Grace in Four Parts
My mother enrolled me in a tap-dance class when I was five; I hated it. The little outfits hung awkwardly on me, the sequins always falling off. The shoes hurt my feet. My steps were uncoordinated and always three beats behind everyone else’s. I couldn’t twirl without stumbling. Everyone else got that lovely tap sound as they danced across the floor. “She’s very pretty with those blonde curls,” the teacher told my mother. “But she has no grace.”
Grace was my only friend in sixth grade. I was hers. We sat alone at our lunch table. We laughed together. If one of us had money we bought a candy bar to share. We exchanged books. One day I invited her home after school. My mother bought cookies. Her parents didn’t want her to go, but she came anyway. We were happy walking home as I told her about my games and chemistry set, but when we got to our apartment my mother sent Grace home. I didn’t understand. My mother said, “I’m sure she is a lovely girl, but she’s colored. She belongs with her own kind.” “She is my kind: we read the same books, laugh at the same things, like the same cookies,” I insisted, but my mother walked away.. Grace’s mother told her that she couldn’t have anything to do with me. The rest of the year I sat alone at lunch; no Grace.
My grace period for paying my student loan was up. The credit mafia made threatening calls, sent threatening letters, even knocked at my door. “But I pay everything I can at the end of the month. I’m supporting two kids,” I told the man on the phone. “Sometimes I give you ten dollars, sometimes twenty-five but I always pay” The man scoffed; “Your money problems aren’t ours.” A friend who was a lawyer worked out a credit plan with them, but I was broke halfway through every month and lost any line of credit for seven years.
“Grace period is over,” they repeated to my lawyer. “No grace left.”
“Forgiveness is an act of grace,” My husband told me when he broke my jaw after a disagreement about nothing important, something I can’t even remember. “Just let it go. I’ll never do it again,” he insisted. Then he repeated, “Forgiveness is an act of grace.”
I laughed and told him, “Everyone knows I have no grace.”
Michelle Cacho-Negrete is a retired social worker who lives in Portland Maine. She is the author of Stealing: Life in America. She has 80+ publications, 4 of which are among the most notable, 5 in anthologies, 1 won Best of The Net and another won the Hope Award.