Monday, December 1st, 2014...9:33 pm
That Kid – All Grown Up
Like many of you, I read the post that went viral a few weeks ago – Dear Parent About THAT Kid – and as a teacher I thought of my 15 years of That kids. . Tonight, I saw one of them at the grocery store…
I stood behind him at the grocery store tonight. I had a few things in my basket and he held his few items in his hands. His bright red sweatshirt hid him from me as I stood in line and watched to see how long it would be until it was finally my turn.
Something made him turn around and he recognized me. “Hey! How are you doing?”
“I’m great,” I said, “Funny to run into your here!”
It was funny because it wasn’t the first time I had seen him in the grocery store. A few years ago he had gotten his first job at another store just down the street. I had seen him there and noticed his smile, wondered what had happened to him. Had he ever graduated? How old was he now?
I wasn’t sure he would remember me – the English teacher who he used to cause so much trouble. The class where he would storm out more days than he would sit and work. The teacher he used to curse quietly under his breath, just quietly enough to catch my attention but never loud enough I could prove what he had said.
He was the kid we talked about in grade level meetings. The one we all sought to figure out and help. There was a good kid somewhere under that hardened, tough, disrespectful exterior. I just knew there was.
At his first grocery store job, he changed. I would stand in his line and he would greet me by name, ask about my day and flash his nice smile.
He would say, “Remember when I gave you hell?”
“I sure do,” I would reply.
“I’m so sorry I did that. I just didn’t know better.”
“I know. I always knew there was a good kid in there somewhere.”
He kept that grocery store job much longer than I thought he would, much longer than any of his friends who started at the same time. He rang up my groceries and watched as my daughter grew, as I grew more and more pregnant with my son. He commented on what a good mother I seemed to be. He talked about getting his GED.
And then he suddenly wasn’t there anymore.
Again I had to wonder what had happened to That kid.
Until he stood in front of me in line at the slightly nicer grocery store tonight. He told me about his new job working a delivery route for Coca-Cola products – an improvement from the checkout line. He told me he had seen my husband a daughter at the store recently – he commented on how much she had grown and how much she looks like me. He asked if I remembered another boy from his class – a boy who gave me almost just as much trouble and who had eventually come to me for help with some of his problems. I remember him well. He died in a car wreck last year, he told me.
“I can’t believe you remember him so well,” he said.
“I know. It was almost 10 years ago now that you both were giving me hell in my class.”
“Ten years. That’s crazy. You were so patient. I just didn’t know better then.”
He patted me on the shoulder as he passed me on his way out the door. He told me to take care and he was sure he’d see me around.
He was a kid who could have been so easily written off – that kid who doesn’t want to learn, who doesn’t know how to behave, who is just looking for trouble. But, like all kids, there was so much life behind his rough exterior.
It just took him a while to figure that out.