Friday, June 18, 2010

Journey to the "Big School"

Fall and winter 1966/67:
I remember the journey to New Hampshire from Virginia with my mother and my sister "C".  We had to change planes and because they didn't serve meals or snacks on either flight (and because my mother was unprepared to travel with a hungry child) I begged the flight attendants for something to eat.  I was pretty relentless at that age so they gave in and got me and my sister a couple bags of peanuts to tide us over until we landed.

Shortly after arriving in NH, my parents prepared to send me to the kindergarten at the "Farm".  I was supposed to stay there during the week and go home only on weekends, but after two nights of non-stop bawling I was allowed to go back and live with my parents until I got a little older.   That was the first time in my young life that I really felt abandoned.  I still remember how miserable it felt.

We lived in a little house owned by the Farm that winter; one of three identical little houses on a circular drive somewhere near the Farm but I am not sure exactly where it was.  There was a little sauna house nearby where my parents and some of our neighbors would build a fire in the middle and sit around in bathing suits pouring water on the hot coals for steam.  When everyone was hot and sweating they would go out and roll in the snow and then run back in and warm up.  My father tried to talk me into going out in the snow and rolling around at least once, but I hated the cold and snow so much I refused to do it.  That is, until he got mad and forced me to do it.  It felt like torture to me and the snow scraped my skin raw.  I screamed and hollered and got a spanking for not behaving, but when my dad realized my skin was scraped raw he apologized and didn't make me do it again.

The next summer my parents moved to a little trailer right on the Farm property and I attended kindergarten during the day.  My cousin Johnny was also in the kindergarten so at least I knew someone there. On my fifth birthday, all the kindergarteners got together for a little celebration, not for my birthday because they didn’t celebrate those there, but because Johnny was "graduating" and going to live at the "Big School". He got to stand on the little round wooden table we all sat around and make the announcement to all of us.  I was so devastated that he was leaving me and that I couldn't go too that I started crying.  But once school got out, my mother told me she had a surprise for me.  First she gave me a doll for a present and then helped me pack a paper bag full of my clothes and said I was going to the big school too.  I was sooo happy.

Once we got to the school, we found out Johnny was going to stay in the same wing with me and the younger girls because he was so much younger than the other boys and because I think they didn't want to separate us just yet.  Also, my sister "C"was in the same wing since she was only seven.  Once I was settled in, my mother left.  I remember bringing my new doll to bed with me and when my assigned counselor (Naomi) came to tuck me in I pulled the doll out from under the covers and startled her with it.  We both had a good laugh and I went to sleep pretty happy that night.

The next three years were a mixture of good, bad, sometimes confusing and often sad times for me and my family.