Spring feels a lot like being the new kid at school. There was a spring when my family moved from Illinois to New York. The major things this meant was that we got to live with my grandparents for several months until my parents found a house. I also had to start Kindergarten at a new school.
It was all scary to me, but the scariest part was riding the bus. The positive was I only had to ride the thing for no more than ten minutes. The negative was I hated riding the cold, friendless, tube of a bus. One time I was so nervous about riding the bus that I threw up my Trix cereal while waiting before school in my grandparent’s driveway. I still remember the colors.
School went through mid-to-late June in New York. This was April, which to me seemed like a terrible time to be starting a new school. The kids were fine and my teacher was kind. Every student had their school picture made into a magnet where the teacher sorted us into two groups on the chalk board, hot lunch or cold lunch. My school picture was from my Illinois school, a close-up face shot. It was a picture of a bright and bright-eyed, happy child. I only remember this because the New York pictures were bust shots. One of the kids asked me one time why my head was so huge in my picture. I told him it was because I had gone to a different school.
I’m now on a tangent, but here it goes. One time a girl threw up during nap time. She threw up in front of the class mailboxes. I had had a classmate throw-up in school before. In my Illinois school, a girl once threw up all over the Pink Piggy reading chair. I was acclimated to my Illinois school by then, and a kid throwing up didn’t bother me. But when it happened in New York, I was imprinted with a terror not only of people throwing up, but also of people throwing up in places I could not get away from. In third grade, when I looked across the desks and saw a girl quickly put her hands up to cover her mouth, I thought she was getting ready to throw up. I stood up immediately and asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom.
She said I could, and I gratefully left. I don’t remember if I went to the bathroom or not, but just that I walked through the halls, around the corners, up the stairs, into the high school section of the K-12 school and past the high school principle’s office. I had no intentions of going back to my classroom, but had decided that I was leaving school and walking home. I walked out the high school doors, across the lawn, and no one saw me or said a word about it. Home was two or three miles away and I knew exactly how to get there. While walking past the gas station, our pastor pulled up in his tiny red car and asked where I was going. I told him I was going home and he asked if I wanted a ride. I got in his car and he drove me home.
(*Later I learned the girl had not thrown-up in her hands. She sneezed.)
The elementary school secretary was in the gas station and saw this happen. She didn’t know it was our pastor, all she knew was that she’d just seen one of her students walking on the side of the road and get picked up by an old man in a red car. The pastor dropped me off and briefly talked to my mom before he went on his way. I didn’t have much to say to mom other than that I didn’t want to be at school anymore and I wasn’t going back. I don’t know who got a hold of who first, but either my mom called the school or the secretary called my mom and both of them knew that I was alright.
Eventually I had to go back. I must have refused to ride the bus, or begged my dad to take me himself, because not long after my dad took me to school. He walked me to the classroom door and tried to tell me goodbye. I went from standing by his side to sitting down on his foot and wrapping my arms and legs around his leg, holding on to him as tight as I could. He couldn’t pull me off, or maybe wasn’t trying to as hard as he could have. Whether it was my dad or the teacher, I don’t remember, but someone must have convinced me it was okay to let go of his leg and go back to school.
I was not allowed to go to the bathroom, get a drink, or go anywhere by myself for the rest of the school year. On the last day of school while out at recess, I hopped off the jungle gym, walked over to my teacher, and asked if I could go to the bathroom by myself, just to show her I could be trusted to come back. We’d talked about this several times and she’d always said no, but not without the hope that it would one day be possible. It felt like we’d been working for this, like this was something she and I both wanted, and the moment we’d be waiting for had finally come, and again, I was grateful.
She let me go.