This month, I'm going to be reflecting on my time spent in the first grade. Even though I was, what- six or seven years old? It was the one of the most awkward years of my life. And that's saying something.
My family had just moved to the tiny town of Ingersoll from Orillia. Dad worked out of the London airport and Ingersoll was located just half an hour down the highway. My parents bought a quaint little house on the edge of town, only a five minute walk to our new school.
I wasn't too thrilled about having to start all over again. I missed my friends in Orillia and hoped people would like me in this unfamiliar place. As a child, I lived for the acceptance of others. I was friendly and polite and responsible, and never got in trouble. I wore dresses every day. I was the teacher's pet. I was the kid who started crying when someone raised their voice. I wanted to be the mother figure to all my friends. Basically, I was huge dweeb.
Anyways, the first day of school arrived. I nervously adjusted my perfectly ironed sundress while mom curled my hair. At 8:30 she took Nicole and I by the hands and walked us to the looming grey building nestled into the forest down the road. Kids were already filing into the gym so mom led us in there too.
There was a row of teachers sitting at the front of the room holding signs that said their grades. I noticed two teachers holding Grade One signs. One was a beautiful young woman with a friendly smile. The other was an old lady with a scowl. I silently prayed I'd get the young pretty girl as I clutched my mom's hand.
The principal stood up and gave his opening speech, then started calling out kid's names and assigning them to their teachers. When he got to the pretty teacher, I held my breath and hoped he'd call my name. He didn't. There was a boy beside me that lost it and bawled "Noooo! I don't want to go with Mrs. Baker!" He had wanted the pretty one too.
My name was assigned to old Mrs. Baker. I walked with trembling legs to the front of the gym and took my place in line, then she led us out of the gym and down a long winding hall to our classroom. Our names were written on stickers above coat hooks in the hallway, and I started to neatly hang my things. All the other students seemed to know each other and were talking excitedly. They whipped their belongings on the hooks and hurried inside while I took my time. I was nervous about entering the classroom and wanted to have everything organized before I went in.
I was the last one in the hallway. I bent down to fasten the buckle on my shiny new "indoor shoes" (remember those?) when disaster struck. Somehow, a big chunk of my hair got stuck in the zipper of my backpack. I tried standing up to untangle my curls from the clasp, but the way I was caught wouldn't let me straighten my back. I could hear Mrs. Baker beginning attendance inside and I started to panic. I began tugging at the knot, but that only made it worse.
Some older kids walked by and laughed at me. I guess seeing a tiny first grader bent awkwardly at the waist and fastened to her backpack by her hair would be funny, but none of them stopped to help. I grew more panicked and desperate, and finally, after two horrific minutes of struggle, I pulled as hard as I could until my hair ripped free. A thick chunk still remained on the zipper. Horrified and humiliated, I walked into my classroom with stinging eyes, flushed cheeks, and ruined curls.
Mrs. Baker gave me a confused look and showed me where to sit. And that was day one of my series-of-unfortunate-grade-one-events.
As it turned out, Mrs. Baker was actually an excellent teacher and not as mean as she looked. As the days went on I made some great friends in my class and enjoyed going to school everyday.
One day we were interrupted by an extremely loud pop in the hallway. Everyone jumped in their seats and Mrs. Baker ran to the door to investigate. From my desk I could see other teachers coming to their doors and looking anxiously at each other. Eventually they rendered it as a mystery and class returned as usual.
Suddenly, the most fowl, rotten stench began wafting into the room. Mrs. Baker told us to ignore the smell and keep working as she got up and left. She closed the door behind her and didn't return for ten minutes.
The smell was making us all feel sick and some of the kids were getting rowdy. Finally Mrs. Baker opened the door and looked directly at me.
"Taylor?" She said.
"Yes?" I responded politely.
"I need you to gather your things and follow me please."
My face turned red as all my peers made the classic "Ohhh, someone's in trouble" remarks while I gathered my books. Heart pounding, I followed her out the door.
In the hallway the smell was much worse. A few other teachers had gathered and they were standing around my backpack. Some of them were laughing, and I was very confused.
Mrs. Baker told me that there was a fermented bottle of apple juice in my backpack that had blown up and soaked my lunch, extra clothes, books, and shoes. She said that my mom was on her way to come pick me up. I was so embarrassed, and nauseated from the smell. She led me to the principal's office to wait and placed my backpack outside the front doors. She made sure I knew that it wasn't my fault and that it was something to laugh over. I was still confused.
I know now that that was one of the funniest things to Mrs. Baker in her entire teaching career. The smell was so bad that all the teachers thought the school was under a terrorist gas attack. Looking back, my mom and I die laughing about what happened. But to little six year old Taylor that was one of the most humiliating things to ever happen.
On a warm spring day Mrs. Baker took our class out to the playground for some exercise. We were all delighted to be outside and my friends and I started a big game of Grounder. There was one boy in my class who was always getting in trouble. Let's call him Brody. I remember hiding underneath the playground while he sat above me with his feet swinging in my face. Then I noticed there was pencil writing on the souls of Brody's shoes. I grabbed one of his feet and started sounding out the words.
"A-S-S. Ass. S-H-I-T. Shit! D-A-M. Damn!" I yelled out proudly. I had no clue they were bad words, I was just happy I could read them.
Suddenly, Mrs. Baker was looking in our direction angrily.
"Who said that?" She called across the playground.
Brody pointed at me.
"Taylor! Your playtime is over. You need to sit beside me until you can learn how to talk like a lady."
By then the whole class had stopped playing and was staring at me. I was mortified. I still didn't know what the words meant, but I knew they must have been bad. I started crying and went and sat beside Mrs. Baker. I was crying too hard to explain myself. And to this day I don't think Mrs. Baker ever found out that it was Brody who had written swear words on his shoes, and I was merely trying to practise my reading.
This blog is getting way too long. I'll try to wrap it up by saying that many more uncomfortable things happened to me that year. My mom bought me pretty new rain boots so I could play in the puddles at recess. The next time it rained I did just that, and got sent to stand with my nose against the wall for the remainder of recess while all the kids laughed at me. (My mom was pissed that that teacher had gotten me in so much trouble. But that's another story.)
Another time I had somehow dropped an extra pair of underwear with my name sewn on it (for some reason it was mandatory for parents to pack their kids extra socks and underwear as a backpack staple) from my gym bag in the hallway, only to have my classmates find them and throw them at me while I cried. Then a boy convinced me that my neighbour wanted to take down his fence, and I should help him since he was so old. I spent the afternoon happily ripping off the lattice in his beautiful enclosure, only to have my parent's have to pay for a new one. Turns out he didn't want his fence torn down.
I'll finish with this story. It was a freezing cold winter day and my parents sent Nicole and I outside to play. There was a row of short trees along the whole left side of our yard, and we loved to play in them. Our house was on a corner lot so the trees lined the sidewalk of a fairly busy road.
I was feeling particularly adventurous on this day, and climbed as high as I could in one of the trees. Nicole was too little to climb high, so while I gloated that I was the 'Queen of the Castle', she crouched on the ground below me and pouted. Eventually I felt bad and made my way back down the tree.
Somehow on the way down my boot got wedged between two thick branches. I lost my balance and fell, but my boot remained stuck in the tree. I was left dangling upside down three feet off the ground by one leg. I started screaming for Nicole to go get help. Nicole got this mischievous look on her little face and marched through the snow back to the house.
I waited. And waited. And waited. And ten minutes passed and I was still hanging there. An old lady walked by and I remember being so embarrassed. I forced laughter and yelled "Oh heyyy, just playing here! Don't mind me!" Oddly enough she just kept walking. Looking back, it's actually pretty strange she didn't ask me if I needed help.
Finally I couldn't take it anymore and I started wriggling my foot out of the boot. It really hurt, and I started crying. It came loose and I dropped three feet onto my back. At least the snow broke my fall, but by this point I was dizzy and headachy and freezing. Sobbing, I limped back to the house through the snow with one bare foot.
When I got inside Nicole was sitting smugly by the fire with my parents and baby Leah. As soon as mom and dad saw me they were shocked.
Apparently Nicole had gone inside and said "Taylor's not stuck in the tree." My parents thought nothing of it.
Mom went outside after I was warm again and found my little boot still loftily wedged in the tree. If you bring up the story now she laughs so hard she cries. Nicole swears she doesn't remember it.
I honestly think all these events have shaped me into a more care-free person today. Now when embarrassing things happen (Daily. They happen daily.) I can laugh them off and move on. I don't care so much what people think of me, and I don't try to be perfect. Also, I do not cry daily anymore. So there's a bonus.