Today is the 66% completion marker, and I’m less than five thousand words away from the 50k goal. Happiness abounds! In tonight’s entry, our family settles back into the Sunshine State and I encounter some interesting experiences at, and on the way to, school.
Our new house in Florida was kind of a drag.
It was dark and musty with low-lying ceilings and very few windows. The carpet was stained in shades of orange and yellow, the bathroom grout was black and dirty looking, and all of the ceiling fans spinned in a dangerous looking fashion. The only nice thing about the place was its proximity to the nearby elementary school; okay, and the big, climbable tree out in the front. Wherever our family moved, I always took note of the trees. But everything else about the house was lousy.
I resumed the 2nd grade at a school called Fox Hollow Elementary, falling into the academic care of a certain Mrs. Duncan, a chubby, short woman who liked wearing maroon red dress pants and loosely button oxford shirts. Her shoes were soft and walked around the room quietly; her voice was cheery and her lessons were enjoyable. I remember the 2nd grade, primarily, for three reasons.
First of all, it was in the first grade that I realized I was a math whiz. I understood math. I loved it. I would walk up to Mrs. Duncan in the afternoons, after the final bell had rung and class had been dismissed, and ask for extra math sheets to take home with me.
“And what do you want these for, Miss Amber?” she’d softly, trying to hide her smile.
“Oh, just for practice,” I’d respond simply. “It’s fun.”
Mrs. Duncan kept a colorful chart in the back of the room and put stickers of varying colors on it, all of them symbolizing different levels of accomplishment and academic excellence. She placed the stickers beside the names of children who were doing well with math, and my name usually had the most stickers beside it. While other kids seemed impressed, one kid hated me for it. He was the jealous type, and one week, when he happened (by some merciful act of fate) to score better than me on a quiz, he pointed out to everyone in the room that he had gotten the most stickers. No one really cared that much.
I enjoyed math, and it was nice to realize that I was good at something.
But then we come to reason number two in reference to why 2nd grade was so memorable for me, and the kids in class definitely cared about this one.
1998: The year of the torn dress.
I wore a yellow dress to school one morning. It was nothing fancy, really; just a simple, yellow dress. Less than an hour after entering the classroom and starting on the day’s work, a little boy pointed at me and grinned. “You have a HOLE in your dress!” he shouted across the room.
“WHAT?” I tilted my head and srunched up my face.
“There is a HOLE in your DRESS,” he repeatedly firmly, his finger still pointing to where it was.
“You’re so stupid,” I glared at him, shaking my head vigorously. “I do NOT have a HOLE in my DRESS.”
I stormed to the back of the room and found Mrs. Duncan standing by the blue curtain that separated our room from other classrooms.
“Mrs. Duncan,” I whispered quietly, holding my hands and feeling anxious, “that kid said that I have a hole in my dress. If I turn around will you tell me if I do?”
“Oh, of course, sweetie,” Mrs. Duncan nodded sympathetically.
I turned around and heard a gasp.
“Oh dear,” Mrs. Duncan said slowly, “you do have a hole in your dress, Amber.”
I was mortified.
It wasn’t really hard to figure out why; it was no mystery that in our household, Riah enjoyed chewing whatever objects or clothing she could get her mouth on, whether it was a loaf of bread, a pair of socks, a roll of paper towels or a simple, yellow dress. So Riah must have decided the night before, once she had found the dress either laying on the floor or sticking out of one of my drawers, that she just wanted to eat the butt area out of my dress. Why she didn’t just destroy the entire thing and eliminate any chance of me humiliating myself, I’ll never know, but regardless, I obviously didn’t realize that the hole was there or I wouldn’t have worn the dress. I was about eight years old around this time; I put dresses on every day and never bothered looking into the mirror to examine how they looked on me. So now, at school, I was humiliated, but I was also in control of the situation.
”Do you want to run to the nurse’s office real fast and see if they have a change of clothes for you?” She asked me quietly, bending down to speak with me at eye-level.
”No,” I shook my head quickly, “it’s fine. I’m fine. I’ll just wear this.”
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Duncan looked confused. “It has a hole in it…”
“It’s seriously fine, Mrs. Duncan,” I insisted stubbornly. “I don’t mind wearing it.”
For some reason, the idea of walking to the nurse’s station and changing clothes felt like admitting defeat to the dumb little boy who had callled me out in front of everyone. So I wore the dress. All day.
I hurried back to my seat quickly and resumed my work. I could feel the same little boy staring at me, grinning, shaking his head from left to right. I just ignored him.
At one point, Mrs. Duncan had us moving around the room to gather supplies; scissors, crayons and glue for an art project. I saw the crayons lying in a basket that was about five feet away and thought quickly. I held the chair to my butt and waddled over, retrieving the crayons in one hand and using the other to hold the chair to my butt as I walked back to my desk.
“I know why you did that,” the boy said tauntingly, and people started laughing.
“No you don’t, and I don’t care,” I said snootily. I held my head high, denied everyone’s absurdly rude accusations, and continued to hold a chair to my butt the entire afternoon.
Finally, the third reason why 2nd grade was so memorable for me is because I was driven to school one morning… in a police car.
Like I mentioned before, the elementary school was so close to our house that mom felt comfortable with me either walking or biking to it. Most kids my age had parents drive them to school, what with perverts and predators on the prowl, but my mom trusted me so much that she didn’t seem to worry about my treks to and from school at all. It seemed to work out in everyone’s favor, really; mom was able to sleep in, and I got some exercise.
So one morning, I rolled my bike out from the side of the house and onto the sidewalk and began my ten minute ride to school. I came to the end of the street, turned left, and kept biking for a minute. Then I came out to a main road, turned right, and continued forward. After a few minutes of biking down the road, getting lost in the sights and sounds around me, I realized that I didn’t know where on earth I was.
“I guess I keep going straight,” I reassured myself, and did so. Things started to feel right again. But soon, a large building came into view; it looked like a college university.
Where the heck am I? I began to panick. I felt my heart racing and my mind rolling in confusion. I stopped biking and set my feet on the ground; standing, waiting for some kind of comprehension and direction.
Isn’t this the way I always go? I probed inwardly.
Suddenly, a man’s voice caught my attention.
I turned to look behind me. A police officer was standing there, with a walkie talkie and a gun on his belt. This guy wasn’t some ill-intentioned stranger; he was the real deal.
“Yes… officer. I um…”
“Are you on your way to school?” He gestured towards my backpack.
“Yeah… I mean yes, sir. I just don’t know where it is right now. I’m sort of…”
“Lost?” He asked with a smile. I nodded.
“Let’s see here… you go to Fox Hollow, right? The elementary school nearby?” I nodded again.
“I tell you what,” and he looked over at his car, “how about we plop that bike into the back there and you can ride up front with me?”
I nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah… that would be awesome!”
So a police officer drove me to school that morning.
I was late to class and told everyone that it was because I had been driven to school inside of a cop car that morning. They seemed to be very impressed.
So hopefully those kids will remember me as the girl who rode to school in a cop car one morning, rather than the girl with an obnoxious hole in her dress.