My brother and sisters and I went to the same neighborhood gradeschool. I was the youngest by several years. It was private, and we were charity kids with “tuition exemptions” thanks to my dad being a vet.
After a rampage of fistfights and arrests in seventh grade I was expelled. First in the family, big controversy. I knew they were embarrassed, but later I did the same thing at three public schools, finally dropping out in highschool, and never gave the incident much thought.
Years later us kids were sorting through Mom’s things when she died. The big discovery was this pile of cheap spiral notepads. She always had them lying around, and we figured they were full of recipies. Turns out they were journals, spanning nearly three decades off and on.
Mostly mundane stuff. But toward the bottom of the pile I run into this entry, dated 1991, the year after my expulsion:
”. . . at mass, [Father M] did the year end ceremony for the moms with a last child finishing 8th grade, and they got their red rose. I was very angry about it and crying and . . . I had been waiting for my rose after 4 kids going through. [K] and me left early . . . I’m very upset about [D], and wish I had been home more to stop it . . .”
Since leaving the neighborhood, redemption has become the central theme of my life. But I’m learning some wrongs can never be redeemed.
I never knew about the rose. I remember thinking her only life achievement was raising us kids in the city. That rose was the one mark of social recognition for it, and she never got it.
It’s one of life’s great tragedies that the brands of your own stupidity end up on the backs of the people who love you most. That’s the real cost of becoming self-aware after a life in that neighborhood.