Member Monday: Becoming A “Real” Boy by Terry O’ Connell

Welcome back to Member Monday.  Today we conclude our theme “A Lesson Learned” with a compelling piece from Writers Forum member and first time contributor, Terry O’Connell.  Welcome, Terry!

Becoming A “Real” Boy

by Terry O’ Connell

I grew up an only child, raised mostly by a single, working mom. I was a quiet, gentle boy who preferred to read and stay home rather than go out and play with other kids on the streets and in the playgrounds. I didn’t like sports, wasn’t very coordinated, and I’d much rather avoid a flying ball than try to catch one. I have horrible memories of musical chairs – the pushing, the aggression, chairs toppling, people falling down. I would usually just remain standing and be eliminated. I was not a “typical” boy, and I fell far short of the playground standards of my working-class neighborhood.

In my fourth grade year, there was a big contest at my school – with prizes! I don’t remember the details, but somehow I managed to win first place. As the grand winner, I could choose one of two prizes. One was a bright red Radio Flyer wagon, and the other was a well-made Raggedy Andy rag doll. The wagon was the clear choice, and I started to imagine having it at home to play with and haul my toys around. Then I looked at the doll and thought to myself, “Everyone wants the wagon. Nobody is going to choose the doll.” And I started to picture the doll being ignored and left behind, and something in me shifted.

When the time came for me to make my selection, I chose the doll.

For the rest of the day, the kids chided me mercilessly. They called me names. They made up little rhymes about me and my doll. Boys and girls, friends and strangers, it made no difference. I had crossed a line and they weren’t going to let it go.

Finally, school let out and I was able to go home and get away from the taunting and disapproval. On the walk home, I kept replaying the day’s events over and over again, trying to bring the whole thing into focus and make sense of how I felt and what had happened.

A block before I reached home, I threw the doll away.

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5 thoughts on “Member Monday: Becoming A “Real” Boy by Terry O’ Connell

  1. Powerful, indeed…I was raised similarly (dad worked out of town for extended periods) and while I may not have had that compassion to choose the doll, the rest rang so true.

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