Oh! She was special. Every day on the way home from school I would pick a flower: a stem of lilac, a pansy, a white daisy, a spike of sage, from the doctor’s garden and put it on a fence post at her house, so she would find it when she opened the gate.
She wore shorts under her dress so she could play on the monkey bars and hang upside down. She skipped as much as she walked. Her hair was in long braids and they were like ninja weapons when she shook her head. When she was in the quiet room, I simply couldn’t rest, because she illuminated the place like a bonfire.
I told Mrs Henderson I couldn’t sleep. I was too old for naps, I said, and nothing about the way Virginia lit up the room. Mrs Henderson said I need not sleep, but I could “meditate”.
When I got home that day I asked my father what “meditate” meant. He said, “Ask Janice.” It wasn’t that he didn’t know what it meant, he was just too busy to explain it. He was a busy and important man, my mother told me.
Janice didn’t know either so we looked it up in the dictionary, which said “to think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.”
So the next time I was in the quiet room with all the others, I lay on my mat and recited this, in my head, over and over:
Virginia loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to her belong
They are weak but she is strong.
Yes, Virginia loves me.
I ran into Virginia at a fashion show, years later. She was a stunner. When I managed to get close to her and introduce myself, she said, “Jamie! Of course I remember you. You used to leave dead flowers at my gate every day.” She laughed, and I blushed like I was Jamie instead of James, and she kissed me on the cheek. She still lit up the room.