My mother fought back against the neighborhood bully and won

Tracey Folly

Twice.

Bullying isn’t new. Just ask my mother. Back in 1953, when she and her younger sister were in elementary school, there was a neighborhood boy who made their lives miserable.

They avoided him whenever they could, which was no easy feat since he lived a stone’s throw away and they attended the same public school. My mother and her sister often cut through a nearby park to avoid walking past his house, where he regularly stood on the sidewalk to taunt schoolmates, neighbors and other passersby.

They were walking through the park one fall day when they were unceremoniously pelted with rocks. Following the sound of laughter, they discovered their tormenter hiding in a tree.

The bully had filled his pockets with rocks, which he gleefully launched in their direction. He was laughing so hard that he nearly fell off his perch.

My mother looked at her younger sister. “Let’s shake him out of the tree,” she said.

They crossed the short distance to the tree he had chosen as his fortress. It was perfect, sturdy enough to climb yet flexible enough to shake. And shake it they did. Two ten-year-old girls, tired of being bullied and incensed at being hit with rocks, shook that tree until that boy fell out of it.

He hit the ground with a thud and lay there motionless, pockets still bulging with rocks.

My mother and her sister were stunned. They were each certain, without a doubt, that they had killed him.

So they did what any other 1950s-era pre-teen potential murderesses would do in a pre-iPhone, pre-YouTube, pre-cameras-on-every-corner existence. They ran the half-block home and vowed never to speak of it again.

The bully wasn’t in the schoolyard on Monday morning. They exchanged nervous glances and shrugged.

He didn’t play on the sidewalk outside his house or walk to the corner store on Monday afternoon. He definitely didn’t go to the park.

There was no Internet, no Google searches, no online obituaries. There was no one they could ask about him. They didn’t want to arouse attention.

By the time he showed up at school again on Friday, they had nearly but not quite forgotten about him. Or maybe their new bully-free existence was such a relief that they just didn’t care.

From that moment forward, he looked at them with fear in his eyes. He crossed the street to avoid them whenever he saw them on the sidewalk.

And he never bullied them again.

Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the last time she tangled with a neighborhood boy.

My mother also fought off an attacker during a hurricane.

He was twice her size, but she had double the pluck.

When my mother was a little girl, she would often run errands for her family. One of her responsibilities was going to the bakery to pick up fresh bread every day. Instead of carrying cash, she carried a small notebook. The bakery employees would write a running tally of how much my grandmother owed for the week, and then my grandmother would bring the money in to settle up.

My mother wasn’t the oldest child in her family. She had two older siblings and one younger sibling, but she was the most responsible. That’s how she found herself trudging through a storm to the bakery one night.

She was carrying that little notebook when she made her way through the darkness, and through the howling winds and rains of Hurricane Carol, to buy bread for her family. Her trip to the bakery was uneventful. She was soaking wet and shivering by the time she arrived, but that was to be expected. After all, there was a hurricane storming outside. Her trip home would be far more exciting.

My mother began the short walk back to the warmth and safety of the two-bedroom house she shared with her parents and three siblings. She had a loaf of bread tucked under one arm when a neighborhood boy suddenly jumped on her back. That’s when the power went out. All the streetlights went dark at once. Fortunately, my mother was also carrying a small flashlight.

That neighborhood boy was bigger and stronger than she was, but he clearly hadn't heard the story of how my mother and her sister had dispatched a bully the last time. If he had, he probably would have targeted someone else.

He clung to her back in the driving rain and tried to pry that little notebook from her wet fingers. If he thought it contained money, he was wrong. He was fighting for nothing more than paper and ink.

My mother didn't have a penny on her, and the notebook in her hand was worthless. That didn't stop her from fighting back as if she was protecting a bag of gold. She was prepared to fight to the death if necessary. Fortunately, it didn't go quite that far.

She dropped her fresh loaf of bread to the ground and spun in frantic circles. Her flashlight went out, but she never dropped it. In the pitch black, she continued shaking and bucking until her attacker finally fell off or gave up. Unlike me, my mother has never been a shrinking violet.

Victorious, my mother retrieved her fallen loaf of bread and returned home.

This boy was known for his antics in the neighborhood. Many of the other children were afraid of him and his erratic behavior. As it turned out, there may have been a reason why he did the things he did.

Several years later, he died from a brain tumor. It was cancer. He was only sixteen years old.

My mother laughed when she told me the story of how she fought off the older neighborhood boy who tried to steal her little notebook, but she grew serious when she talked about his death.

“I feel bad,” she said. “Nobody knew what was going on with him, and then he died from brain cancer. Everybody thought he was just a bad kid. I guess you never know what someone is going through.

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