Thank You for A Heart of Armor and Tinsel

I was a gangly, awkward kid with screaming red hair. I was too tall, had skinny legs, big feet, and no command over my growing body.

I could find a way to trip over a piece of lint.

Yep, if there was a clumsy kid that was meritable of being ridiculed, shunned, or targeted by peers as the outlet for derision only known to children, ‘twas I.

Redheads have to be tough kids.

All redheaded boys should be named Sue so they can practice beating up their dads when they get older.

Redheaded girls learn to read fast and run fast— early.

They have to outwit jokes about woodpeckers, copperheads, and rusty brains or they have to fight or run fast (hiding is not an option with bright red hair).

So, I got smart and I got tough, yep. (insert Johnny Cash soundtrack)

Other children are the best teachers when it comes to developing social armor while growing into one’s feet.

My social armor was a great facade. I was aloof to peer jeers. I was self righteous in my defensively inflated intellectual capacity—did I mention kids also hate it if you act smarter than them.

I tripped and fell and gangled my way through childhood, pretending I was normal and other kids were just immature.

I learned to analyze, justify, and tolerate the ignorant behavior of others.

I thought I was doin’ pretty well with my armor development, immune to verbal cannibalism, until I had to confront a formidable act of kindness.

Some silly kid actually said “I’m sorry” .

I was completely befuddled and burst into tears.

Kindness can turn armor into tinsel. And all the bravado in the world crumbles into tiny shards of real feelings.

You know how, when you’re having a real hard time holding it all together, and your being brave and biting the bullet and pretending something doesn’t hurt?

You know how, when everything happens all at once, and you don’t know if you can cope but you do?

You know how you can keep going if you clench your little fist and wave it at God and say “You are not going to break me!” ?

Well, that’s all well and good until some unwitting kind person makes the erroneous gesture of asking “Hey, are you okay? Can I do something to help?”

The flood of not feeling on your own any more just drowns your toughness and suddenly you realize your armor was made of tinsel and you are allowed to cry.

Thank you for tears that can wash the rust off armor and reveal the tinsel underneath.

Tinsel is so much shinier than armor.

And tinsel weighs a lot less than armor on a person’s shoulders.

Also, if you’re clumsy and you fall down, tinsel won’t crush you.



~ by leakelley on April 29, 2016.

6 Responses to “Thank You for A Heart of Armor and Tinsel”

  1. As a fellow redhead, I can so-o-o relate! Plus add the fact that I’m a very tiny person and have heard every ‘Short’ joke ever said! haha! 🙂

  2. This story leaves me with a warm smile… I am grateful to know that not all the kids on the playground can be utterly cruel…
    I love this part…
    “Thank you for tears that can wash the rust off armor and reveal the tinsel underneath.

    And tinsel weighs a lot less than armor on a person’s shoulders.”
    Thank goodness for THAT!!

  3. Another fellow redhead here. My name, I thought when I was younger, added insult to injury.

    I’ve been blessed to have had many of those moments of kindness that caused me to break down. I suppose that’s one of the beauties of growing older, being handed those kind of gifts. 🙂

  4. I am not a redhead, but I loved this post.

    When my mom died, I held it together until some of the workers at Kinkos noticed that they were copying her hand made funeral program, and then could not get it perfect enough. Until then it was business, but when they looked, and then looked into my eyes? Such kindness and effort, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough because I was so afraid of completely losing it in Kinkos.

    When I was diagnosed with cancer I stayed dry eyed until my GP offered to take care of my huge male cat while I went away for surgery. It happened again when I checked out books on tape for the long drive and recovery at the local library, and the librarians questions about why I wanted their mailing address (wasn’t sure if I would be home in time to meet the due date) lead to me finally confessing that I was going to another state for cancer surgery. Suddenly it was “deadlines? what deadlines? Honey, you keep these as long as you need too, don’t worry about it, just take care of yourself and we will see you when you get back all better.”

    Kindness breaks my armor every time.

    Thank heavens.

  5. Beautiful post. I’m not a redhead but I’ve colored my hair red in the past. I’ve always thought red was so beautiful. I guess kids have to find something that is different and make fun of it.

  6. What a beautiful and courageous post. I love the idea of tears melting armor into tinsel.

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