Oh, what an unoriginal post for Flashback Friday! Still, after having read CableGirl‘s post this morning, well, I just can’t compete. You have to go there to get the full effect, but suffice it to say that I am going to have a very disturbing mental image in my head all day because of it.
Of all of the years I have spent in school, I can honestly say that Second Grade was the best. It was a year full of firsts for me: my first crush on a teacher, my first black friend, my first “boyfriend,” all sorts of different things that made the year stand out in my mind. We lived on the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which meant the school year always felt a little disorganized and chaotic due to the constant stream of kids coming in and out; it was very unusual to go to school more than one year with a kid, and more often than not, you would see new faces every few months, or at least that was how it seemed at the time. This was before I got into my major control issues, of course, because I LOVED the fact that it wasn’t the same every day.
My teacher was a woman called Sherrie Clayton; she was very tall, and blond, with a bouffant hairdo and those little cat-eye glasses (OK, remember, please, this WAS the 70’s!); she was like a queen to me, all kind and soft and quiet, and I thought she had to be THE most beautiful person in the entire world. She also liked me; a lot. Which was, okay, a new experience for me. She thought I was someone special, and is quite literally responsible for instilling in me the feeling of safety and security that school has always given me. Which in turn led to a lifetime love of books and paper and pens and yes, even homework and the joy of a well-done assignment. That poor woman, I followed her around like a lovesick puppy all year. In fact, when we moved off of the Academy a year later, I still kept in touch with her. When we later moved to Idaho, we wrote letters back and forth. I think I was in 4th grade when we took a trip back to Colorado and I even went to visit her-and remember feeling betrayed that by then she had two small children;she was MINE. The last time I remember having contact with her was when I was in about 8th grade; we actually wrote letters all that time. I don’t know where she is now, but I will always think of her when I think “2nd Grade.”
Also in 2nd Grade: The first boyfriend. He was one of the kids who was there for only a few months, and my god, to this day he remains etched in my mind as the most handsome specimen I have ever seen. His name was Rick, and he had this fabulous long, curly hair with an Eric Estrada grin (OK, again, reminding you of the Era!). I remember one day we were playing one of those ridiculous games where you have a bag full of old clothes and your job was to do the relay thing where you rush to the bag, put on all the clothes in the bag, rush to the other side where you had to take OFF the clothes and your partner would put them on and run back again to the other side. I hate those kinds of games to this day-I didn’t like the pressure, and wasn’t very good at it-but this day he was my partner and hey, we kicked some second grade ass. And at the end? He winked at me, and I swooned. I think we even went so far as to hold hands at one point, but then alas, he moved again, never to be seen again.
Tasha was the first black girl I had ever seen; I think she was the only black person in the class, actually, so we all thought she was very exotic. I remember that her hair was always perfectly braided, not a single one of those fuzzy little hairs escaping, and she has the whitest teeth I had ever seen on a person. I also realized then what being “racist” really meant, and that my parents WERE. I was not allowed to play with her outside of school, and I never could really understand why; in my mind, she was just another little girl. I loved her; she was pretty and funny and so, so beautiful; I sincerely hope that there were other parents then who weren’t as awful as mine were-otherwise, I would think she led a very lonely life, and that makes me feel sad for her even now.
One of the most important things about 2nd grade, though, was that it was where I learned to love writing; we had an assignment to write a story, and I really got into it. I thought it was so cool that I could actually make things up (i.e. lie!) and get away with it! that I went off the deep end a little bit. I mean, like I wrote a new chapter to this story every week, even going so far as to send them in little installments to one of my grandmothers. I think this particular obsession is what damned me to nerd-dom the rest of my life, but it was a label I have always secretly liked. I found something powerful in the act of writing, which has been both a blessing and a burden my entire life.
Funny, I don’t really remember much about school after that, at least not until I was much older. That year, though, is etched into my mind in the smells of chalk and paste, the taste of markers that would work better if you touched them to the tip of your tongue. It was a year of hot lunch spaghetti and being a tree in the class play, of finding out that friendships come and go and it doesn’t kill you, of discovering something about yourself to believe in and allow to flourish. It was about having a grown-up see something special in you and having the ability to help you see it in yourself as well. I would like to say that I wish ALL of my school years had been like that, but really, I think I am content enough with the one year where it was a beginning of everything for me.