“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” The first time I heard this phrase was not at daycare but in the first grade of all places. I couldn’t quite understand what I was supposed to be showing or what they had that I needed to see. And, I was not really sure I wanted to.
First grade was a gateway into everything new. We were still on a half day schedule, but we now had titles: First Graders! Now, we were allowed to play on the Big Playground as opposed to our sheltered Kindergarten playground for the little people. We were now on our way to being Big Girls and Big Boys. First grade was framed with my teacher Ms. McElfresh. She was a tiny woman with big red hair and a strict personality. And, I mean like Texas big. She drove a blue 1976 Mustang (how do I know this? The license plate gave it away). She was the first teacher I recall who was actually impressed with me. She would compliment me on my out loud reading skills, my book reports and my demeanor. I, in turn, tried to impress her even more. I checked out books from the library and would read double of what I was supposed to. I wanted to be her favorite. But, this was not to be. There was a dynamic duo who had gained favoritism from kindergarten and this was Amy and Wendy. *Sigh* To a little girl desperately wanting to fit in, they were perfect. Best of friends, perfect clothes, hair, the way they laughed, smart, the lunches they brought to school and they had mothers who were involved in everything. It was impossible to live up to. They ruled the playground and I just could not understand why everyone crowded around them, or why I felt the need to be a sheep and crowd around too. They were always the stars in the school plays and the teachers could not have loved them more.
We were 6 years old. I just want you to picture this in your mind. 6 years old. One day at lunch a group of kids were headed down to the baseball diamond near where the trees lined the fence. It was an area a school yard duty may not see you. I followed with the other little sheep crowding to see what was in the middle. As we moved behind the biggest tree I could see what was going on. A very hollow and familiar pit formed in my stomach; I was uncomfortable and felt something was not right. One little girl, Katlyn, and one little boy, Mark, were in the middle of everyone. They both were giggling at each other and at the audience. One bigger child screamed at them “pull it down!” And they did. They pulled their pants down and showed each other their genitals. Katlyn reached over and poked at Mark’s; Mark reciprocated. I was horrified. I mean horrified! But, I was also very curious and could not look away. The older kid looked at me and said “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” I looked at him, I looked at my two classmates pulling up their pants and I ran. Somehow something in me knew I would be tagged with an unsavory reputation if I conceded. I ran up the small hill and sat on the tire swing by myself until the recess bell rang. I was cast aside for a few days, but I didn’t care. I even watched the kids continue to go down to the trees everyday while new sheep showed their parts.
It was the first time I recall being cast away from my peers and unfortunately it was something I would have to get used to. I joined Brownies out of pressure from the other girls mothers, but never felt apart of them. I was always more comfortable with the boys, but the boys were beginning to separate themselves from the girls. While I always found someone to pass the school time with I never had a consistent playmate at school except for my imagination. Daycare was different because we had cliques of kids and I was in one of them (probably due to my longstanding relationship with the daycare family). But, school was lonely many times as I fought to believe I was not different that the others.
Now don’t get me wrong. Hidden Valley was a place where I felt accepted. We were still quite young and had almost no filters of society. We did not care how your parents earned money; all we cared about was playing in the yard. Friends were more of a passing that a connection at this age. I relished in being a smart kid; part of the “early bird” group. And, we had our other awkward kids with learning disabilities, suffering abuse in the home, not comfortable with English – we had them all and I felt comfortable with them all. I was like Cher winning her Oscar “You love me, you really love me” … right?