When I was in first grade, I fell off the monkey bars and broke my left arm.
When I was in second grade, I tripped over my dog and broke my right arm.
"Redheads are smart, but they're clumsy," the doctor said as he was preparing the plaster for my shoulder length cast. My mother, also a red head, cocked her head to one side. "Oh, pardon me," the doctor said.
In elementary school, the boys called me carrot top.
My sister (another red head) gave me her shirt that said, "Orange eyelashes are cool."
In middle school, Coach Thomas regularly called me a red-headed pecker wood. And Mr. Mitchell chanted daily, "I'd rather be dead than red on the head."
"Did you know," I asked my mother one day as a teenager, "that less than two percent of the world's population has red hair? I read it in a trivia book!"
"Well, I have most of them, then," she laughed. Most of her eight kids were redheads. And just like my mother, most of my nine kids are redheads. A mixed blessing.
"A boy at school called me a ginger today," my Mary said recently. I thought I had heard every nickname for a redhead, but that one was new to me. "Get used to it," I said. "It is part of the package."
"I can never be truly happy," said Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. "No one can who has red hair."
Well, I wouldn't go that far. Being a red head has been fun--until a few weeks ago.
"I wouldn't call you a true red head," my long time friend said to me on the phone. "It is more strawberry blond now."
I have nothing against strawberry blond hair. It is just that my whole life I paid my dues for being a redhead. The freckles. The skin that won't tan. The orange eyelashes. The constant teasing. And now I'm a strawberry blond?
If you see me on the street, or if you have red headed friends whose hair might be fading with age, don't mention it. Just allow us to keep referring to ourselves as redheads.
After all, we've earned it.