SCENE OF THE CRIME: Daves Avenue Elementary School, 1978
COORDINATES: West Wing, Classroom B11   
PRESIDING OFFICER: Mrs. Webb                                                                      

I’ll be honest. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of the plucky tomboy sitting next to me. She called herself Margaret, but on the playground the day before she said her name was Elizabeth. Sneaky girl, I thought. Turned out I had good reason to be suspicious.

That day, Mrs. Webb was teaching a lesson in math, or spelling or some other subject that makes 3rd graders fidget. A rule follower, I paid strict attention, focused on the assignment and ignored my new neighbor who was growing restless. First came the poke to my ribcage. I stonewalled. Next came the pinch to my forearm which I retaliated with the stink eye. An assault of tickles followed, causing Mrs. Webb to turn around at the unfortunate moment my arm was mid-air in strike-down position. BENCHED, she said. Stunned, I looked at Margaret, then back at Mrs. Webb and asked ME? YOU, she pointed. NOW, she snapped.  

ME! Now — to be clear — I was not the type of child who got benched. A rule follower, I always played it straight. Startled by this brush with the law, I quietly served my sentence brooding over revenge. I schemed and schemed, but nothing came. Not nearly as sneaky and scrappy as my opponent, I was out of my league.

At recess, the classroom door burst open with Margaret leading the charge. Rejoicing my misfortune, she laughed — and pointed — and laughed some more. Suddenly my emotional fragility gave way to the taunting and I blurted STOP IT, MARGIE! And there it was — retribution in the form of a silly moniker: M-A-R-G-I-E. Margie. A frumpy, old-fashioned nickname ill-suited for a nine year old, it was absurd with the added benefit of her hating it. We were even and the jury was in — I adored this girl.

From there, one of my most cherished early friendships blossomed. Never again did I call her Margaret. It was Margie until the day she died and, over time, I actually think she grew to like it. Our friendship was a significant part of my young life and, to this day, remains one of the bright spots of my childhood.

So, sweet Margie, in case you’re listening — thank you for being such good fun. Know that your passing has knocked the wind out of us and that we will always miss you. Know that you leave a hole in our hearts, but a smile on our faces. And, for some, know that you leave a rap sheet. A 3rd grade rap sheet.