From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Making Friends with a Puppet

Life has taught me that respect, caring, and love must be shared, for it’s only through sharing that friendships are born.

Donna Favors

The first thing I noticed was her hair. It was black and long and shiny, like my music teacher’s piano. I thought she looked like a princess from a faraway country. She stood all alone at the edge of the school playground.

“Who is she?” I asked my teacher. I aimed a nod at the girl.

“She’s the new girl in Mrs. McNair’s class,” my teacher said. “She’s from a migrant worker family. They don’t speak English—only Spanish.”

I didn’t know anything about migrant workers, but I did know a few Spanish words. I knew that uno, dos, tres, meant one, two, three. I knew adios meant good-bye. If I could get those words right, I thought, I could talk to that girl.

I walked toward her, my mouth as dry as the playground’s sandbox. I stopped a few steps away from her. She looked up at me. I opened my mouth, but the words were all wrong. What kind of conversation is “one, two, three, good-bye”? I turned and ran. For the rest of recess, I watched her from the safety of the tetherball line.

Every day, she stood in the same spot on the edge of the playground, and every day, I tried to think of something to say or do. The easiest thing to do was to pretend I didn’t see her, just like all the other kids did. But doing this bothered me.

A couple weeks later, I moped into Mom’s bedroom one afternoon. She was making felt puppets for the church bazaar. I picked up the black yarn Mom was using for the puppets’ hair. It reminded me of the new girl’s shiny hair.

“Mom, can I make a puppet?” I said.

“Sure,” Mom said.

I used tan felt for the puppet’s skin and long, shiny black yarn for its hair. Mom helped me find two brown buttons for the eyes. That night, I went to sleep with the puppet tucked under my pillow and a plan tucked in my head.

The next day, I could hardly wait until recess. Spelling seemed to take forever. When the bell finally rang, I ran outside with the puppet. I saw the girl standing in her usual spot. I pulled the puppet out of my pocket and slipped it over my hand. I hurried across the playground and sat next to the new girl.

“Hello,” said the puppet (in my voice). “Want to play with me?”

I handed her the puppet and helped her slip it on her hand.

At first, the puppet moved without saying anything. Then, it spouted spicy words that danced into my ear. The words made no sense to me, but one word jumped out from the others. “Luisa,” the puppet said. “Luisa.” She handed the puppet back to me.

“Hello, Luisa. This is Erika,” I said, making the puppet point to me. “She wants to be your friend.”

We took turns with the puppet for the rest of recess. When I held the puppet, it spoke English, and when Luisa did, it spoke Spanish. The bell rang. Luisa tried to give me the puppet, but I pushed it toward her. “It’s for you,” I said.

Luisa’s smile warmed me inside. It was the kind of smile I knew I’d never forget.

The next day, I ran outside at recess and looked for Luisa. She wasn’t there. The next day was the same. She was gone. I found Mrs. McNair refereeing a foursquare game.

“Where’s Luisa?” I asked.

“Her family moved again,” she said.

“But she just got here,” I protested.

Mrs. McNair shrugged.

I turned and wandered toward the edge of the playground. I stood in the spot where Luisa used to stand. I was glad she had the puppet. And I was glad I had the memory of Luisa’s smile.

Lana Krumwiede

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