Saturday, May 16, 2009

With friends like that, who needs enemas?

Chad Hunt was the biggest creep in the first grade. He was cute, of course, because the biggest creeps usually are. And I only remember his chocolaty brown bowl-cut and seawater blue eyes because there's a photo in an album somewhere of us standing together on the front lawn of my elementary school holding Easter baskets. We were smiling with our arms tightly entwined and our navy blue ringer tee shirts were so very 80's I'm still getting messages from Maxheadroom about how cool I was.

I was missing a tooth in the front because Chad had pushed my head down into the water fountain during PE just days before the big egg hunt. And since we were the last two in line to get our drink-on after the big tether ball tourney, nobody saw it happen. It was him, me, and my tooth swirling around in the water fountain drain with what seemed like gallons of blood and a piece of ABC gum.

Now I've admitted before that I was quite the hypochondriac in school, so it really shocks the hell out of me that I didn't run straight to the coach and cry my eyes out about going to the school nurse for a useless sandwich baggie of ice and a doleful phone call to my mother about the whole account. I plucked my tooth out of the fountain, rinsed it in the perfect arc of cold water, and then walked away without even the slightest inauspicious glance behind me at the creep. It hurt. I'm sure of it, but I shoved the first pearly casualty of my baby-hood face into a front pocket and fell in step with the rest of the class.

For the remainder of the day, I was cooler than everyone else. I even gave Amanda Fletcher a run for her money and she was wearing a new Jem and the Holograms shirt. Kids noticed the newly vacant hole in my smile and asked to see the tooth. I obliged. They ogled. And Chad Hunt avoided me for the last half of the day. He was probably worried I'd tell on him, but I didn't.

I don't recall an occasion where he pushed or bullied me again, but that's not saying much. I don't even know why this one little tidbit of a memory about a knocked-out tooth has stayed with me all these years. Elementary school was a giant collection of rubber bands in a ball all over-lapping and colorful in their own matrix of smiles and tears.

I let Kasey Kane cut my hair with safety scissors, and subsequently traded a girl some jelly bracelets for her plastic headband thinking my mom wouldn't notice my bangs were, well...gone. A sweet girl sitting next to me peed in her chair because she was scared of Miss Whitney and couldn't bring herself to raise her hand or interrupt while the witch was talking. And I watched the Challenger go down in a feathery trail of smoke on an old television set sitting atop a rolling cart while teachers ran in and out of classrooms crying and shaking and scaring the bejeezus out of all of us kids who didn't know what the hell was happening. The memories are jumbled and out of order in my head.

We visited Ladybug's new elementary school last week and her daddy brought to my attention how everything was just like when we were kids. There were little plastic chairs and ugly brown tables and desks. Giant bins of crayons, glue, and the odd pair of safety scissors tucked into cubby holes waving their white flags for the end of the school year. Words written on cards posted on easels- at. cat. the. pig and shiny star stickers on poster board charts meriting the achievements of tomorrow's leaders and heathens.

It even smelled like disinfectant. And glue. And everything was so... short. Ladybug walked through the mazes of little chairs and looked at the projects the "graduating" classes were finishing up and touched her pristine kid-fingers to toys that would soon be at her disposal to explore. I thought about Chad and Kasey and the little girl who peed in her chair and was so excited for her to be on her way to making those moments -those colorful pieces of rubberband- that will be jumbled and mixed up with the rest of her life's treasures one day.

She'll find herself recalling, with great detail, bits of school days forever preserved in scrapbooks and miscellaneous folders. Boys whom she remembers being afraid of will be posed in photographs with her and she'll have a tiny box of teeth and "first haircut" clippings somewhere in my spare room closet to ask about when she signs her own children up for Kindergarten one day.

The only difference between her memories and my own will be the awesome side pony-tail I sported for every school photo during the eighties and maybe a few pairs of tight-rolled jeans. I'm excited for her. School was super. Incredibly super.

Ikea Fruit Hat Face
one for the scrap-book


Mme Paulita said...

tis a pity she won't be sporting the side ponytail. Next time I'm at my moms I will have to dig out my K photo...picture it, I am on a shaggy pedestal wearing suspenders with hearts on them.

Great piece Steph - I hope she is able to read this when she is older and smile.

Miranda said...

Love it.
My mom did the side ponytail until almost middle school.I am a twin. She would put mine on the right side of my head and my sister the left side of her head....I do not know why, but I found that pretty funny. I actually, put Alex in the side ponytail evey once in awhile.

Stephanie Meade Gresham said...

Sometimes she lets me do the side ponytail. But it's just not the same without giant poofy bangs.