Tag Archives: first grade

Part 6, Chapter 1

Life was pretty normal for a few years. I was a happy child who was blossoming in school, I was making friends and my parents were madly in love with each other. We took family vacations. I had birthday parties with friends (I will get to one a bit later in this post) and home life was calm. I felt safe. I felt loved. I felt comfortable.

I was just 6 years old so boys were not yet gross but they were nothing I really thought of. They were just boys. First grade felt like my coming out party. My teacher recognized I was a quick learner and she nurtured this. I was reading and completing more book reports than anyone in the class. In retrospect, I realize now my first grade teacher was likely “family” and so I now understand her extra attention to me in class. She would ask me to read out loud, she would praise how smart she thought I was and above all she did not treat me as if I was an outsider. School was something I looked forward to.

I felt comfortable in the first grade, but it was also the start of me learning that I might be a bit different than the other children. This was the year where all of the girls were pressured into joining Brownies. An after school activity that really only meant one thing: we got to sell those damn cookies but saw none of the profits. Brownies was, of course, led by the mothers. Most of the mothers were full time mom’s so these ladies turned Brownies into who’s little girl was the best with the most badges. Some of us were left out of this mess (and by some of us I mean me and the other girls whose mothers worked full time)  and I am thankful for that, but I was the one singled out to be asked “where is your mommy?” by none other than the mommies. It still kinda of angers me the way they would ask me this in front of my peers in the middle of one their mindless activities and I would like to say I can forgive their ignorance, but lets face it they were doing it to make sure their daughters understood I was different; I came from somewhere different and my family was different. It succeeded.

These same nosey mommies would start what would become a vicious cycle of picking me last for every activity when it came to teaming up. And, it was these same mommies who opted their daughters out of my birthday parties. You want to talk about your heart being sunk at a time when Battleship was one of the number one board games. Mine was a prime target for these women. Somehow, I never was invited to these girls birthday parties and they consistently declined by invitations. May I remind you that we were a class of maybe 18 students? You felt the sting even at that age even if you could not name it.

But, alas I did have a great 6th birthday at the child’s dream cave of terrible pizza and frightening mechanical animals, Chuck-E-Cheese. It was awesome. We ate too much, we ran in circles playing those games that spit out tickets for who knows what you can redeem them with and we had a blast. I do not remember any of the events of that day, which is unusual for me, but what I do remember is I felt really happy. Running off a sugar high is really all a child looks forward to on their birthday. I look at the photos from that day and you cannot tell that I have 2 gay parents. You cannot determine that my mother is not here for my birthday (and she did not call either …. a pattern for her). All that you can see is a happy healthy child with other happy healthy children she was happy to call her friends.

I often wonder whether any of the other girls felt left out by these Brownie/Girl Scout mothers. I wonder if they felt they were ostracized for not having the same family these women felt they had. These women would set the tone for a fear I developed when I am around groups of women.  I wonder if these mommies knew the damage they were inflicting on a little girl who was without hers.

Part 4, Chapter 4

“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?