Into My Mind

Friday, December 09, 2005

....Amelia's Story.....

In 6th grade I met Amelia. She was full of so much energy, love and joy, it was almost nauseating. I always wondered how someone so petite could have such a strong presence. Her skin was like porcelain; her eyes were sky blue while her hair was milk chocolate brown and straight as a board. By no means was she an Angelina, she was more like Reese Witherspoon: cute, bubbly but clearly intelligent. Unlike Ms. Witherspoon, she was a Jehovah's Witness.

Since we were children, most of us were curious about her religion. And without hesitation and beaming with pride, she informed us. Whenever she was required to stay home from school during "holiday" parties, she did so without ever complaining. Her peers would ask her whether or not she felt left out or "weird" when we celebrated someone's birthday and would cheerily reply with, "No, I'm used to it". Then, something changed within her throughout the years.

By high school, her once radiating light was now dimly lit. She wasn't exactly Debbie Downer; she was still polite but was hesitant when questioned about her religion and her personality seemed indifferent. I don't doubt that puberty and maturity had something to do with her changed self. I choose to believe that as she got older she realized how restrictive and isolating her religion was and secretly resented it, including her parents. If I were close to her, then I'd give you an explanation but unfortunately we weren't friends; this hasn't changed since. Somehow, she became part of the popular preppie crowd while I was neutral. Nonetheless, we were always cordial and kind towards one another. It's hard to dislike the brunette and Jehovah's Witness version of Reese Witherspoon.

During senior year, we were in yearbook together. Or as I affectionately called it, “The block where that asshole Huard wasted his time chastising me for doing not doing anything when I actually was". Although we stuck with out respective groups, we did interact with one another from time to time. See, these "Plastics" were not mean, they smelled nice, were intelligent, pretty and always nice to us Neutrals while wearing Abercrombie and carrying their Coach purses.

Towards the middle of November, two things happened: the Plastics put a paper "Holiday" tree in the middle of the room and the Neutrals (Erika, Allyson, Teagan, Debbie and I) decided to do a "Secret Santa". The last week of school before winter vacation-- each day --we would leave a gift in the classroom for our secret Santa. Since Debbie was the perpetual pothead, she basically ruined our plans by not showing up the first day. Despite her rude absence, we revealed our gifts to one another. The Plastics got wind of our idea and decided to pay a little homage by deciding to exchange gifts on the last day before the break instead of the entire week, with the exception of Amelia.

When the last day came, gifts, cards, hugs and inappropriately shaped cookies were exchanged and one person was neglected. My heart sank when I saw the somber and envious expression on Amelia's face. I didn't have to ask her to know how she felt. Guilt must have been the predominant feeling since she wasn't supposed to be at the holiday party in the first place. I assumed that she lied to her parents to attend...she may be a Christian, but she's also a teenage girl that wanted be around her friends. There was also a sense of loneliness in her baby blues although she was surrounded by friends; she was the only outsider looking in. In her head, she remembered the time when her parents explained to her why they didn't celebrate holidays, "It's not what God wants, he dislikes it because it is non-Christian." But as she witnessed this celebration, she wondered how something that is “non-Christian” can be so horrible since it obviously brought so much love and joy to her friends. As she looked at their ecstatic faces, she questioned if the path that her parents had chosen for her was the one that she was destined to take.

Other than me, one of her friends noticed her distant expression and asked if she was fine. Like the girl that she was, she forced a closed mouth smile and answered yes. The friend touched her shoulder, asked if she was sure. Amelia nodded and told her to continue unwrapping her gift. The moment her friend turned away, her smile faded and she looked away not wanting to alarm any of her other friends. From ten feet away, I silently joined in on her sadness. There were times where I chose to be the outsider looking in, but in her case it wasn't; it was decided for her before she was conceived.

I wish I could tell you what happened to her and if she's still practicing. Chances are, she probably is since most parents support their children through college. The optimistic side of me believes that she chose a liberal arts school far away from her parents reach and only pays lip service to their religion when she returns home. If she is doing this, I hope she has a handle on things and that she doesn't get caught. Because being who you are in front of your parents and the world is the greatest risk you will ever have to take.


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