Saturday, February 12, 2011

the magnitude of love

She was among the least popular girls in school. Frankly, she scared us. Homely, awkward, loud, and, scariest of all, mentally challenged. The girls in my Girl Scout troop came from upper middle-class families in a small New England town. We were all well-behaved, good students and nice, normal girls.

Barbara Winkle wanted to be a part of us. Like any seventh grader, she desperately sought acceptance in a group of girls her age. But she so bothered me, rushing up like a hurricane, too close for comfort, talking loudly with a horrible head of unkempt hair, slurred speech, and bad breath.

She first introduced herself to my mother, who led our troop. "My name's Barbara Winkle! Rhymes with twinkle! I want to be a Girl Scout!"

Mom laughed and talked with Barbara as if she were the most normal kid. Didn't she bother Mom just a little bit?

I took her to task. "She's weird, Mom. Does she have to join our troop?" I couldn't imagine weekly meetings or worse - camping trips with Barbara along. What if we had to share a tent? It also bothered me that her name was the same as mine.

"Barb, she may be different and unpopular, but that's exactly why she'll be in our troop. Those who are hardest to love are the ones who need it most."

And so we reluctantly followed my mother's lead. Barbara Winkle became one of us. A sort of annoying little sister we learned to tolerate. I know I never accepted her as my mother did. At best, I ignored her.

But I can't forget the love in my mother's eyes each time Barbara came roaring in to meetings. A smile lighting her face, Mom asked, "How are you Barbara? It's so good to see you!" And they'd chat a bit like old friends.

Real love comes not in valentines, but in the hearts of those who choose to love.

1 comment:

anne said...

Yet another wonderful insight to our awesome Mom, whom I did not know as well as you did. Keep the memories coming about her, it reaffirms what an incredible human being (I knew) she wss. Thanks, sis!