The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.
By: S. Hayat, Amazing Tutors Children’s Foundation
Living in Newton is always surprising, and even though I may have known it for years, it awakens from its own majestic dreams and sends forth its breath. With a rush and a zoom, it sends a flock of small birds fluttering through the air—but from where and where to now?
And so, on a beautiful summer night, as I step out my door, the sky is an evening pink brushed with hues of orange and violet. I am walking to Princess Margaret Park and I see a vast gravel field in front of me. The wind is ruffling through the evergreen trees which tower over the houses behind them. I can feel the gentle breeze playing with my hair; the air is warm and has the same feel it did when I was young.
As if by magic, sweet memories of my childhood come back to me and I let my thoughts guide me back to a time when all was innocent and my days were spent in merriment. I glance upward and take in a breath. I close my eyes for just a second, and time is reversing back like a hand on my watch spinning in the wrong direction. I am looking through the eyes of a young immigrant girl again.
I am six years old and our class is playing California kickball on the gravel field. My classmates are laughing and screaming in excitement, not wanting this moment to end. When the game is over, everyone is running to the water fountain, but poor Robert is made to do two extra laps around the gravel field.
While walking home with my little brother Wayne, a white poodle runs towards him. Quickly, he clings to my left leg. He feels rather startled and won’t let go. I see myself being a big sister again and I lift him and hold him in my arms.
“You don’t need to be scared of a little dog like that. When you see a dog wagging its tail, it means it is friendly,” I say softly. He seems to be reassured but not yet fully convinced as I look into his startled eyes.
In the years to come, I would get to know this street, Linton Way, and it would be forever etched in my heart. I see Sylvano’s rancher framed with bright yellow window shutters across from Stephen’s. Jimmy’s blue and white, double-level bungalow is just around the corner from the Chapmans’. Jimmy was always the fastest runner in my class even though he was awfully thin and had slender legs.
As I continue to walk home, for some reason, I decide to look back. I see that Robert is tagging behind us. We are being followed by the fattest boy in my class. Robert was more than overweight; he was shaped round like a ball with pudgy hands and short legs. However, what really made him stand out was his glowing white complexion, accentuated by his bright, rosy cheeks and wavy auburn hair. Feeling a little bit uncomfortable and wanting to dodge Robert, I say to Wayne, “I’ll race you home for those cookies, so let’s go!”
The next evening, we are at home with Mom in our cozy basement watching cartoons. We hear someone knocking on our wooden door. I think to myself, who can it be? My mom slowly opens the door and in pops Robert. Robert? Here? I feel flabbergasted and am rendered speechless. He is dressed in light blue jeans and a charcoal-grey cotton shirt. He invites himself into our basement and he looks at me with the widest, most interested eyes. He steps right into our living room and stands across from me.
I really do not know what to make of it, but he reaches slowly into his plastic sack with the biggest smile on his face. His pudgy hand pulls out a long white pearl necklace with a matching bracelet and he offers these luxuries to me. In another bag, I see some little colourful trinkets and toys. Talk about feeling absolutely baffled!
My mom is just as surprised as I am and her face lights up with a joyful laugh. She tells me to accept his presents, and she thanks him. He steps out and leaves as fast as he arrived with a bright smile on his face.
Robert was definitely not the cutest boy, but he sure was nice. It was not until a couple of years later that I would meet up with him again.
One Indian summer day, while playing with Lana and Howey, they decide that we will go to Robert’s house to see his pet rabbit family. We walk to Linton Way and knock on his door. He lives in a small white stucco house with a front porch and a yard surrounded by a white picket fence. There he is again, with the same rosy cheeks and lips, but I look at him differently now with a smile on my face. It is as though we share a connection of some years gone by.
I also come to know why he is the way he is. He is caught in the tragedy of his parents’ divorce and is being raised by his loving grandmother who is a very well-mannered, heavily-built woman. Her complexion is similar to Robert’s. She towers over us when she comes to greet us.
Robert leads us to the kitchen, and as I walk through, I notice there is food piled up everywhere. There are a couple of packets of T-bone steaks waiting to be cooked by the stove, assorted vegetables placed in wooden bowls on the counter with boxes of cookies, snacks and cereals scattered here and there.
You know, I had so much fun that day. They gave us cherry popsicles to quench our thirst and little bags of potato chips to munch on.
Robert leads me to his backyard and proudly shows me his pet rabbits. The backyard is fenced securely, and the rabbits hop everywhere in freedom outside their wire cages. I have never held a bunny before, so he skillfully picks a soft white one and places it gently in my hands. It is softer than soft. Robert’s face beams with pride when I glance up at him with a big smile. In that moment, it is as though a spark had jumped across our souls and I have to speak because I feel his feelings flow into my heart.
“You know, Robert,” I say quietly, “I feel like the luckiest little girl in Newton. I never had the chance to say thank you, and if I may, I would like to tell you that you really are a wonderful boy. I would like to be your friend too.”
In all the years that have passed, I have never met another authentic boy like Robert in Newton. He was a wonderful surprise in my childhood. With his pudgy hands, short legs and his outstanding character, he was uniquely himself. When I looked at him by his inner beauty, I forever shattered my own cynical myth of the “fat boy.” I also learnt that a person who has light in their soul will always have an inner beauty.
By looking beyond culture, nationality and race, there exists another human being who might just have the same feelings as you do because we share the same hopes, dreams and fears. If we learn to accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, we can accept in reality the Oneness of Man and cease to measure, hinder and harm others in terms of their “differences” in colour.