What follows is true, but it is not in PeeP! Nevertheless, this definitely influenced the story during rewriting.
For twenty years, I taught elementary school in an inner city system. Being a city with a naval base and next to several other large cities, the population was transient. But one year in the 1980’s, something different happened.
There was a new boy in my class who joined us a few weeks into September after the school year had already started. He was a fine-looking boy and very well-mannered. He was also very sociable. Although new, he fit right in with the other boys and was always chosen first when we played kickball at recess. Several girls secretly had crushes on him too.
We had a Halloween party that year at the end of the week. He brought Hawaiian Punch which came in big cans back then, not plastic jugs like now. And he also brought an opener for the two big Hawaiian Punch cans. (Just so you know, Hawaiian Punch was hugely popular back then, and everyone wanted some.) We all had a great time with lots of “Happy Trick Or Treat” wishes.
When I got to school the next Monday, the secretary in the office called me aside and told me that he would not be coming back. His father, an angry man who took his anger out on his family, had found where the boy and his mother had been living, and they had to leave in the middle of the night with only what they could carry. There was no way we at the school could reach them. No way we could help them.
But you don’t tell things like that to young children. You can only say that their friend had a family emergency and had to leave. You don’t say they left for fear of being hurt.
There are so many “Why?” questions in that one boy’s story that may never be answered. It was a very rare occurrence all of those many years ago, but times have changed.
Some of his friends in class told me about how they were handling the sadness they felt. Their words are incorporated into what you will read in a turning point near the end of PeeP! The only real difference is that Gracie and Bessie will say those words.
Hopefully during the short time he spent with us, we were “the gifts wrapped in friendships” that he needed the most during an all-too-short resting period in his young life.
I still have the can opener he left.