SHE GROWS UP AND GOES TO SCHOOLS

I wish I had written this when my mom was still alive so she could fill in the holes of my child brain memories. Alas, she is not so I cannot guarantee for you that everything I write occurred exactly as written.

I feel like I knew what my mom was going to tell me before she said it. I had barely started first grade (finally at the same school as my brother!) and we were sitting on the brown couch which seemed so big to my six year old legs it was like an island or a boat. I see my two year old nephew exploring his couchland and it reminds me what it was to be small and curious.

When we drove away I had my bunny and my Tender Heart Care Bear sleeping bag/ devoted blankey in the back seat of my mom’s white Mercury Lynx station wagon. The seats may have been down at one point to allow for more of our stuff to fit in the trunk area, but I am not sure if we would have really ridden cross country in the back of a station wagon in such a manner, but it was the 80’s.

My aunt Jean, my mom’s younger sister, flew out to Oregon and helped my mom drive us to Kansas City. We lived with Jean and her husband for a few months and then moved into a two bedroom apartment across from Gillham Park.

I went to three schools in first grade. One in Oregon and two in Kansas City. The school nearest to my aunt’s house had reached its quota of white children so I was bussed to a school on Gregory near 71 Hwy. It’s boarded up now, but the Church’s chicken on the next corner is still going strong. I was the only white child in the school save a girl who had one black parent and one white parent. I stuck out and kids wanted to touch my hair for some reason. I didn’t understand it then, but later came to realize that my hair was a novelty with its lightness and straight strands. I was also given F’s on my first report card because I had learned phonics at school in Oregon, but the methods were different in KC.

I remember the look of the cafeteria, standing in line in the hallway and my classroom. I was near the back and close to the chalk boards on the right side of the wall. The chalk boards were hung on sliding doors. At least I think they were. I wasn’t very old.

Eventually, a space opened up at the closer school and I was transferred there. I remember the school library and the auditorium. We watched Bryan Busby talk about the weather.

I started second grade at a performing arts magnet school. (School 4) There was a proper dance room with a wooden floor and ballet bars, mirrors hung floor to ceiling. We attended drama class where we made funny faces and sat in assemblies in an old auditorium. Transportation was a bit odd, there were no busses to take me from our apartment to school so the school district hired a taxi cab to collect me in the morning. I don’t remember how I got home. My driver was a nice older black man and the seats made a sound that I both liked and dreaded.

Maybe it was the taxicab situation, or maybe because we moved to a house, but I transferred to another school for the next part of second grade. I stayed there through third grade. We planted a garden and I ran across the blacktop, wild and free. I’m pretty sure I scraped gum off the playground and chewed it. I learned how to play the violin and the bus ride felt like an eternity.

We moved north of the river after that and I stayed at one school for fourth and fifth grades. I moved on to middle school in the same district. This suburban district was very strange to me after several years in the Kansas City Public School District.

After middle school we moved to a duplex about a mile from our apartment. The Windex I used to clean my windows in the apartment smelled terrible. It was not your typical blue Windex but some potpourri scented version. My aunt’s boyfriend brought his best friend, Bob, to help us move. My mom wore a head to toe red Chiefs sweat suit that day. It must have been a very alluring sweat suit because my mom and Bob would have celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary this year (2015) on November 30.

I survived my freshman year of high school and then started my sophomore year at an all girls Catholic high school in Brookside. The curriculum was completely different and I felt even more out of place than usual. I’d recently chopped off my hair, shorter than a bob, was overweight and frequently felt awkward and at odds with every bit of my body. It was sort of destined to fail or completely change me. I guess it kind of did both. After a tantrum that would make a toddler stand and applaud — “Give her the Oscar!” — I  was allowed to return to my previous high school where I proceeded to get an A on a history test by doing no more than attending one day of class (the review day.) I really enjoyed that class. I stayed and graduated from that high school.

I wanted to skip the graduation ceremony, but that wasn’t allowed so walk the stage at Municipal Auditorium I did and followed with a family celebration at the Old Spaghetti Factory. I think that restaurant is closed now, which is a shame because I remember feeling like I was in a bit of a magical world all covered in red carpet and adorned with highball glasses and tasting of spumoni ice cream.

At the end of the summer I was off to college in Springfield, Missouri and that is really it’s own story all together.