A Christmas Memory - Buddy and Bullies


I remember when I was in 4th grade. It was in the 70s. My parents divorced when I was too young to remember. My single mother worked full-time, so my sister (3.5 years older) and I fended for ourselves after school until our Mom got home from work.

We lived in an apartment complex in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, perched atop a steep hill, and every morning all of the children in the complex joined a mass exodus to the bus stop at the bottom of it. Every afternoon, those same kids made the return ascent with loaded backpacks, ready for an after-school snack & a rerun of Happy Days. My sister and I were fortunate because ours was the first building. I always felt sorry for the kids that lived near the pool or in the back by the tennis courts. Sheesh, that made the hard trek even longer.

After snacks and a tv break, we would make our way to the playground to let off some steam. The playground was in a courtyard surrounded by apartment buildings, one being ours in the front of the complex. Kids would trickle out over the next hour, all seeking the same outlet for their pent-up energy. It was fun. It was innocent. It was the stuff of childhood.

Until one day...

New neighbors moved in next door. They were a lot like us - a single, working mom with two daughters. One daughter was roughly my big sister's age, the other was around mine. One might be tempted to think what an ideal living situation. I know we did.

My mom moved us around a lot as we were growing up. We were always the new kids at school. As a new kid, you had to learn how to make friends where other kids are already close. That made me more empathetic toward new kids. I was that kid that always wanted everyone to feel like they were included (Heck, I am that kind of adult, too!) and so when these new neighbors moved into our building, my sister and I naturally thought to befriend them.

Our new neighbors had a different way of inserting themselves into a new place and I soon discovered that I was to help my new neighbor that was my age to get to know the other kids in a wholly different way.

In a way, I would not have signed up for.

In a painful way.

After school one day shortly after they had moved in, as I headed to the playground, my new neighbor decided to make an unforgettable first impression on the other kids by beating me up.


You read that right.

I got beat up.

I had experience with being ignored or marginalized as the new kid. I had experience with starting over, with making friends almost on a yearly basis. But I had never experienced someone's anger, their intense dislike of me - before, or since, thankfully.

That day is kind of a blur to me. I remember our older sisters had some angry words about it (3 cheers for big sisters!), and then our moms did, too, when they got home from work. My overall impression from the incident was that her family blamed me for getting beat up and there was never an apology, never any resolution. I lived in fear of it happening again. I never again trickled outside without my big sister by my side.

And we moved again at the end of the school year.

This is one of the ways I felt I connected with Buddy as I read The Thanksgiving Visitor.

How about you?

Here's what a few of our members shared - 

"I connected with Buddy, for one. When I was in Jr. High, there was a larger number of Hispanic kids than white. There was a group of Hispanic girls that liked to pick on me. I also related to Miss Sook because I was very shy and did not like to be noticed. Once when visiting my relatives (in my early teens) some of my cousins wanted to put on a 'show' for the adults. I managed to somehow get out of the group and 'hide' off to the side where I could watch, but not be seen."

"I don’t really connect with a character in particular but with the feeling of the entire celebration and all that goes with it. I have very fond memories of delicious foods and aromas and the gathering of so many people that I even remember we ran out of room to sit at the big table and the card table that even the ironing board was set up!!"

"Buddy. While I wasn't bullied like that, I came from a household that had a similar 'embrace them' attitude. I admit, it frustrated me and hurt me because I was so introverted. Walking up to someone I didn't have a good relationship with and inviting them to Thanksgiving would have been practically unbearable for me, but I could sooo see that happening to me as a kid. I understand being kind to others and having that as a standard in a home, but I think you can figure out ways to do that without making people feel so deeply uncomfortable and (being totally honest here) resentful."