Biographical Non-Fiction posted June 12, 2024 Chapters:  ...22 23 -24- 25... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
The long awaited first day of school arrives.

A chapter in the book At Home in Mississippi

That Memorable First Day

by BethShelby

The first day of school finally arrived. I could not have been more excited. To my eyes, the building, in which I would be having classes for the next 12 years, was enormous. There were three sections to the long red brick building. The first six grades were in the right section where my classes would be. In the center section was the office, the auditorium, the gymnasium, and the cafeteria. High school, with its four grades, were on the left side. Seventh and eighth grades were sandwiched somewhere among all those rooms, but by the time I would be that far along, there would be another newer building just for the sixth and seventh grades.

That first morning as Mom led me into the classroom, my eyes were wide open taking in all the chaos inside with amazement. Some of the kids were clinging to their mom with tears streaming down their faces. My teacher was a tall woman with light brown hair piled into a bun on the back of her head. She came to us as we walked in and introduced herself as Miss Chatham. She led me over to a desk made for two and introduced me to another little girl. She told me Carolyn would be my seatmate. Carolyn stared at me with curiosity and then, began pelting me with questions. 

Carolyn didn’t know what it was like to be an only child or to be around girls. She had two older brothers and three younger ones. Her mother worked long hours in a clothing factory. Her father, once a professor who had married his student, was much older and retired. He stayed home with the kids. Carolyn was tiny, but she was as tough as a sumo wrestler, having endured life in a household full of rambunctious boys. She had also never been expected to keep quiet. She was destined to spend most of her first school year in the coat closet as punishment for talking.
The classroom smelled of paste, chalk and mimeograph paper. It was decorated with delightful pictures of children and animals above the blackboard. There were many tiny chairs and child-size desks for two and a bookcase filled with storybooks.

I was disappointed the school dismissed early that first day. We were given a list of supplies to buy. The only good thing about leaving all this wonder was Mom and I would get to go shopping for crayons, tablets, paste, and fat pencils. We were also to bring a woven rug for naps. I wasn’t used to having to take a nap during the day and that was the one thing I wasn’t happy about.
By the time the second day arrived, I’d already fallen in love with my teacher and decided I wanted to grow up to be just like her. There was something about the way her eyebrows rose and fell as she talked which fascinated me. For some reason, I was convinced that I was destined to be her favorite. I would be the first in class to learn to read. However, when it came to math and printing letters, she would need great patience to deal with me turning certain numbers and letters like 5s and the letter S in the wrong direction.

We had recess in the morning and in the afternoon. The teacher came outside to show us how to play games like Red Rover, Drop the Handkerchief, Ring around the Rosy, Farmer in the Dell, and others. 

I believe it was when playing London Bridge, I had my heart broken. I was rejected, humiliated and teased. When the rhyme being sung ended, I was caught between the arms of the girls holding up the bridge which tumbled down. The two little demons holding me hostage demanded to know who my boyfriend was. James was the only boy I really knew. We’d played together at his house and held hands at a birthday party as we walked toward the outhouse, so I assumed we were a twosome.
However, school had turned a chatty, outgoing little boy into an introverted recluse which would be his new persona forever after. When I proudly announced him as my boyfriend, he turned scarlet, hung his head and departed. I was left with a score of children chanting “Elizabeth loves James” over and over. I found this treatment so devastating, I promptly wet my panties. Now, there was something else to chant about.

There was likely another reason for the bladder accident. When we’d been introduced to the bathrooms earlier, I was puzzled because I was an outhouse girl. I wasn’t used to peeing in a commode. I had no idea how to flush one. I decided this was a task better delayed until I got home. I wasn’t the only ignorant country kid there. Most of the commode water was bright yellow with turds floating in them. It would be a while before we learned how these porcelain potties worked.

The cafeteria was a place I hated most of all. It only cost twenty cents a meal or a dollar for all week. The only thing I liked was the bread and milk and dessert. I could sometimes stomach the mac and cheese and the cream potatoes but I hated the vegetables and meat. I had never been able to eat meat. It always made me throw up. Miss Chatham saw I wasn’t eating it and thought I had a problem cutting it up, so she decided to do that for me. I tried hard to eat it because I wanted to please her, but she soon realized her efforts caused her to have to dodge the results of my violent upchucking. 

The after-lunch activity was another thing which was going to be a problem for me. It was time to get out those new rugs we’d bought. We laid them on the floor beside our desks and were told to lie down on them and go to sleep. The teacher walked around the room, acting as though it was an infraction of the rules if our eyes were not closed. Going to sleep on demand wasn’t going to work for me, but I squeezed my eyes shut and pretended to be asleep. To my amazement, some of the kids actually slept through what seemed like the longest half hour of my life.

Art time and reading circles were my favorites. At first, we colored pages torn from a coloring book and later drew our own pictures. I liked drawing wisteria bushes with drooping clusters of purple flowers. All the little girls begged me to draw one for them. The boy’s pictures were of boats, cars, or an airplane being shot from the sky. They also drew stick figures of the family with dad usually having curved lines coming from his lower region, showing he liked to pee outside. I decided all little boys were nasty. 

We had three reading circles where we all sat in little chairs in front of a three-foot book with words and pictures of Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot. I was with the better readers in circle one. The teacher held a long pointer which she used to indicate the words we were to read.

I remember one little girl sitting with her legs spread wide apart and her pink panties showing. This really annoyed Miss Chatham. The sound of her hand slapping the girl’s bare thigh was heard as a red hand print emerged. Patsy broke into loud sobs. I was shocked silly. It was something I could never forget. Neither could Patsy. We talked about it, recently. She is one of the people who still remains in my circle, after all these years.


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