Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Wrong Door

The Wrong Door...
I was a really quiet child, partly because Daddy believed in children being seen and not heard and he also believed that old adage that children did not speak, unless they are spoken too. The result of this was that I did not ask a lot of questions. I knew that if I did, I would be switched. I obeyed and followed whomever was leading.
The person that led me around was my playmate, Curtis Carnley. He and I were the same age. My older Sister Ruby and his older sister Betty were inseparable friends in Christ and in life. Whenever they were together, Curtis and I were together. Our days were spent making pine straw houses with built up walls and fine bits of wood gathered for us to sit upon and play with. We made our own game of pick up sticks because we did not have money for a game such as this at home. Ours was a pretty good substitute and we also had our marbles. The large shooter and the little ones to shoot out of the ring that we made in the sand.
Those idyllic days seemed to go on forever, but one day my older sister told me I would go to school. I was 6 and my world was going to change. I did not have any idea of what school meant. I know that my sister told me the story of coming home one day in tears, as she discovered that someone had pinned the back of her dress up while she was on the bus on the way to school. The kids made fun of her and giggled at her all day and her sweet spirit did not know why. She only knew that she hurt from their laughter. It was not until she came home that Mama saw the back of the dress pinned up and her slip showing. I don't think she ever knew the culprit of her embarrassment. 
She was my Mother for all intents and purposes as my Mother had left home when I was 18 months old. She came and went but it was Ruby that took care of me, ministered to my hurts, slept with me in the bed at night and kept me safe. She was the one I talked to. She was the one that baked for us and cleaned our clothes and became our Mama at age 15. She would read from her big old Black Bible and she had a spirit that I wanted to have. When the girls hurt her, I know that she prayed for them and when I married, she gave the Bible to me. It was underlined with all those passages that give us hope and make us know that we have a Father, loving us everyday.
Soon the day came for me to go to school. My sister ironed my dress and I put on my new Penny Loafers, ( boys shoes) that Daddy had bought me in Flomaton at the shoe store. I loved those brown penny loafers and cared not that they were boys or girls. I had outgrown my little white boots with the pom poms that I loved so much, but most of the time I was barefoot roaming the fields with feet so tough that when I would step on a nail or a burr of some sort, it barely broke the surface. When this happened, Daddy would pour Kerosene over it until it stopped bleeding and I would go on my way with a makeshift hankie tied over my battle wound, as I called them. I would go to my house and it would be transformed to a fort where I had sustained a battle. LOL. I was such a weird child, full of imagination and little else.
We rode the bus in together, Curtis and I and held hands on the bus garnering courage from each other. Both of us were afraid and worried about what school meant. Our sisters were in high school and only had enough time to deposit us in our class together, before they hurried off to their own lessons.
I knew that school involved reading and numbers but not much else. I already knew how to read some, having scoured the garbage piles that people left on our land and finding a treasure trove of "True Detective" magazines and " True Romance" neither at all suitable for one my age but at age 5, I kept them hidden in the houses that Curtis and I built. I slipped away to look at the ghastly pictures and started to read the words. Ruby had read to me so much that I knew many of the words, so it was natural for me to read early on.
I knew that school had reading and I was excited by the prospect of having a "real" book to read. I did not have any of those. The first time my class went to the library, I almost went into shock from all the rows of books that I could "check out" and take home to read. When the librarian discovered that I could read well, she let me check out more than the 1 or 2 book limit, so that I could read to my hearts content
I have wracked my brain and it is still hard for me to remember my first grade teachers name. I believe that it was Mrs Dobson, but I am not sure. There were so many children that I did not know and while I was excited by the prospect of knowing others, it was overwhelming to see so many kids of my own age in one place. I had never had a birthday party, like I learned that many of the other children had, and I had only played with my brothers and sisters and Curtis.
He was my "boyfriend" and I felt safe with him. We sat near each other in class and I tried to concentrate on what the teacher was saying. Soon recess time came and Curtis had to go to the bathroom and I did too. We went down the hall together and found a bathroom on the other side of the long hallway from our class and we went in together. It wasn't that we did this normally but we were afraid to leave each others side and I went right into the boys bathroom behind him, never thinking that I was walking in the wrong door. When I saw that there were other boys in the bathroom, I ran outside and back to my teachers room. I was in tears that I had gone into the bathroom where they had all laughed and some yelled at me to "Get out, you're in the boys bathroom, stupid". I was crying, not really realizing what I had done. We had only one privy at home and all of us kids used it, so it never occurred to me that there would be a bathroom for boys AND a bathroom for girls.
When I got back to the room, my teacher saw me in tears and had me come to her desk. I still remember kind of whispering that I had to use the bathroom and went to the one with Curtis and all the boys laughed and yelled at me. She put her arms around my shoulder and said " come with me and I will show you where you can go to the bathroom".
We went just to the left of the classroom and there was a bathroom labeled girls. I had not seen it when Curtis and I walked down the hallway to find a bathroom. We went inside and she told me that this is where little girls go to the bathroom. She was so kind to me. I will never forget that. When the recess ended and the boys had told the entire class what I had done, she shushed them when they made fun of me, if it was within earshot of her.
Of course this did not stop the teasing during recess, but it wasn't long before Donald Philyaw or Donald Polk, ( I can't remember which) ate a worm during recess and this shifted the teasing from me, to him. I felt bad for him but thankful too, that they had stopped worrying about me. Donald was trying to be one of them like I was, but it never happened for him and it never happened for me.......
Gloria Peacock Kimmel Oct 19, 2015

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