When I was in first grade, my school would still have the girls clothing rule of dresses and skirts only until the first frost, and they could be no shorter than two inches above the knee. We would still be attending Mass every morning before school, and all the school children were required to sing during every funeral.
My best friend was Dawn, the only African American girl in school at the time. She lived with her grandparents, and her twin sister had died when they were babies. I remember thinking that her life must be very hard, not living with her mom and having no brothers or sisters.
Before lunch, we recited the Angelus with my class, as we heard it prayed over the PA system in our classrooms. I remember round doughy pizza and chocolate milk at lunchtime. I remember playing "kiss tag" outside at recess, I remember getting all tangled up during "Rattlesnake", and being hit hard during dodgeball if Tim V. was the one with the ball.
Mrs. Dolan read aloud to us from the front of the classroom about a little girl who was a saint. She had beautiful golden hair, and watched over the animals. I remember thinking it was so sad that she was a little girl who lived in heaven, and that no one else thought that when I talked about it.
One morning we were called back to reading group, and it took me too long to put my books and papers in my desk. I was always in the first or second row, and when I made my way to the back of the room that day, all the carpet space was taken. I was confused and embarrassed when I realized was going to have to sit on the cold floor in my dress. Without being prompted by the teacher, Steve E. turned to me, and offered to give me his space on the carpet. Even as a five year old, I realized this was a very special favor. I remember feeling very grateful, like I had been saved from judgment and scorn by others. I also felt important, that this boy would give up his spot for me.
I remember crowded coatrooms, clapping erasers, and walking down Spruce to 12th Street with the 8th grade patrol guards. I remember having a crush on Bill V. with his dark hair and blue eyes, and making excuses to walk next to him when he did patrol. One day, my babysitter, Donna, told me that Bill was in her class and that he thought I had a crush on him. I remember denying it when he asked me about it, and deciding to not ever walk with him again. He would taunt me and try to coerce me into walking with him, and I never gave in, because I was ashamed that he knew that I liked him.
After that, I remembering picking violets on the way home sometimes and bringing them to Rob P., the boy who lived up the street from me. He always said thank you, and never made me feel silly for bringing them. I remember he liked the ones that were white with purple in the center the best. Just like me.