My best friend in third grade, Linda Goldstein, was different from my other best friends in third grade. She wasn’t tall, blond, and thin. She wasn’t Lutheran or Methodist.
Most of all, she wasn’t athletic. But she tried -- really really hard.
Linda signed up for gymnastics when we all signed up for gymnastics. And running, and tennis. When she took up tennis because we took up tennis, she tried to break her racquet just the way I did when I lost a match. Linda could have broken lots of racquets because she lost every match, but she could never crack the frame.
When we all joined a softball league, so did Linda. It looked like her permanent position would be somewhere on the bench. But then her dad stepped in. He became our team’s coach. And suddenly Linda rose from bench warmer to pitcher.
Mr. Goldstein must have worked with her day and night, because eventually she was able to throw a slow looping ball to the batter. Of course, it fell right into the batter’s sweet spot, but by god, it made it to the plate.
I don’t recall that any of us resented her unprecedented rise in rank. I think we were happy for her. I for one wasn’t competitive when it came to team sports anyway. I didn’t even care if I won a doubles match. I reserved all my blood-thirsty ways for the individual sports.
But when it came to Linda, I do remember thinking, how sad that you can want something so badly, try so hard, practice so long, and yet never get close to your dream.
Welcome to my kitchen.
And here I planned to go into a rant about my failure as a cook. Not failures, utter failure. But I’m so enchanted by my memories of Linda, I’m going to let that go.
As little girls, my friends and I weren’t touchy feely. We didn’t hold hands. And even if we had wanted to, Linda and I couldn’t, because I was so much taller. But when Linda and I walked to her house after school, and she lived three hills up from my house, in a more expensive area; when we walked to her house, she’d stretch her hand up to clutch my shoulder, and there it would rest, the whole way.
And I remember thinking, if someone tried to bully Linda, because every school has bullies, especially in the earlier grades, they’d have to answer to me.