I remember a kid from my kindergarten class. He wasn’t the cleanest kid, or the most out-going. He had one of those perpetually runny noses, his shaggy blond hair was always flying every which way, and his jeans always had holes in the knees.
We sat in groups at round tables that were close to the ground, on kindergartner-sized chairs. While the rest of us jibber-jabbered on and on and on, he mostly kept to himself, quietly humming a tuneless song while we waited for the teacher to start class.
He usually preoccupied himself by working at the hole in his jeans with a pair of scissors. I used to sit next to him and watch, wondering if he was accidentally going to stab himself, and thinking about how mad his mom was going to be when she saw how big the hole had become.
His name was Frank Rippy.
Could that have been his real name? So many years later, I have to doubt myself.
I think the rips in his clothes were such a part of him that we just added “Rippy” to his name, possibly to distinguish him from another Frank in our class.
I don’t think he continued on with us after kindergarten. In fact, I don’t think he was even there for a whole year. His family must have moved—I have no idea where.
Oddly, I still think about him from time to time. What’s he doing? How did he turn out?
Looking back, I imagine details about his life outside of kindergarten. I imagine he was an only child of a working single mother. They didn’t have a lot of money, and his mom was doing everything she could to raise him without screwing up. She loved him a lot, but when he went to school and saw all the yummy treats the other kids brought for snack time or their cool toys they brought for show-and-tell, he wondered if their parents loved them more. His mom never bought fruit roll-ups or lego sets that came in a colorful box.
Frank wasn’t good at making friends; his family moved so often that it was usually pointless anyway. As soon as he started getting close to someone, his mom would find a new job in a new town that paid more or had a better boss. My kindergarten class was his second of three, and he had been to two pre-schools. By the time he made it to high school, he would have moved seventeen times—at least in eighth grade he got to stay in the same school district.
He had a tough childhood, always having to adapt. I wonder if he got used to the teasing, if it bothered him; whether he shrank inward and became sullen or if he became more outspoken and a bully.
Either way, he grew up and eventually had to make his own way in the world. Interestingly, after all of the issues he went through as a child, I imagine he somehow made something of himself.
He scraped by in high school; his grades were nothing to write home about. And after graduation, he worked odd jobs for a little while. He finally found one he could do well—lawn care and gardening—but after a few years of that, decided to try his hand at college.
He actually did well in college, because he was interested in the subjects he took, and his classmates respected him because he wasn’t fresh out of high school like them. They assumed he was smarter, more mature, and had interesting things to say. After college, he went on to get his master’s and is now excelling as a botanist at a respected institution.
I’m glad Frank made it. At least in my imagination, he overcame all kinds of odds to live a happy and fulfilling life as an adult. Sure, he still goes through rough patches, but overall, things are good for him.
I wonder, why do certain people make such an impression on us? I still think about him from time to time. I know he never thinks about me, the little girl who used to stare in horror as he cut through his jeans with scissors.
But I ask, silently, Frank Rippy, where are you now?
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