our school fair but it was worth it.
I made for the door suddenly feeling like an outsider looking in. “Ok Ana!” I repeated looking over my shoulder and met up with a group of my classmates as I walked out of the Director’s office. It surprised me that they were still hanging around but as soon as they saw me they began swarming all over me saying, “Hey Reid you know what’s going to take place today, don’t you?” Tiredness had already set in and it seemed as though every part of my being was exhausted. I paid no attention to their good hearted taunts but rather went to the business at hand. “I need some volunteers to go with me to pick up some stuff for the fair…”
The words were not fully out of my mouth when I found myself mobbed by the crew of eager boys raising their hands and yelling as if they were still in the classroom. “Take me I’ll help!” they said in unison as I started to pick out my old cronies from amongst them.
One of them was Jose Manuel the kid who had been trying to fill me in on the big deal that was going to take place that night. I was fond of Jose Manuel, a Spanish kid who was smaller in frame than I was but who had, for a long time, tried to keep up with me after school. The boy had persistently tried to bring me up to date on what was occurring in class all the time I had been out with Teacher Ana.
At first the group of boys followed me as a respected leader and we all walked down Central Avenue in silence. Suddenly, they came alive again becoming talkative like the primary school set they had always been although they were soon to become graduates.
They chattered all the way down Central Avenue and pretty soon they were on their way back carting armfuls of donations and the remainder of what Ana and I had stopped at one store after the other to collect. The conversation usually revolved around what had been happening in the classroom while I wasn’t there but it seemed that their friend, Cobert Reid Junior, had grown up suddenly. Distracted, I was, in fact, too tired from all the day’s work to really pay attention to them or to really care.
Our group entered still another store and the people there recognized me as the kid who had been in with the teacher earlier in the day. Immediately the store people indicated to me where they had placed our donations for later pick up.
Dusk was already overtaking our progress when I noted a certain attitude of respect in the voices of the boys who were following me. I suddenly became contemplative about these boys with whom I had, in prior years, been playmate and general age group brother.
They also seemed to have recognized another side of me they had never seen before since I had entered into my “reclusive self,” a side of me they had grown accustomed to that year in the classroom. They again became silent anticipating the memorable evening they would all enjoy.
For them I had become a serious, contemplative soul and this businesslike, “man of means” attitude on my part prompted their respect and admiration. It was a far cry from the attitude I had endured in this Spanish school since the beginning of the year. On my recent treks with Ana I had seen a side of the business world in Panama I had never known before and I stiffened my posture and looked up with a new found pride in myself.
Again, I saw myself as an outsider looking in, an average kid from the low income Barrios who was moving away from the limited vision imposed by life in the barrios. My thoughts went to Ana Sanchez back in the Principal’s office, the woman who had granted me the rare gift of changing my own view of myself- endowing me with that spirit of the precious thing that I would ultimately become- someone who would truly be able to see what it was really like to be free.
This story will continue.