Don’t Call Me Red by Jackie Villarreal Najera

My brother Frankie and I had bright red hair. At school, we were known as “Red.” I have been accused of having a bad temper because of my red hair. I never thought it was true.

Although I have another brother and sister who also have red hair. My brother Joey is now nearly bald. My sister Brenda is about twenty years’ younger than me.  She still has really bright red hair. These younger siblings did not understand the fighting that Frank and I did as children. Every time we were referred as “Red” we would get into fights. We hated to be called that name. 

Frank once beat up my entire 6th grade class for calling him “Red”. I beat up a girl for calling me “Red”. She was taller and double my size in weight. I knew I’d be in trouble for beating her up, so I confessed before my mom found out. To my surprise my mother took my side and went to the girl’s home to confront the mother.

The girl I beat up had scratches on her arms and bruises on her legs. That girl’s mother showed my mom all the damage I had done. My mother did not back away. She said. “Your daughter is very tall and my daughter is small.”

Then my mom asked me why I fought. I replied, “She called me Red!”

We left their home. Mom walked me home very quietly. I felt bad that my mom did not utter a word to me. I had told her the truth. I thought I would be punished.

She told my dad about my fight and daddy said “It is not good to fight”.

I said. “She started it dad!”

“Well alright then.” Was his reply. Frank and I continued to fight whenever people called us “Red”.

Brenda and Joey do not understand why we fought so much when they called us “Red”. It was hard to explain to them because they were never called that.  

It is strange that my dad’s family called me “Red”. I really felt like beating them up. I knew I could not do that but, I was so tempted!

When was in junior high some friends were arguing whether I really had naturally red hair. I just thought it was a discussion on my hair. While taking a shower after P. E. the girls peeked over the shower stall and said “I told you she was a real red head!”

I was naked or I would have beat them to an inch of their life. After that I waited to shower when no one was around. I have never been shy about my body. I often went skinny dripping at camp. It was the idea of the rudeness of those girls.

When I grew up, I started work to at a second job in a theatre. My brother was living in my home. I came and told him that a man came into the theater and called me “Red”. Frank was about 60 then and he said, “Did you beat him up?”

My brother and I became very close because we understood each other.  He is no longer with us. Someone said at his funeral that he really had red hair. I felt like I should have beat him for my brother’s sake.

 

 

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