• author
    • Terri Connett

    • August 22, 2013 in Columnists

    It takes a village, people

    Maybe it’s because the fertility drugs left me still barren.  Or it might stem from my three siblings and I being raised by our exhausted, widowed mother.  We really could have used some encouragement growing up.

    For whatever reason, I’m in love with the concept of pitching in to mentor, encourage and help shape the lives of my niece and nephews; as well as the children of friends and neighbors.

    Nine years ago, I attended a neighborhood spring picnic and met 10-year-old Eddie.  He was the only child in attendance.  And I was one of the few single people. All the couples sat together in the big circle of chairs on neighbor Charlotte’s grassy lawn.  I knew some of my neighbors better than others and was looking for an inviting nod or some sort of signal.  Nothing.  I hate that awkward feeling, like when you attend a conference and don’t know where to sit at lunch.

    But then along came Eddie.  He was a cute little boy with dark brown hair, big eyes and bigger teeth.  I can’t remember how he started the conversation but we ended up sitting together and talking the entire evening.  The kid had an amazing vocabulary and never received anything below an ‘A’ on his report cards, ever. Both his parents were teachers, and his nearest sibling was much older, so it all made sense.  Eddie talked about the solar system and what astrological phenom was about to happen the coming weekend and about how he couldn’t wait to be old enough to drive a car.  He had a cute sense of humor and I thought he was the most interesting person there.

    As the summer progressed I noticed Eddie, who lived one street over, rode his bike every night after dinner.  I also saw him on our neighborhood beach with his mother, Sylvia.  They played in Lake Michigan for hours; laughing, swimming and splashing around.

    One evening after work I was mowing the lawn and was happy to see Eddie cycling up my driveway.  I stopped my Toro and we caught up about how his summer vacation.  He politely asked how my job was going and what was new with me.  I knew he had a good home with involved parents but I was happy to be part of Eddie’s village just the same.

    I found myself trying to get home from work and be outside when I thought Eddie would be by.  We had a few more fun chats that summer.  He always seemed to have a hard time ending our visits, I just attributed it to him being a kid, so I always wrapped it up with something like “Okay Eddie, I better go in now.  Let me know when you get a ‘B’ sometime so I can relate!”  He’d always laugh and say he’d try.

    Spring of 2005 rolled around and as soon as the tulips popped up, so did my little pal, Eddie.  I was happy he hadn’t outgrown, or forgotten, his 51-year-old mentor and fan.  As the spring went on he shared that he was almost 12 and looking forward to his birthday and to summer vacation.  Just as I was about to wrap it up, Eddie told me he was getting bullied at school.  I assured him it was probably because he was so smart and articulate and the son of teachers.  He agreed and it didn’t seem to be that big a deal.

    That summer I only saw Eddie a few times on his bike.  I was traveling a lot and also figured he might be outgrowing me – understandable with the 40-year age difference!  But one Saturday in October I was out blowing my giant oak leaves to the curb and rocking out to “Footloose” on my ear buds when I looked up and saw Eddie smiling at me while straddling his bike at the foot of my driveway.  It was great to see him.

    He quickly caught me up about summer camp, his new teacher and a cute girl he had met.  And then he just said it, “Kids think I’m gay.”

    I was totally unprepared for that.  What the hell?  Was there a chapter in Hillary’s book on this?  How would I know, I never read the goddamned book!  Who in the world did I think I was, playing Mother Superior with these fragile little lives! But there was no turning back.  Eddie’s big brown eyes were now close to the same level as mine and I couldn’t let him see the panic.

    “What kids are saying this?” I asked.  “And besides, so what if you are gay?”

    Eddie shrugged his shoulders and looked at me.  “My friends, they say I’m gay,” he said firmly.

    “What do YOU think?” I asked.

    “I don’t know,” said Eddie. “But I don’t think I am.”

    “Is there a boy you’d like to kiss?” I asked.

    Eddie giggled and said, “No!”

    “Okay,” I continued.  “Is there a girl you’d like to kiss?”

    Eddie giggled the same giggle and repeated, “No!”

    Of course, the kid was 12.  He didn’t want to kiss anybody.

    “Well if you are gay, that’s sort of like telling me you have brown hair,” I continued. “So what?”

    “My parents wouldn’t like it,” Eddie said.

    “So do you think your mother would stop setting a place for you at the table if you’re gay?  Do you think she’d stop doing your laundry or stop buying you birthday presents because you came out of her womb this way?” I asked.

    Eddie giggled again.  Then he said, “Well maybe if I could come inside, we could look up gay websites on your computer and that could maybe help.”

    Holy Mary Kay Letourneau – that was NOT going to happen.  I told him I would get tarred and feathered if I brought him into my house to look at porn.  And besides, I didn’t think it would give him any answers.

    I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Honey, if you are gay, your family and friends will love you for who you are.  I don’t know when, but you will know for sure, one way or the other.  In the meantime, just be yourself.  You’re a great kid and I feel lucky to call you my friend, gay or straight.  It just really doesn’t matter.  But for now, how about you give me the names and addresses of those little bastards who are bothering you and I will fuck them up.”

    Eddie always got a kick out of my “sailor talk” as he called it.  He smiled and hopped on his bike headed for home.

    That was the last summer Eddie rode his bike around the neighborhood.  The next, and last, time I saw Eddie he was 16 or 17 and had a role in the Our Town Theater production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”  He was great!

    Last year I found Eddie’s name in the local paper announcing his honor roll status within his high school graduating class.  I bought a card, stuck twenty bucks in it and wrote a note saying I wasn’t sure he remembered me from one street over, but I wished him well at the University of Michigan.

    A couple weeks later, I received a note from my little pal that made me tear up.  You seldom know if you make a difference in someone’s life.  But Eddie took the time to tell me I did.  And in return, Eddie made me feel like I actually had a womb.

    Eddie’s note:


    Eddie's Note CROPPEDMs. Connett:

    I actually still go by Eddie, although my parents are trying to push “Ed.”  I don’t really think it suits me.

    Thank you for your well wishes, the twenty dollars and, most importantly, for being a part of my life. Although our chats were few and far between, you helped me. I am an open homosexual now and more happy and confident with myself than ever before.  I attribute my grades, participation in theater and success in swimming in the confidence you helped build.  Keep in touch.  I would love to speak with you again to catch up.

    Best wishes, Eddie

    • What a great kid and what a lovely friend you were at the time and clearly it meant a lot to him. And I am sure for you too.

    • Would be interested in what his parents said to him. If he was right or wrong about their love for him.

        • Terri Connett

        • August 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks, Madge. I share your interest in what his parents said and did. I imagine they were supportive and loving.

    • Wow. This was so good, Terri. What an experience. I am so touched by your story. You are an amazing woman. The detail that Eddie made you feel as if you had a womb brought me to my knees– you WERE an amazing part of the village. Thanks for reminding us of why we are here.

        • Terri Connett

        • August 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm
        • Reply

        This means so much coming from you, Kathie. Thank you!

      • Amy Crooks

      • August 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm
      • Reply

      This is why I think the world of you and feel honored to call you my friend. You have such a big heart!

      P.S. I’m with Eddie! I love your sailor talk too!

        • Terri Connett

        • August 22, 2013 at 6:01 pm
        • Reply

        The feeling is mutual, Blondie!!

      • Carole Kauffman

      • August 23, 2013 at 5:05 am
      • Reply

      Hi Sis,
      An amazing and wonderful tale from a gifted writer with a great big heart. So happy you are part of my family.
      xxoo Carole

        • Terri Connett

        • August 23, 2013 at 5:49 am
        • Reply

        Hey Sis … you are the BEST. Thank you so much!! xox

      • Sara Haynes

      • August 23, 2013 at 6:43 am
      • Reply

      This is a great story, Terri. What a wonderful opportunity you had to play a such a positive roll in this terrific young man’s life. Hope all is well with you! ~ Sara (from the old NHT days)

        • Terri Connett

        • August 23, 2013 at 8:37 am
        • Reply

        OMNHT … so good to hear from you Sara! Thanks for your kind words and I hope all is well with you too!

      • Darren Mart

      • August 24, 2013 at 7:40 pm
      • Reply

      This is your best column yet in my opinion, I’m not too macho to admit it even choked me up a bit at the end there. Sounds like a great kid, starting with the fact that he took the time to write you an actual letter!

        • Terri Connett

        • August 25, 2013 at 7:55 am
        • Reply

        Interesting you’d bring up “Macho Man” in response to a Village People column. You’re good, D! And THANKS!!!

      • davidlacy

      • August 25, 2013 at 10:39 am
      • Reply

      This really is a wonderful column, Terri!

        • Terri Connett

        • August 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks so much, David!

      • Quinton Santini

      • August 27, 2013 at 1:57 pm
      • Reply

      Great Experience Terri. I loved reading this today.

      • Terri Connett

      • August 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks, Q!!

      • Joanne Kauffman

      • August 29, 2013 at 8:46 am
      • Reply

      A beautiful column, Terri. Hope you are working on the book. I have a standing order in to Amazon: “ANYthing by Terri Connett”!

        • Terri Connett

        • August 30, 2013 at 4:30 am
        • Reply

        This means so much coming from you — my writing mentor and French connection! Merci ma soeur!!

      • Barbara Liberty

      • September 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm
      • Reply

      Terri, it is really you! I thought so, but the sailor mouth cinched it! I enjoyed your column very much. I knew that writing Gantos ad copy was beneath your talents. I’m happy to have found you.

      • Terri Connett

      • September 16, 2013 at 10:36 am
      • Reply

      Hello Babs!!!! So happy you found me here. And how funny my swearing cinched it was me!
      Thank you!

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