep breaths and brushed-back tears, Keisha detailed the torture of her day.
Momma x-rayed her with a deep-dive stare. “Did you let anyone know how you felt?”
“Did you speak up for yourself?”
“Ugh … not really.”
“Nobody can read your mind, Keisha. Not even me.”
With a backward wave of her hand, Momma left the kitchen. She was done dealing with such foolishness.
At that moment, Keisha wished she had one of those TV moms, the ones who hug you and make your problems disappear before the next commercial. No second — or third — thoughts about that.
Yet, over the next week, Momma’s words would find some room in her head:
“Did you let anyone know how you felt?”
“Did you speak up for yourself?”
“Nobody can read your mind.”
So, when her teacher asked for a volunteer to work on classroom decorations during the lunch hour, Keisha raised her hand. Sort of. It was nearly halfway up.
But her teacher noticed. “Keisha? Great. Thanks.”
Well, Mrs. Parker definitely knew who she was. Sad voice started to whine about missing lunch, but Keisha shut it off.
Days later, she actually spoke to the cafeteria lady. “Excuse me, umm, can I have jello?”
“Sure, sweetie,” Miss Baker said. “You always took the custard. I thought that’s what you wanted. Remind me if I forget.”
“She shouldn’t forget,” a mad voice whispered. But Keisha decided Miss Baker was nice enough.
It took a while to get up the nerve to approach the soccer team. A player with a puffy blond ponytail on top waved at Keisha as she headed for the field. That was the sign to move closer and, maybe, even speak to someone.
The coach spotted her lurking.
“Do you play?”
“Want to learn?”
Keisha ignored the anxious voice’s worry that she could embarrass herself. But she definitely learned how hard it is to kick a ball while someone else is kicking it in another direction. Also, how landing on the ground can really hurt.
During dinner, Keisha had Momma laughing out loud as she described her missed kicks and efforts to hit the ball with her head.
“Are you going to do it again?” Momma asked.
“I’m proud of you for trying.”
Achy but happy, Keisha headed for bed. While climbing under the covers, she realized she had not heard much lately from voices mad, sad, or anxious.
Instead, Confident Keisha had resurfaced. Not certain how to solve every problem, this voice always seemed sure a solution was within reach. So not only was Keisha now calmer on the outside, she felt remarkably still on the inside.
“Now this,” whispered confident voice, “is the kind of ‘quiet’ I could get used to.”
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