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The Girl Who Was a Persona Non Grata, Part IV
They Called Her Rag Doll
I was totally nonplussed at what my father said. I just could not believe it! Make friends with Hope Cairn. Oh no, I was from a different background than she was! Ewwwww! My standing with Barbara was so important to me! With Barbara, I am definitely someone! Someone who is somewhat respected!
My father started to give me a philosophy lesson. He explained that outer appearances count for nothing, it is the person's inner self that counted. I just looked at my father as if he was totally insane! I nonchalantly brushed him off, waving to Barbara and her parents. Then Ms. Montpelier approached my father, asking his permission if I could join the family for summer vacation in France! I shouted yes and my father reluctantly agreed for me to go! I was in seventh heaven!
Hope, of course, was without friends. Her father and sisters joined her, walking off together. Barbara, her friends, and her parents snickered at the Cairn family, saying that they would probably stay in the city as they were TOO poor to go anywhere of significance. My father heard the conversation and ,of course, interrupted her much to my horror and chagrin. I told my father to leave Barbara alone but he continued with the tirade.
He told Barbara that she was a surly brat. As he said that, my face cringed in horror and embarrassment! He proudly stated to Barbara that Hope was a million times a better child than she could ever hope to be. I stammered, profusely apologizing to Barbara and the Montpeliers. Dr. Montpelier coldly looked at my father but accepted my apology, hugging me.
I coldly looked at my father, stating that he embarrassed me. My father just ignored me, stating that one day I would learn. Learn what? How to be a complete idiot! I just walked away from my father, not once looking at him. When I did look back at him, he was hugging Hope. She and Mr. Cairn thanked my father. My father smiled; however, I continued walking.
I decided to take the bus alone to my home. When I approached home, my mother looked surprised. She asked me where was my father. I just shook my head. My father finally arrived home. He proceeded to continue with the discussion. He informed my mother that I was becoming a snob. I answered that associating with Hope Cairn would seriously ruin my status and social standing at the school. My mother, of course, agreed with me but my father obviously did not!
My father, a typical Midwesterner of German-Irish descent, continued with his tirade that everyone was the same which my mother hotly and adamantly disputed. She stated that Hope Cairn was quite an odd child and to associate with her would ruin my socialability. My father replied that was utter nonsense; however, my mother instructed me to pay my father no mind at all- he was totally misinformed! My mother then fixed my favorite lunch which was steamed chicken with gravy, peas, and french fried potatoes. I heartedly ate my meal, anticipating my summer with the Montpeliers.
Hope, in the meanwhile, was to participate in a program sponsored by the Fresh Air Fund. She was to stay with a family in Upper Westchester for the summer. This is her first time out of the city. What a welcome change this would be for her. She was hoping that the sponsor family would welcome and like her.
Summer 1961 quickly passed and it was fall. Time for school again. Hope was ready for 4th grade. However, none of the pupils knew who their teacher was going to be! What a surprise for all! A new student was enrolled. Her name was Cassandra Wilmington. Her parents were extremely famous and rich.
Besides being extremely rich, Cassandra was prodigiously smart, even more so than Barbara. Of course, Barbara did not like this one bit! She viewed Cassandra as competition and a serious threat to her leader status. However, Cassandra elected not to mingle with the wealthier pupils, electing instead to befriend Hope. Barbara looked askance at the situation, thinking why would a wealthy girl like Cassandra who want to associate with the school outcast, Hope Cairn. That is totally beyond her at all but Cassandra was not the type of child who cared about what others thought of her! Not one iota in the least.
Cassandra smiled at Hope, introducing herself. Cassandra explained that to Hope that she was an only child and that her parents were television celebrities. She further added that she wanted Hope to be her friend as the wealthier pupils were complete inane snobs. Hope just laughed and welcomed Cassandra's friendship. Barbara and her favorites just could not fathom Cassandra at all!
One day in January 1962, we were all eating lunch in the cafeteria. Of course, the wealthier girls congregated together with the exception of Cassandra and two other girls. Cassandra and Hope were eating lunch together. Barbara saw this and deciding to walk over to their table. She then called two of her favorites, Xenobie Darby and Madolyn Hitchcock, over to join her. The three girls then encircled Cassandra and Hope, calling Hope all sorts of derogatory names and beckoning Cassandra to join their group. Cassandra replied nasty and quite offensive retorts to the three girls. Barbara then looked at Cassandra, telling her that she was DEAD! She then smiled icily to Cassandra, leading Xenobie and Madolyn away with her.
Cassandra and Hope continued to eat their lunch, being totally oblivious to the three girls' childishly cruel insults. Miss Hilliard, the teacher, decided to sit with Barbara and her group. Miss Hilliard was meaner to Hope than Mrs. Hancock could fathom. Miss Hilliard was a scion of an exceedingly wealthy Louisiana family. Her family and the Montpelier family was close friends and associates. Miss Hilliard have total disdain for the poor.
Hope's 4th grade tenure was worse than any of her tenures under Mrs. Hancock. It was Miss Hilliard's intention to totally destroy what was supposedly left of Hope's human dignity. However, Hope learned to stand up for herself under the tutelage of Mrs. Hancock and she was not about to tolerate any mistreatment from Miss Hilliard whatsoever! Hope demanded respect and she was going to get it!
Hope was between being an A- and a B+ pupil. She was diligent and industrious regarding her lessons, tests, and homework. Even though Hope consistently proved herself with Miss Hilliard, it was the latter's contention that she was a disruptive and incorrigible influence to the class. It was obviously apparent that Miss Hilliard did not like Hope one iota.
Miss Hilliard's dislike of Hope was so blatant that she instructed the other students not to associate nor socialize with her. In Miss Hilliard's words, Hope was a bad girl from a poor family who will succumb to the usual pathologies of poor girls. One day Miss Hillard snidely stated that Hope was nothing but a miscreant hoodlum who would have an early and many pregnancies just like her family. While most of the class, including Barbara, laughed uproariously, Cassandra and I came to Hope's aid. We argued with Miss Hilliard, stating that she was making quite a presumptive statement. She glared at us, harshly demanding that we both leave the class immediately. She would talk to us later...........much later!