Finally old enough to go to school

Published 11:00 pm Friday, August 23, 2013

Two memories of my first day of school stand clear.

The sweet smell of Cashmere Bouquet dusting powder that my teacher, Mrs. Barney Burnett, wore and the kick in my bottom from an ugly, snaggled-toothed, second-grade boy.

Wearing a dress to play in was not anything that I was used to doing. I didn’t know that my school dress would slide up when I was sliding down the sliding board.

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When my dress tail slid up, my bare behind came to a scorching halt on that tin slide and that ugly, snaggled-toothed, second-grade boy rammed into me with his feet and knock me off the slide. I hit the ground and busted my lip.

I would have balled up my fist and busted his lip and knocked another tooth out but Mrs. Barney Burnett had said that she was so glad to have two pretty, sweet little girls like me and Betty Kay in her room.

She wouldn’t have said that if she had known that me and Betty Kay fought all time, until one of us drew blood, that’s what Mama said.

Me and Betty Kay would fight about anything and, if we didn’t have anything to fight about, we’d fight about that.

But I didn’t fight on my first day of school because I’d had a real hard time getting there.

Betty Kay was a year older and could start first grade. I wasn’t old enough to go school and I primped up and cried when Mama told me. I primped up and cried every time I thought about Betty Kay going to school and leaving me at home. The primping and crying turned into full-blown hissy fits and Mama’s switch that lived on top of the refrigerator wasn’t home much.

But, one day, Mama said she had some good news. I could go to school after all.

I think Mama decided that she didn’t want to stay at home with me by herself and she paid Mrs. Barney Burnett to let me go.

My grandma, Mugi, came from Eufaula on the Greyhound bus to make my school dresses from biddy feed sacks that my other grandmother saved for special things.

The day I started to school, Mugi tied the sash on my school dress so tight that it made my tongue stick out and made me have to go to the bathroom, too.

Aunt Eleanor came to see me off to school. I saw her and Mugi peeping from behind the curtain to watch Mama and Miss Louise taking me and Betty Kay to get registered for first grade and meet our teacher.

Mama whispered a lot to Mrs. Barney Burnett and I hoped she wasn’t telling her bad things about me. Miss Louise did some whispering, too. Then, Mrs. Barney Burnett came and patted me and Betty Kay on our frizzy heads and said she was so proud to have two pretty, sweet little girls in her room.

If she hadn’t said that on the day I got registered for school, I would have balled up my fist and punched that ugly, snaggle-toothed, second-grade boys in the nose and knocked another one of his teeth out on my first day of school.

Two days later, I wished I had not been a sweet little girl. Then, maybe, Mrs. Barney Burnett would have sent me home. I found out that I wasn’t old enough to go to school. I wanted my Mama.

Note: Apologies to Mrs. Marilyn Phillips and Mrs. Eleanor McKeller for my poor grammar. I know better than “busted” and “me and Betty Kay,” I just don’t do better.