Seventh grade started at Del Mar junior high school, and terrified, I spent an hour doing sit-ups the night before, because I just knew I was too fat to go. The next morning, I tried hiding my disgusting body with a buttoned up yellow cardigan and sat with my hands between my knees on the bus that stopped in front of my driveway.
We had two different bus drivers. In the morning, somebody’s mom named Alice saw right through us, and didn’t take any shit. Neighborhood kids tormented Fat Pete in the afternoons by putting shaving cream on the backs of seats, almost making the guy cry.
I wanted to fit in at Del Mar Junior high, and wasted no time making friends again with Lindy Baker, my vacation bible school friend from years before. We memorized the Nicene Creed, and sang the Doxology, special prayers.
Mrs. Baker was my vacation Bible school teacher, and was becoming a minister that summer, when Lindy and I made craft projects, pressing orange sticks into small copper squares over forms of praying hands. My mom kept those copper hands on the kichen wall for decades and I still have them.
Lindy and I traded snapshots. I saved her little black and white elementary school picture. She was smiling, straight brown haired girl with bangs and cropped hair she must have cut herself. Lindy tilted her head like an innocent fawn, squinting one eye, and wore a flower print dress with a white Peter Pan collar.
We played gentle pretend games in vacation bible school, and she invited me to spend the night for my first sleepover. Scared and excited, her Belvedere Lagoon house seemed so far away. I snuggled into a sleeping bag on Lindy’s bedroom floor. “You can be my sister,” she offered. That night, I learned the names of all the Baker girls: the oldest, Georgia, then Regina, Julie, Grace, Betty, and Chris, the youngest.
After summer ended, whenever I looked at those praying hands on the wall and thought about her. We went to different elementary schools, but I remembered Lindy when I went to church and said prayers, sang the Doxology before Communion. When I learned to work with pastel chalks a few years later, pressing rich colors into cardboard reminded me of the Holy Spirit.