Early Ro (eight): Year 10 – More Atti

This is the fourth post in a mini-series about the decisive year between Ro’s tenth and eleventh birthdays; it is part two of how Ro met her best friend, Atti Mehra.

“Dr. Mehra,” Ro said as she shook the new girl’s hand; it was not a question so much as a statement of recognition. “I’ll bet you’re Dr. Mehra’s daughter. My mother’s been a member of the chorus for as long as I can remember,” she added, sure the girl would know what she meant.

The long-time director of the Illowa Community Chorus had retired last year; early in the summer Kate had shared with her family that they had hired a new director: Dr. Bala Mehra.

Atti nodded and smiled, appearing glad for the instant connection. “We moved here from Iowa City just a few weeks ago.”

“There’s an open seat next to me,” Ro suggested, gesturing toward the front row. It would turn out Ro and Atti were the only one’s occupying front row seats in the classroom.

Just as the homeroom teacher began to call out, “Let’s get seated, everyone,” which was his way of trying to get his rambunctious flock of jabbering and giggling ten-year olds settled down, Ro leaned over and whispered to Atti, “Lunch later?”

Atti nodded.

They would, in fact, become constant lunch mates not only through the fifth grade, but all the way through high school. And lunching would quickly turn into regular after school visits to each of their respective homes – the Mehras, it turned out, lived barely a mile from the Delahanty’s, a short ride away on the Shadowbook Bike Path – which, in turn, quickly became regular sleepovers on weekends.

While the two girls would discover lots of differences between them…

Ro liked classical music; Atti favored “head banger” rock.

Ro tended to take herself too seriously; Atti was sassy and impertinent.

Ro pretty much ignored the fact that she was a girl; Atti liked to flaunt her gender – even as a 10-year-old she wore make-up and had small, but noticeable chest bumps.

Ro liked visiting the woods with her father; Atti thought there were “too many itchy things out there.”

But they also discovered many spheres in which they were like-minded…

While they did not at all dress alike – Ro tended toward comfortable hiking-style shorts and loose-fitting plain T-shirts; Atti favored tight-fitting, solid color outfits, most often black – they, in fact, dressed the way they did for the same basic reason, because it was what they liked as opposed to what was expected of them (i.e., fashionable).

Neither much cared for the chatty-giggly-whispery conversations that seemed so important to many of their female classmates.

And what they especially abhorred were the girl’s often sneering attitudes, especially regarding anyone who seemed “different” to them.

Because, of course, Ro and Atti knew they were among those deemed “different,” except that, much to the annoyance of their contemporaries, it was a role they were entirely comfortable with.

Finally, that shared self-acceptance and, at the same time, shared “otherness” status, in turn, grew into a closeness and mutual trust over the years that meant they could tell each other anything without fear of being judged.

(C) 2017 Dave Lager