Debbie was a young girl, a neighbor of my grandmother, Burla.
Debbie and her father lived alone. Her mother died when she was a baby. Debbie was eleven years old, and I was nine. Debbie had one problem in life – she had a face that was deformed. It looked almost like a bent beer can. Her eyes bulged out a bit. She had an abnormally high forehead and a pointed chin. Debbie lived a life apart from other people. She went to a special school for handicapped children, even though she was not handicapped. Debbie had a misshapen face.
One day while visiting my grandmother I saw Debbie playing in her yard, our eyes met but she looked away. I walked over to her, “Hi. I’m Don,” I said. “I’m Debbie,” she shyly responded.
Out from my 9 year old brain popped, “I don’t care about your face, you wanna play?” She turned with a surprised look, “Sure.” I handed her one of my cowboy pistols and off we went.
Debbie and I were weekend buddies when I visited my grandmother. We played ball and would sneak around the neighborhood playing military spy games. Her father always told her not to leave the yard. She had to ask permission for anything. Her father structured every hour of her life. To her dad I became the bad influence in Debbie’s life. Actually I was a freeing influence for her. I helped her break the prison rules.
About a month after our first meeting my parents asked if I would like to invite Debbie for the weekend. “Oh yeah!” I answered.
Debbie’s father said “No, she’s not a well girl.”
Well, you never said no to my parents, ever. After many calls to the father, he at last said, “Yes.” Debbie was going to be allowed out to the land of the living for a weekend.
While my friends and I waited for Debbie to arrive, I told my friends more about Debbie. My stories shaped her into my exotic older friend. Finally my grandmother’s car turned onto our street. Debbie was in the back seat of the car peering out, looking a bit lost. My friends gasped as they saw her face, but her smile and charm won everyone over. We all began talking at once.
The knocking on the door started early the next morning. “You guys gonna come out and play?” my friends shouted. Finally we finished breakfast and Debbie and I went into the yard. Five of my friends were waiting under the willow tree in the front yard. “What we gonna do?” “I donno!” “Lets go to the creek!”
Everyone thought going to the creek was a great idea. We started walking towards La Balona Creek, laughing, shoving, playing. The creek was pretty full of water for June. There was only one thing to do, “Let’s go in!”
We all started taking our clothes off. “Oh no!” Debbie cried, “I can’t do that!”
“Sure you can. We don’t care. Com’on, let’s go in. Com’on!” I shouted to Debbie. My friends and I were starting a water fight when Debbie walked in the water, snow white and blushing. We all laughed. She laughed. We started mud fighting, gray clay was flying every which way. Debbie seemed like a transformed person. She had a constant smile on her face and was no longer self conscious about any deformity. Debbie became our water buddy. It was a moment of total freedom and joy. Debbie was one of us.
The afternoon rushed by, and it was getting late. My friends and I tried to pull Debbie from the water. She refused to get out. “Com’on Debbie, we gotta go home. We’ll get into trouble if we don’t.”
“I don’t want to leave, it’s wonderful!” She screamed.
“Debbie we’re gonna get into big trouble if we don’t leave.”
“OK!” She finally got out of the water and got dressed. We all ran back home leaving a trail of dripping water and a dust cloud behind us. That weekend we played more than ever before, me, my friends, and Debbie.
Saturday night my mom had a Bar-B-Que for all of us. We didn’t go to bed until very late. Debbie and I played Batman and Robin. We took turns playing the Batman role.
Sunday evening arrived, and it was time for Debbie to leave. Debbie didn’t want to leave, but my grandmother was in her car waiting. The kids from the neighborhood gathered around Debbie saying “good-byes.” She kissed a couple of boys. My mom gave her a green stone necklace and put it on her neck before she climbed into the car, Debbie was crying. I was crying too.
“I’ll see ya next weekend Deb…” I shouted.
She smiled and waved. She was wiping away tears. We all stood silently waving to her as the car pulled out the driveway and slowly moved down the street.
I spoke with Debbie a few times on the phone after her visit, but never saw her again. Debbie and her father moved to the San Fernando Valley. A friend of Debbie’s father who knew my grandmother told her how outgoing Debbie had become. She was in regular school and had many friends. She played piano and had a love of music.
A few years later my grandmother’s friend called again. Debbie had died. But the last years were her best. They started with “a day at the creek”.
Author unknown - Please comment if you know the author so credit can be given