By Susan Knight
I just had the pleasure of recounting one of our many family tales to my youngest daughter, Jewely. I can’t believe she never heard it before, or has forgotten it, as she was a newborn when it happened. It involves her older sister, Zannah.
Since I am a storyteller, I’ll tell it to you.
When Zannah was four years old, I carpooled to nursery school with my neighbor up the street who had twin girls Zannah’s age. One day, as I drove to school, I heard the girls chattering in the back seat about one “Bad Girl Connie.”
“Bad Girl Connie wouldn’t let me use the crayons.”
“Bad Girl Connie wouldn’t even sing during music time yesterday.”
“Bad Girl Connie pushed me off the swing.”
It went on and on like that, telling each other how much they disliked one of their classmates.
Finally, when I could take no more, I pulled the car over to the curb and stopped. I turned around to look at them. “I don’t want to hear any more gossip about this poor girl Connie,” I said.
“No, it’s Bad Girl Connie,” Zannah corrected me.
“No, her name is Connie. Period,” I said and gave her the evil eye. “Listen to me. It sounds like Connie needs a friend. She needs three friends.” Evil eye all around.
All three of them rolled their eyes at me, as if four years old going on sixteen. They talked all at once about this girl who had a sharing problem and, well, as an adult, I could see what was happening.
I settled them down. “You three are probably the most popular girls in the whole nursery school,” I said, as an assumption, but to use to my benefit. “I bet if you were all nice to Connie, she would change and be nice to everyone, too.”
“No way! She’s mean!” they all said at once.
“If everyone sees that you are Connie’s friend, your whole class will want to be her friend, too."
More eye rolling and a lot of harrumphing.
“I am not going one foot further in this car until you promise me that you will each try to be a friend to Connie.”
They looked at each other, then at me. They folded their arms and frowned.
“Promise me," I said. "And I bet you will see a big change.”
They hemmed and hawed, but finally made the promise. “Oh, all right." They sighed and huffed collectively.
One day, about a month later, Zannah brought home a beautiful, China doll.
I gasped. “Where did that come from?”
Zannah petted the (expensive!!) doll and said, “Bad Girl Connie brought it in today for show-and-tell and she said I could borrow it and give it back to her next week.”
“Oh, no. That doll goes back tomorrow,” I said, fearful it might break.
“But mo-om, she said I could have it ‘til next week. She trusted me with it.”
“Wait a minute. What did you say? Bad Girl Connie gave it to you?”
“Yeah.” She hugged and rocked the doll.
After explaining that what Connie did was a huge step in friendship, I persuaded Zannah the doll was too dear to “play” with. I took it and put it on top of my hutch in the dining room so it wouldn’t get broken. Although I was sure Connie’s mom must have been having a conniption, I marveled that the little girl would entrust her treasure to Zannah.
As the weeks went on, I heard a different type of chatter on our morning ride to school.
“Bad Girl Connie shared the crayons yesterday.”
“Bad Girl Connie let me go down the sliding board first.”
“Bad Girl Connie loves to sing.”
The last day of school was a picnic at a nearby park where moms could go and watch their cherubs cavort about with each other. I saw Zannah and the twins playing with a diminutive, beautiful, smiling girl with long, blonde curls.
I later asked, “Zannah, who’s that little girl?” when she came to the picnic table for a drink. I thought it was someone's little sister and wondered how the girls knew her.
“Oh, her? That’s Used-to-Be Bad Girl Connie,” she said, as a matter-of-fact.
I watched her run back to her three friends as they formed their own little huddle, with hands in front of their mouths, whispering in each others’ ears, telling jokes and laughing. They ran to the swings and the tiniest one, Connie, pushed Zannah higher and higher.
Used-to-be Bad Girl Connie had a distinguishable twinkle in her eye. The other three were oblivious to it.