Take it back!

pinkbunnyMy friends and anyone who has ever spent more than a few moments in my company would be surprised to learn I was a shy, reticent child, prone to spending hours alone, penning stories in my mind that sometimes made it on paper.

My parents, who I idolize, worked long hours to ensure I had food, shelter and a promising future. Like many children of my generation, I spent my after school hours and summers attending various day camps.

The summer between first and second grades, I attended a day camp held at a local community center. My family and I had just moved to a new neighborhood so my mother could attend law school at the nearby then Memphis State University.

Knowing me as she did, and knowing I was certain to feel uncomfortable on my first day at a new day camp where I knew not another living soul, my mother packed a beloved stuffed animal – a pink bunny rabbit I revered above all of my other toys – in my Care Bears bookbag. Whenever I felt sad or lonely or afraid, she told me, I was to hug that pink bunny and know how much I was loved.

It didn’t take long for the camp bullies, a group of kids a couple of years older than me, to decide I was to be the latest target of their derision. Their ringleader, a 9-year-old blonde haired, blue eyed monster, took especial delight in tormenting me and, one day, that cruelty took the form of him snatching my precious “Pink Bunny” from me. With a gleam in his eye I’ll never forget, he jerked one of its plastic googly eyes from its socket, leaving me in hysterics and my poor rabbit half blind. To add insult to injury, he then absconded with it to parts unknown.

It was a case of my word against his, and without a “body” it was decided there was no crime. I spent the rest of the day suffering in silence, fearful of further recriminations from the bully and his band of merry pint sized followers.

I went home and told my parents what had happened. They asked me if I wanted them to go talk to the camp director. No, I insisted, there was no point. The bully in question’s father was the camp director. Even at the age of seven, I knew enough about the world to know the odds weren’t skewed in my favor.

A few days later, however, opportunity presented itself during naptime. Always a restless youth, I frequently made use of our daily sanctioned nap-time to visit the restroom. On my way back from one such trip, I passed the row of cubbies where all campers’ belongings were kept. Peeking out of the corner of the cubby belonging to my childhood tormenter was a ragged pink floppy ear, an ear belonging to that favorite toy of mine. With care, mindful not to disturb the cubbie’s other contents, I rescued my beloved bunny from captivity and returned him to his rightful home, the confines of my Care Bears bookbag.

When my mother picked me from camp that day, I was barely buckled into the passenger seat of the family’s dark green Chevette when I unzipped my bookbag and presented my mother with my day’s bounty.

“Did one of the counselors make that awful boy give Pink Bunny back to you?” she asked.

“No,” I said, matter-of-fact. “I saw him in Tommy’s cubby and I took him back.”

“What made you do that?” she asked. “You should have gone and told a counselor what you found so he’d get in trouble for stealing.”

“I don’t care if he gets in trouble. I just missed my bunny. He’s mine and I love him so I took him back.”

My logic must have made sense to my mother because that was the last we spoke of the matter.

Maybe there’s something – or someone – in your life you’ve lost and you feel hopeless about the future. Maybe there’s something holding you back, some struggle that’s keeping you from reaching your full potential, whether it’s your job or family issues or some internal torment eroding your sense of self confidence and worth.

Seven-year-old me has one piece of advice for you. Take it back. Take back control of your life and your happiness. It’s yours. It belongs to you and no one and nothing has the right to deprive you of living your live to its fullest.

This edition of Pennsylvania Bridges has many stories of people who’ve triumphed over adversity, who’ve decided to take control of their present and their future with the aim of making it great. We’ve also got a ton of fun arts and entertainment features, too.

Until next time, happy reading!

Carla E. Anderton

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