Old Friends in New Spaces / EIC Chandlor Henderson visits Portland for the day

(L) Mrs. Henderson (R) Ms. Brown

I tend to always allow the women in my life to take the lead. That could be because I grew up in a home with a single mother. It could also be a little bit of my own fears of failure. But for whatever reason it feels normal to me.

The two ladies in this photo are my wife (left), and one of my longest friends (right). For safety and security reasons I won’t say her name, but for the sake of the story I’ll call her Ms. Brown.

I met Ms. Brown in seventh grade. Seventh grade was a difficult time for me, and I’m realizing for her too. My mother had been diagnosed with cancer the previous year and was given six months to live. She lived much longer, but that is a topic to be discussed at a different time.

I’ve come to realize during this time Ms. Brown was being teased, as I was, about what our peers thought we were. Her, being a person of Asian decent, with parents from different countries. And me, being a Black man. I didn’t realize at the time that we were fighting the same struggle, even though we were seen as very different people.

Throughout this time of cruelty and bullying, Ms. Brown and I developed a friendship. I feel anything she would ask of me I would do, but she also was not one to ask anything. She was always kind and friendly. She was smart, well dressed, and considerate. When I look at my life, past and present, she is the only person who never made a racist joke towards me. And I can honestly say that 99% of my peers growing up at some point did, but not Ms. Brown.

Which is why when she told me she was two hours away, I excitedly drove up to see her. I wanted to give her a big ol’ hug and pick her up, swing her around, but we never had that relationship. It would have been awkward. But I was so happy to see one of my oldest friends, and introduce her to my wife.

You see, after all these years (middle school started in 98) I still remember her kindness towards me. I didn’t realize it at the time but she is and was, simply put, a good kid. She was raised to respect people and be kind. She has self worth, and from my perspective everyone loved and appreciated her. I’ve never heard one bad word about her.

When I look at the above photo, it bring tears to my eyes. I don’t know if I will ever see her again (although I think that I will) but she represents a past that I have long forgotten. I don’t remember my hometown fondly. I have memories of anger and sadness. Except for a few shining lights of good memories.

My friend represents one of those memories. I’m fortunate to call her a peer.


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